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 to folk etymology, the name “Kashmir” means “desiccated land” (from the Sanskrit: Ka = water and shimeera = desiccate). In theRajatarangini, a history of Kashmir written by Kalhana in the mid-12th century, it is stated that the valley of Kashmir was formerly a lake. According to Hindu mythology, the lake was drained by the great rishi or sage, Kashyapa, son of Marichi, son of Brahma, by cutting the gap in the hills at Baramulla (Varaha-mula). When Kashmir had been drained, Kashyapa asked Brahmans 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 called Kashyapa-pura or by other sources Kashyapa-mar, which has been identified withKaspapyros of Hecataeus (apud Stephanus of Byzantium) and Kaspatyros of Herodotus (3.102, 4.44). Kashmir is also believed to be the country meant by Ptolemy’s Kaspeiria. Cashmere 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 of Buddhism. Buddhism was an important part of the classical Kashmiri culture, as is reflected in the Nilamata Purana and the 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, Gonanda (mentioned by Kalhana in his Rajatarangini),was related to Jarasandha,who ruled Magadha during the time of the 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 the Zoji La.) The other vihara was at Saurasa, corresponding to the village Sowur (Soura) on the shore of Anchar Lake to the north of Srinagar.

Mauryan period


Kalhana claims that though it was situated far from the Mauryan capital (Pataliputra), Kashmir enjoyed all the benefits of Ashoka’s benign rule. The provincial capital Shrinagari (Srinagar) was ‘resplendent with prosperity and wealth.’ According to some Buddhist writers including Taranatha, the Buddhist preacher Madhyantika introduced saffron cultivation into Kashmir. Buddhism and Shaivism 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.

Ashoka’s successors

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 of Varahamula (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.

Kushana period

The Kushana period saw a great resurgence of Buddhism in Kashmir, especially during the reign of Kanishka. The fourth Buddhist Council was held in Kashmir, under the presidency of Katyayaniputra, in Kanishka’s time. The south Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna lived in Kashmir during the Kushana period.

Post-Kushana reaction

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 of Patanjali, like the Mahabhashya which had become rare, led to a resurgence of Shaivism. By the time of Gonanda, the old philosophy was completely revived. Nothing is known about the religious affiliations of Pratapaditya, a scion of the Gupta dynasty 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 the Huns, especially under Mihirakula, whom Hiuen Tsang describes as a great persecutor of the Buddhists.

 Xuan Zang in Kashmir

Xuan Zang 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 to Harsha’s empire to learn more about Buddhism.

Fourth Buddhist Council is the name of two separate Buddhist council meetings. The first one was held in the 1st century BC, in Sri Lanka. In this fourth Buddhist council the Theravadin Pali Canon was for the first time committed to writing, on palm leaves. The second one was held by the Sarvastivada school, in Kashmir around the 1st century AD.

Fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir

The 2nd Fourth Buddhist Council (Sarvastivada tradition) is said to have been convened by the Kushan emperor Kanishka (r. 127-151 CE), perhaps in 78 CE at Jalandhar 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 the Mahayana tradition. The Mahayana tradition based some of its scriptures on (refutations of) the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma texts, which were systematized at this council.

It is said that for the Fourth Council of Kashmir, Kanishka gathered 500 monks headed by 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 the Mahā-Vibhāshā (“Great Exegesis”), an extensive compendium and reference work on a portion of the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma.

Scholars believe that it was also around this time that a significant change was made in the language of the Sarvāstivādin canon, by converting an earlier Prakrit 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 of Brahmanism 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 in 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 ‘Harwan’ 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 “diaper rubble style,” wherein a number of large undressed boulders are placed in one row with intervening spaces filled with smaller stones.

 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 “Sun God,” this medieval temple is an elaborate display of architectural grandeur, with “eternal” 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.” The monument’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 from Srinagar on right side of Srinagar-Baramulla road. During first period of Dogra rule it used to be called pargana “Paraspur”. 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 palaces mainly. At the time when Parishapur would bloom as 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 till 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 evident from the inscriptions of certain stones discovered.

Pari Mehal

The gardens were established by Prince Dara Shikoh in the mid-1600s on the ruins of a Buddhist monastery. Dara, the son of Emperor Shah Jahan, followed the Qadiri order of Sufi Islam and made the garden for his tutor. It was further used as an observatory, useful for teaching astrology and 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 16,870 ft (5,142 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 in Baramulla District. Ushkar stupa and its surrounding     wall are found at some distance away to the west of the village. This stupa is similar to that at Parihasapura and is believed to have 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 the Pratap Singh Museum at 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.