Notes On Culture
Let me say it bluntly. What we call as the Kashmir “problem” is a polite way of describing a civilisational threat. It is a festering wound created by that Nawab of Cluelessness, our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The contrast is incredible: on one hand we have a Sardar Patel who integrated more than 550 princely states into the Indian union almost effortlessly…including the two stubborn Muslim states, Junagarh and Hyderabad…in both cases, Patel showed who the boss was. Had these two states been handled by Nehru, we would have a total of three Kashmirs by now. And then we have a Nehru who pompously declared that “Kashmir is in my blood” and ever since, the problem has become literally a bloody headache and a bleeding wound.
My approach to issues like this has always been civilisational…i.e. to trace the civilisational and historical roots of, in this case, Jammu and Kashmir. What has been happening in Jammu and Kashmir for almost a century is an all-out, no-holds-barred civilisational assault. Remember that Kashmir was not part of the India that was lost in 1947 to Pakistan. That part was nearly 33% of the landmass of undivided Bharata. And why did we lose it? Because the then Muslim leadership felt unsafe in a country where Hindus were majority. So in these 70 years, what is the fate of the Hindus in Muslim-majority Pakistan and Bangladesh? Simply put, it is the story of a calculated genocide of Hindus till they turned into a helpless minority to be converted, raped, and murdered at will. The same is applicable to Hindus in Kashmir. And Jammu, over the years. But is this truth limited only to Kashmir at present? What about Kerala? West Bengal? And several parts of Tamil Nadu where you now have 100 percent Muslim areas and villages that sport signboards of “non-Muslims are not allowed.” These are not mere signboards. They are posters proclaiming civilisational conquest by any means.
The civilisational problem in J&K is one of Hindu astitva and asmita, which are not mere words but lived cultural and civilisational experiences. They are…us..our inheritance. From another perspective, the so-called Kashmir “problem” can be summed up in just word: Jihad. Just recall the history of this Jihad in India since Mohammad bin Kasim invaded Sindh. To which country does Sindh belong today?
When we think about this, it becomes automatically clear where Kashmir will also be tomorrow if we still don’t wake up. The only difference between the Jihad of those days and that of today lies in tactics and methods. The ideological and religious core remains the same if not more virulent. A very perceptive scholar once said that post-partition India still remains the unfinished dream of the Mughals. Of Islamising all of India. And let’s not be under any illusion that Pakistan will not stop trying to achieve this unfinished dream.
A few decades ago, a slogan was hugely popular among some sections of the Muslim community: lad ke liye Pakistan hans ke lenge Hindustan (We took Pakistan after fighting; we’ll take Hindustan with a smile). This slogan has a deep psychological intent, meaning, and purpose: when the “dream” of Pakistan was achieved, it taught them a powerful lesson: that at least some sections of Hindus had become tired, fatigued after fighting for nearly a thousand years, and gave up at least that bit of their land. And eventually, they will give up the remaining Hindustan bit by bit, bit by helpless bit if we continue to exert pressure relentlessly.
Even today, Imams, Mullahs and assorted Muslim religious leaders in their fanatical speeches point to Pakistan as one of the greatest successes of unrelenting Jihad. And they give such speeches on Indian soil. This was the same mindset and phenomenon that Sita Ram Goel among others repeatedly warned us over forty-fifty years. What does that tell us?
But for a moment, let’s set aside what has already happened in Kashmir. The fact that the Amarnath Yatra which was going on smoothly till 2010 now faces a real Jihadi threat is an alarming example. And this has happened in just less than 10 years.
This is what I mean when I say one must examine such issues from a civilisational perspective. To put this in proper context, we can quote Will Durant, one of the greatest scholars of world civilisations: “Most of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six thousand years.”
So what do we lose when we lose a civilisation? Short answer: everything. First of all, we lose territory, i.e., our physical spaces, our living spaces, our cultural environment, which is also our natural environment in a profound sense.
This is not an ordinary loss.
