Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Glory of an Ancient Town Named Bijbehara

Iqbal takes us on a historical journey through a Kashmir town named after King Vijay

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numastics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

The historic town

Bijbehara, one of the interesting and important places to archaeologists in the recent past has filled a large gap of missing cultural sequences of Kashmir. Excavations carried at Semithan yielded tremendous archaeological and numismatic materials which have helped historians to reconstruct the missing sequences to its considerable extent.

Bijbehara is a very ancient site. Its present name is a corrupt form of Vijayaswara which basically was the name of a temple believed to have been raised by some Vijaya named king’. The town is situated about 40 km from Srinagar in south Kashmir. The place in its earlier excavations revealed few magnificent stone images of Hindu deities.

These images housed in the Sri Partap Singh (SPS) museum are considered the earliest stone images discovered so far and are dated to the period earlier to 6th century AD. (Though there have been un-official reports of some more earlier images found from the valley, those have gone unrecorded). Earlier to these stone images, Kashmiri sculptor looks to have used terracotta for making of the images. Such terracotta miniature figures and heads have survived from the sites of Ushkar, Baramulla and Parihaspura. Various miniature type terracotta figures were also found at Semithan (ancient Chakradhara near Bijbehara).

Those images are dated to 1st and 2nd century AD and there is every possibility that the Bijbehara school, which earlier was involved in making of terracotta images, later shifted towards stone material. As the stone was more hard to survive for long periods, a close association in various features of terra-cotta figures and stone images of the area is also observed. Both types of images are dressed in Hellenistic style and compare well with a number of images of Gandhara school.

The material clings to the body with a series of dense pleats between the legs indicated by string folds, a feature which is very common in the early art of both Kashmir and Gandhara observes John Siudmak. It is very interesting to note that the early images of Kashmir as come across in Bijbehara have more Hellenistic influence and less Gupta. In the medieval aged sculptures as found from Pandhrethan and Parihaspura sites Hellenistic features have been dominated by more Gupta styles while the later sculptures of Avantipura and Varinag sites, local influence has been a dominant force, not only in the body and costume treatment but of particular interest is the retention of personified attributes, which disappeared in usage in the rest of India in post Gupta periods but continued in Kashmir up to the lost stages of sculptural arts says Robert E Fisher in his article, 'Later stone sculptures published in Marg’.

The greater traditions of the Kashmiri sculptural art later also impressed Ladakh i.e. why many Kashmiri images mostly of bronze were reported to have appeared in the art market of Ladakh. The sculpture traditions which appeared from Bijbehara and Ushkar (Southern and Northern parts of Kashmir) date to the period 6th century AD, were then cultivated in later schools. Before attempting to that let us have the brief descriptions of the two master piece sculptures of this earlier group of Bijbehara sculpture art preserved in SPS Museum

Kartikeya Plate No 1: The six armed Kartikeya identified by his vehicle the peacock in its several features compares with Gandhara images. The arrangement of the hair and the wavy locks falling over its shoulders, the folds of the drapery like features quietly resemble to similar features of the Gandhara images while fleshy body with powerful shoulders compares it with Pandhrethan sculptures.

It wears a pearl necklace from which hangs a diamond pendant. The floral garland loops in front of the body falls near the knees. Boarders of armlets and belt are studded with pearls. A short dagger is attached at his waist. This is unique to Kashmiri versions but is rarely found on the early sculptures.

The sculpture is damaged by its four arms, the other two hands visible do not hold anything. The right hand is placed upon the neck of the peacock, the vehicle of the god, and the left holds the hem of the drapery. The Dhoti reaches to its ankles with floods in between its legs Headless

Deity Plate No 2: Another goddess from Bijbehara is damaged by its head, arms and other attributes. Since the prongs' of a trident are partly visible at the right side of its foot, is identified as a form of Durga. The image is purely dressed in Hellenistic style compares closely with a number of Gandhura images. It is shown wearing a high waisted chiffon and a long scarf. A cord passes over the left shoulder and forms a loop in front of her body. The scarf falls in a series of folds at her feet. This treatment may be watched on many early standing female deities known in terracotta.

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