The most believed history of Kashmir refers to the ten lost tribes of Israel who reached here after wandering through many places. The tradition and culture of kashmiri people still bear resemblance to Jewish nature, in fact the ancient graves found ascertain the presence of Jews in the region.
According toÂ folk etymology, the name “Kashmir” means “desiccatedÂ land” (from theÂ Sanskrit:Â KaÂ = water andÂ shimeeraÂ = desiccate). In theRajatarangini,Â aÂ history of KashmirÂ written byÂ KalhanaÂ in the mid-12th century, it is stated that the valley of Kashmir was formerly a lake. According toÂ HinduÂ mythology, the lake was drained by the greatÂ rishiÂ or sage,Â Kashyapa, son of Marichi, son ofÂ Brahma, by cutting the gap in the hills at Baramulla (Varaha-mula). When Kashmir had been drained, Kashyapa askedÂ BrahmansÂ to settle there. Rishi Kashyapa, reclaimed the land of the Kashmir valley from a vast lake, known as “Satisar”, named after goddess Sati, the consort of Lord Shiva.This is still the local tradition, and in the existing physical condition of the country, we may see some ground for the story which has taken this form. The name of Kashyapa is by history and tradition connected with the draining of the lake, and the chief town or collection of dwellings in the valley was calledÂ Kashyapa-puraÂ or by other sources Kashyapa-mar, which has been identified withKaspapyrosÂ ofÂ HecataeusÂ (apudÂ Stephanus of Byzantium) andÂ KaspatyrosÂ ofÂ HerodotusÂ (3.102, 4.44).Â Kashmir is also believed to be the country meant byÂ Ptolemy’sÂ Kaspeiria. CashmereÂ is an archaic spelling of Kashmir, and in some countries it is still spelled this way.
Kashmir has been one of the most important centres for the spread and development ofÂ Buddhism. Buddhism was an important part of the classical Kashmiri culture, as is reflected in the Nilamata Purana and theÂ Kalhana’s Rajatarangini. Buddhism is generally believed to have become dominant in Kashmir in the time of Emperor Ashoka, although it was widespread there long before his time. It enjoyed the patronage not only of the Buddhist rulers but of Hindu and early Muslim rulers too. From Kashmir, it spread to the neighboring Ladakh.
The first known ruler of Kashmir,Â GonandaÂ (mentioned byÂ KalhanaÂ in hisÂ Rajatarangini),was related toÂ Jarasandha,who ruledÂ MagadhaÂ during the time of theÂ Kurukshetra war. Surrendra is perhaps the first Buddhist ruler of Kashmir. He erected the first viharas in Kashmir. One of these, known as Narendrabhavana, was in the city of Sauraka (Suru, beyond theÂ Zoji La.) The other vihara was at Saurasa, corresponding to the village Sowur (Soura) on the shore ofÂ Anchar LakeÂ to the north ofÂ Srinagar.
Kalhana claims that though it was situated far from theÂ MauryanÂ capital (Pataliputra), Kashmir enjoyed all the benefits ofÂ Ashoka’s benign rule. The provincial capital Shrinagari (Srinagar) was ‘resplendent with prosperity and wealth.’ According to some Buddhist writers includingÂ Taranatha, the Buddhist preacherÂ MadhyantikaÂ introducedÂ saffronÂ cultivation into Kashmir. Buddhism andÂ ShaivismÂ flourished side by side in Kashmir during Ashoka’s time and received the Emperor’s patronage in equal measure. Kalhana notes that Ashoka built two Shiva temples at Vijayeshvara (Bijbihara), and ordered several others renovated. In Vitastatra (Vethavutur) and at Shuskaletra (Hukhalitar) he built a number of viharas and stupas. He deputed Madhyantika for the propagation of Buddhism in Kashmir and Gandhara.
Buddhism suffered a temporary eclipse during the reign of Ashoka’s successors Jalauka and Damodara. Kalhana, a Hindu historian, asserted that large number of Buddhist scholars were vanquished in debates with Jalauka’s guru Avadhuta, and hence traditional observances were slowly revived. Later, however, Jalauka created a big vihara, the Krityashramavihara, in the vicinity ofÂ VarahamulaÂ (Baramulla), which was still existing as late as the 11th century. The history of Kashmir after Damodara is not certain until the time of the Kushanas.