For example, if one has to preserve say, the temple culture, there has to be a temple in the first place. Ancient Greece and Rome and Egypt had temples. A few of them still exist as ruins. But where is that living culture that knows how to revive them? In other words, where are the people? And what about the temples in Pakistan…whatever remains of them in that hellhole of darkness? This is the same message that hundreds of ruined temples even in India convey to us. Where are the temples in Kashmir today? The point is if we cannot do something as fundamental as Puja, we are destroyed. With the destruction or loss of territory, we also lose people…or to put it in a different way, we lose our own cultural memory. The erasure of history is a crime against memory.
Ask yourself this basic question: how much of the pre-partition, Hindu history of Pakistan do we actually know today? Think about it. Pakistan is only as recent as 70 years, less than a drop in the ocean of time. And the memory of its Hindu past is almost completely erased. It is one thing that Pakistan doesn’t teach the truth of its Hindu past but Indian school textbooks also don’t teach it. This is the psychological victory of Pakistan over India. And for India, this is one more step towards civilisational suicide.
And the same thing applies to Kashmir. For example, how many people of Kashmiri origin can even read and write the Sarada script today? And with that loss of language, its entire literary corpus is lost. When you lose language, you lose your culture.
To understand the full magnitude of the loss in Kashmir, I would urge all of you to read Kalhana’s classic, Rajatarangini. I’m sure all of you have heard about it but please do read it from cover to cover. I’ll cite just one incident from it. This is an account in the glorious rule of Maharaja Chandrapida hailing from the Karkota dynasty. Chandrapida (6th Century CE) decided to build the Narayana Temple in Parihasapura…today’s Paraspore…see right there in the name of this once-glorious town? What does Paraspore even mean etymologically? We have lost the cultural memory.
In any case, the land where the temple was proposed to be built belonged to a cobbler. When the royal officers offered money to him to buy the land, he refused. And when this official pressure escalated, the cobbler directly petitioned the king. In his petition, he also appealed stating the reason for not parting with the land, and further requested the king to come to him and adjudicate the matter.
When the king Chandrapida visited the cobbler’s house, he said, “My land has been bequeathed to me by my ancestors: my father, grandfather, great grandfather…I have an emotional attachment to it. So it’s impossible for me to part with it.” Chandrapida concurred with him and assured him that he would not take the land away by force. Later, the cobbler appreciated the fact that the king had personally come to his house and came forward and offered to donate his land. However, Chandrapida refused to accept the land as a donation, paid a fair price for it and acquired it. What is noteworthy in this episode is the fact that the king himself came to the doorstep of a person considered as “lower class.”
I trust the reader to draw the lessons about governance, the disposition of the ruler, the cultural and social climate of the time and other aspects from this episode.
The renowned Lalitaditya Muktapida was this selfsame Chandrapida’s son. It was under Lalitaditya’s rule that the kingdom of Kashmir reached its zenith: he defeated Tibet, established trade relations with China, and his empire stretched from Afghanistan, Punjab, Kanyakubja and Bengal. Of these, Afghanistan is not part of India anymore, and parts of Punjab and Bengal have been severed from India. It’s widely known that it was Lalitaditya who built the Martanda Surya Mandira. This grand temple stood rock-solid for nearly 700-750 years until Sikandar Butshikan decided to destroy it as part of his Jihad to convert all of Kashmir into Islam. It has still not been rebuilt. What does this tell us…especially after India become politically independent in 1947…forget Martanda, we have been unable to rebuild the Sri Rama Temple in Ayodhya…In a place that was renowned for its valour, splendor and high culture, we now have Jihad-crazed stone pelters.
Kashmir was also one of the world’s greatest centres of Sanskrit. It was home to several dozen generations of Sanskrit linguists, grammarians, poets, dramatists, and aestheticians…it had also attained a high degree of excellence in philosophy to the extent that there is a separate school of Kashmiri Shaivism. The tragedy is that today, Kashmiri Shaivism is being preserved everywhere else but its original home. And the Sharada Peetha which stood as an iconic cultural, spiritual and philosophical centre for more than six hundred years is today a desolate ruin. Do you know how the official Wikipedia entry describes it?
The Sharada Peeth is an abandoned Hindu temple and ancient centre of learning in the Pakistani administered territory of Azad Kashmir.
