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.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Home of Ancient Civilizations

Iqbal pleads for preserving Kashmir's ancient manuscripts written in Sanskrit and Persian

(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.)

Home of Sanskrit Learning

Without doubt we should take care of our spoken dialect, Kashmiri, which since centuries has been serving as the medium of our common people although it hardly served as a written language and never as the official language of this land.

As records witness it was Sanskrit and Persian which filled the written and official gaps which were left empty by our mother tongue.

The earliest hand written documents and manuscripts of our classical ages are found in Sanskrit language and the characters adopted are Sharda; although we could not preserve this classical language, we need to take care of those manuscripts and documents which have been written in Sanskrit and Persian languages.

If you visit the old libraries and archive repositories you would definitely come across a number of ancient manuscripts and documents of Sanskrit. Sometimes you would find such manuscripts written in bark leaves and wooden sheets. We cannot decipher these characters. There are only few experts and scholars who can recognize this ancient alphabet and decipher the script. For most others such ancient literatures are beyond their understanding and wisdom.

These ancient records undoubtedly would be most significant, as they pertain to our ancient land and its people. These records have been written in this land and should be genuine documents of our classical literature. Most of such manuscripts are found in various old institutions of Srinagar and Jammu namely the Research Library, Archival repositories of Jammu and Srinagar, SPS Museum, Srinagar Dogra Art Museum, Jammu Centre of Central Asian Studies Museum Srinagar and in the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages. Obviously, even the preservers of this record did not know what they have preserved?

Kashmiris are proud and justly so of the literary glories of their land. For centuries it was the home of the greatest scholars and at least one great Indian religion Shaivism has found some of its most eloquent teachers on the banks of the Vitasta. Some of the greatest Sanskrit poets were born and wrote in the valley and from it has issued in the Sanskrit language; a world famous collection of folklore.

Sanskrit records are the oldest records of Kashmir. But to make matters clear the language did not serve as the language of common people, it was the language of officers of rajas and Maharajas and of the literary classes. Besides, it served as the only written language of this land till the arrival of Persian. If you ask somebody about such collections they would say these are Sharda manuscripts and most of them do not know in which language these have been written.

In fact, most of our earliest manuscripts are written in Sharda alphabet while few in Gilgitian characters, but the language adopted in these records was Sanskrit, so we can call them our Sanskrit records. Kashmir is said to have served as the home of Sanskrit learning; in the words of Grierson, “For upwards of two thousand years Kashmir has been the home of Sanskrit learning and from this small valley have issued masterpieces of history, poetry, romance, fable and philosophy.

In fact whatever records of ancient Kashmir are available they are entirely in Sanskrit. These Sanskrit records are found written on local paper. I have seen many such manuscripts written on brick bark leaves, locally called burz. These entire Sanskrit records are not unidentified and undeciphered. Most of these records have been deciphered earlier and their respective translations are available. One such significant example is of our Kashmir history Rajtarangni which was also written in Sanskrit

But nowadays we have many explanatory translations available of this earliest historic ‘epic’. Who were the people who undertook this mission? The reply is the British missionaries. The first scholars who undertook the translation work of Sanskrit records were European missionaries. Gareison, George Buhler, and Stein were the first line scholars who studied the earliest Kashmir records. Maharaj Ranbir Singh who was very much inspired by the British missionaries founded the first ever Sanskrit Pathshal at Srinagar and employed proficient pandits for teaching the language.

He also set up a translation bureau where Sanskrit texts were translated into Persian and Hindi. The Maharaja was followed by democratic government which established an independent and fully equipped research department where many Sanskrit texts were edited, collated and published. The Research Department of Kashmir which was set up at Lal Mandi in Srinagar did a great work in translation of a number of Sanskrit works. Later on in the period of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the Research Department which was known as Research Library was shifted from Lal Mandi to Iqbal Library Kashmir University;

However, its management control remained with public libraries department. This glorious institution suffered badly in the hands of political and administrative high ups and a time reached when it became entirely non-functional. It lost its basic purpose of establishment. It could neither collect further manuscripts nor could it continue its translation bureau. As a result the Sanskrit records got scattered in various non-research organizations. Of course, those organizations also preserved these manuscripts but they could not translate it into other understandable languages.

These organizations are not to be blamed because the people employed there do not know what they preserved? Besides proper preservations, our Sanskrit records need to be translated so that people can understand the significance of these manuscripts and can also know their ancient land and its people. This is our genuine classical source material by which we can be able to research our past.

No doubt the Mission Manuscript Scheme launched by Government of India has been successful in documentation and cataloguing of a number of such manuscripts. But it is not sufficient, until these manuscripts are not translated and interpreted. Steps are required to be taken to restore the translation bureau of research department and make it functional by providing professional hands to it. That is the only way to protect it.

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