TheÂ KushanaÂ period saw a great resurgence of Buddhism in Kashmir, especially during the reign ofÂ Kanishka. The fourthÂ Buddhist CouncilÂ was held in Kashmir, under the presidency of Katyayaniputra, in Kanishka’s time. The south Indian Buddhist philosopherÂ NagarjunaÂ lived in Kashmir during the Kushana period.
During the reign of Abhimanyu, which in Kalhana’s chronicle follows that of Kanishka, Buddhist scholars under the guidance of Nagarjuna defeated the Shaivite clergy in debates, encouraging people to choose Buddhism. However, during the time of Chandradeva, revival of knowledge of the works ofÂ Patanjali, like theÂ MahabhashyaÂ which had become rare, led to a resurgence ofÂ Shaivism. By the time of Gonanda, the old philosophy was completely revived. Nothing is known about the religious affiliations of Pratapaditya, a scion of theÂ Gupta dynastyÂ and his successors, except that they are stated to have ruled well, and fullest liberty of faith was accorded. Buddhism is stated by Kalhana and Hiuen Tsang to have suffered severe setbacks under theÂ Huns, especially underÂ Mihirakula, whom Hiuen Tsang describes as a great persecutor of the Buddhists.
Â Xuan Zang in Kashmir
Xuan ZangÂ arrived in Kashmir taking the route from Tibet and Ladakh. He had a significant influence in spreading Buddhism in Kashmir. When he had first arrived in Kashmir, Buddhism was a widespread religion. He later proceeded toÂ Harsha’s empire to learn more about Buddhism.
Fourth Buddhist CouncilÂ is the name of two separateÂ Buddhist councilÂ meetings. The first one was held in the 1st century BC, inÂ Sri Lanka. In this fourth Buddhist council theÂ TheravadinÂ Pali CanonÂ was for the first time committed to writing, on palm leaves. The second one was held by theÂ Sarvastivada school, inÂ KashmirÂ around the 1st century AD.
Fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir
The 2nd Fourth Buddhist Council (SarvastivadaÂ tradition) is said to have been convened by theÂ KushanÂ emperorÂ KanishkaÂ (r. 127-151 CE), perhaps inÂ 78 CEÂ atÂ JalandharÂ or in Kashmir. The Fourth Council of Kashmir is not recognized as authoritative in Theravada; reports of this council can be found in scriptures which were kept in theÂ MahayanaÂ tradition. The Mahayana tradition based some of its scriptures on (refutations of) the Sarvastivadin AbhidharmaÂ texts, which were systematized at this council.
It is said that for the Fourth Council of Kashmir,Â KanishkaÂ gathered 500 monks headed byÂ Vasumitra, partly, it seems, to compile extensive commentaries on the (Sarvastivadin) Abhidharma, although it is possible that some editorial work was carried out upon the existing canon itself. The main fruit of this Council was the vast commentary known as theÂ MahÄ-VibhÄshÄÂ (“Great Exegesis”), an extensive compendium and reference work on a portion of the SarvÄstivÄdin Abhidharma.
ScholarsÂ believe that it was also around this time that a significant change was made in the language of the SarvÄstivÄdin canon, by converting an earlierÂ PrakritÂ version intoSanskrit. Although this change was probably effected without significant loss of integrity to the canon, this event was of particular significance since Sanskrit was the official holy language ofÂ BrahmanismÂ in India, and was also being used by other thinkers (regardless of their specific religious or philosophical allegiance), thus enabling a far wider audience to gain access to Buddhist ideas and practices. For this reason, all major (Sarvastivad and Mahayana) Buddhist scholars in India thereafter wrote their commentaries and treatises in Sanskrit.
Ancient Buddhist Site situated at Harwan inÂ Kashmir
At Harwan in Srinagar, a very important Buddhist site having stupas was discovered by R.C. Kak in 1925 on a slope of a mountain. Sir Aurl Stein identifies â€˜Harwanâ€™ with Shadarhadvana (grove of six saints), a locality mentioned in Rajatarangini.
As we see in the pictures, the walls were constructed in what has been called â€œdiaper rubble style,â€ wherein a number of large undressed boulders are placed in one row with intervening spaces filled with smaller stones.