Why doesn’t our blood boil at this? Why are we even accepting this with a sense of helplessness? This was where Adi Shankara composed his extraordinary Prapancasara stotram and sat on its Sarvajna Peetham. The Sharada Peetha also attracted such brilliant minds as Kalhana, Vairotsana, Kumarajiva, Hemachandra and others. Speaking of brilliant minds, even a small sample is astonishing: Kalhana, Jonaraja, Ananda Vardhana, Jayanta Bhatta, Bhattotpala, Utpaladeva, Lakshmana Gupta (one of the teachers of Abhinavagupta), Kshemendra, Bhallata, Rudrata, and the legendary multifaceted genius, Abhinavagupta. So profound was Abhinavagupta’s influence and impact that he came to be referred to as Abhinavagupta-guptapada. The name “Guptapada” refers to a snake because in our tradition, a snake’s legs are hidden or secret. In Abhinavagupta’s case, this means that he was regarded as an avatara of Maharshi Patanjali, who in turn was regarded an avatara of Adishesha.
Long story short, the more we dig, the deeper we swim, the more treasures we discover in the ocean of the cultural and civilizational heritage of Kashmir. But the tragedy is that we need to actually dig. These treasures should have been kept alive in living memory as opposed to what we are doing: a postmortem.
The fact that more than four lakh Kashmiri Hindus were driven out of their homes by a systematic religious cleansing by Jihadi forces is well-known. This Jihad wasn’t accidental. There are two faces to this coin. The first is obviously Pakistan. But the second is the failure and the complacency on the part of Kashmiri Hindus themselves. I take no joy in saying this but it is better to face the bitter truth than bury our heads in the sand: Kashmiri Hindus, in spite of the lessons of history, failed to be vigilant. They were too trusting for their own good. The price they continue to pay is the loss of their astitva and asmita…the same thing I spoke of. You cannot have a deadly viper for your neighbour and not be vigilant.
Second, what about the Hindus in Jammu? Recall what I said in the beginning that even the Amarnath Yatra is now threatened by Jihadis. If we are not vigilant, the same fate will fall upon the Hindus in Jammu as well. What does it tell us that hardcore Kashmiri separatists are working as faculties in our top universities, and the JNU campus even today has people openly talking about “Azadi” and “Bharat ki barbadi,” “Bharat tere tukde tukde honge?” Are we living in India or Pakistan? How would Pakistan respond if its universities had faculty and students who gave slogans for the liberation of Balochistan? When was the last time you saw any Pakistani TV footage showing their academics and professors openly calling for the breakup of their own country? Even worse, When was the last time you saw any Pakistani TV footage showing their academics and professors openly calling for the breakup of India? It is Indians who do this. Which other country tolerates this kind of thing? And why are we tolerating it for so many decades?
But, at a very fundamental level, this is what I call an entanglement: it is the loss of cultural and civilisational vigour that erodes self-confidence if this loss is sustained long enough. Debates, discussions, arguments and plans are the ideal methods to solve complex problems but they are not…and cannot be substitutes for action on the ground. I’ll quote Mike Tyson in this connection: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Then, like a rat, they stop in fear and freeze.”
This is a great attitude for Hindus to cultivate.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has learnt how to use it with great effectiveness thanks largely to the series of spineless, lazy, and corrupt governments and servile bureaucrats, academics and journalists that we have had for nearly 70 years. They have demonstrated their love for Pakistani biryani more than their loyalty towards the sovereign unity and integrity of India. The latest proof of this is the manner in which they supported Pakistan’s Jihad in Pulwama and condemned India’s retaliation at Balakot. In fact, the Balakot strikes stripped them truly naked.
If we are serious and we take pride that Hindus are accommodative, inclusive and highly culture people, here is the thing: even the most cultured people must retain the intensity of valour both for self-defence and the defence of the country. In our tradition, this is known as the spirit of Kshatra. And the day Kashmir lost its Kshatra was the beginning of its downfall. And let me not limit this only to Kashmir or Jammu or Ladakh or West Bengal or Kerala.
What has happened to Kashmiri Hindus will happen to other Hindus in India. Unless we wake up. And continue to stay vigilantly awake. This is not a warning. It is the truth.
The Dharma Dispatch is now available on Telegram! For original and insightful narratives on Indian Culture and History, subscribe to us on Telegram.