Â Martand Temple
Martand Temple, located close to the village of Anantnag, sits atop a high plateau overlooking Kashmir Valley. Built between the seventh and eighth centuries to honor the Surya â€œSun God,â€ this medieval temple is an elaborate display of architectural grandeur, with â€œeternalâ€ stones encircling the plateau, a complex of 84 columns and a colonnaded courtyard centering on a shrine. It is regarded in northern India as “the materialized-spirit of a transcendent vision.â€ The monumentâ€™s architecture was innovative and unique in relation to that of other temples of the time; and the temple also represents a historical departure from Buddhist influence in that its central structure was built as a sanctuary rather than a place of congregational worship. The Martand Temple is a popular tourist destination for enthusiasts of medieval history, architecture and religion.
Parihaspora is situated on the karewa land 24 kms away fromÂ Srinagar on right side of Srinagar-Baramulla road. During firstÂ period of Dogra rule it usedÂ to be called pargana â€œParaspurâ€. The ruins of Parihaspur Budhist site are presently spread over three karewa , namely: kane shahs ( main stone structure), Govrardhan & Budh karewa. This areas was developed and inhabited by famous King Lalitadita (695-731 AD) and later made it capital of Kashmir. Parihapora is presently known are kane shahr ( city of stones). The ancient ruins are seen at four places namely: Dewar Yekhmanpur, Govardhan karewa (Wudur), Teirgam & Budh karewa. It is observed by the archaeologists that this karewa land carries religious structures and palacesÂ mainly. At the time when Parishapur would bloom asÂ city, River Jhelum ( Vitasta) and River Sindh would meet at Naid Khai area and beyond Nigli Nallah would join to flow down in the Wular Lake ( the largest lake of Asia). Within the limits of this ancient city , the prominent structures which the King raised include: Govardhan, Mukta Keshav, Parhas Keshav, Mahavrah, Raj Vihar etc. The King has also constructed a Fort of iron brick in the city ; however, the remains of this Fort are not seen. In this city Turkish Minister of the King named Chuknan had constructed a Stupa, remains of which are still available.
The devastation of this monumental glorious city has been due to several wars between the kings and the last destruction of the city has been ascribed to Sultan Sikander ( 1379-1413 AD) though tillÂ the era of Sangram Raj ( 1003-28 AD) the structure of the Palaces and Temples has been largely in existence. Some historians say that during Kushan era (79-15 BC) Royal Bodh Vihar was constructed here and 3rd Budh Conference of Kashmir is believed to have been held here (79 BC) as evidentÂ from the inscriptions of certain stones discovered.
The gardens were established by PrinceÂ Dara ShikohÂ in the mid-1600s on the ruins of aÂ Buddhist monastery. Dara, the son of EmperorÂ Shah Jahan, followed the Qadiri order ofÂ Sufi IslamÂ and made the garden for his tutor. It was further used as an observatory, useful for teachingÂ astrologyÂ andÂ astronomy. The gardens have since become the property of the Srinagar government
Naranag (or Nara Nag) is a tourist village of Ganderbal district, Jammu and Kashmir, India. It is located around 8 km from Kangan, 6 km upstream from the Nallah Sindh. Noted for its scenic meadows, lakes and mountains, it is a base camp for trekking to the Mount Haramukh 16,870Â ft (5,142Â metres) and Gangabal Lake. The village lies at the left bank of the Wangath river, which is a tributary of the Nallah Sindh. It is one of the important archaeological sites of the country The site consists of a cluster of temples facing each other at a distance of about 200 meters Historians say that the temple is dedicated to LordShiva by the 8th century ruler Lalithdatiya muktadiya. It is believed that the king Awantivarman paid a visit and donated a pedestal for bathing at Bhutsher. Its architecture reveals the art art of the 8th century
Ushkar is a place of archeological importance located inÂ Baramulla District. Ushkar stupa and itsÂ surrounding Â Â Â wall are found at someÂ distanceÂ away to the west of the village. This stupa is similar to that atÂ ParihasapuraÂ and is believedÂ to haveÂ been constructed by Lalitaditya in the middle of the 8th century. The remains of the terracotta heads reveal that the stupa belonged to the Kushan times. All these artifacts are now preserved in theÂ Pratap Singh MuseumÂ atÂ Srinagar.
Burzaham is a very important archeological site which provides evidence of people living in the valley during 2500 BC in underground caves dug into Karewa Soil. It is believed that about 140 BC, the pit dwelling changed into structures built on the ground.