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, July 13, 2009

Kashmir's Golden Era

Iqbal says that artisans who worked on Harwan terracotta tiles seem to exhibit a high degree of sophistication

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

Greco-Buddhist Art in Kashmir

The Jammu and Kashmir state has yielded number of evidences of Greco Buddhist sculpture art at its various archaeological sites, which include the terracotta, stone and bronze sculptures Buddhist Stupa of Harwan.

The molded brick tiles unearthed at Harwan depict a unique art trend in that they do not deal with religious, but with secular themes. We find life and nature as the artist found around him. There are figures of men, wearing Central Asian costumes; and curiously enough the relief figures of Parthian horsemen, women, heads and busts appear side by side with early Gupta motifs.

Commenting on it PNK Bamzai writes, “The moldings of Harwan terracotta tiles cannot, however, be the work of folk artists. The art seems to have attained a high degree of sophistication and the molded tiles depict life of the upper class, in as much as we find figures of hunting horsemen, men and women sitting on balcony and enjoying perhaps the beautiful land caps and listening to music from female musician and recitals of dancers. The physiognomy of the persons depicted on these tiles leaves no doubt of their Central Asian origin, their prominent check bones, small eyes, receding forehead and heavy features, all point to the same conclusion. From some letters in the Kharoshti script which went into disuse before the 4th century A.D, and also from a small passage on Buddhist creed written in the Brahmi characters, it seems the tiles belong to the 3rd - 4th century A.D.”

Where as the Harwan tiles are flat, hardly rising out of the background, and are made from a mould and therefore repetitive, the terracotta heads and relieve found at Ushkar are each a single masterpiece produced from moulds carved by hand.

About them PNK Bamzai writes, “These later Gandhara terracotta’s have been variously put from the 4th to the 8th centuries A.D. The figures and figurines depict true Hellenistic influence. Hellenistic art was the dominant cultural force for about a thousand years from the 3rd century B.C. to 700 A.D. in what is now called Afghanistan, and its final echoes lasted in Kashmir until the 10th century A.D.

Buddhist stupa of Akhnur

Relics similar to Ushkar have been unearthed at Akhnur. Situated on the right bank of the Chenab, where the river first enters the plains of the Punjab, Akhnur lay in ancient times on the route between Jammu and Srinagar via the Budil pass, as well as on the road to Rajauri (ancient Rajapuri). It was thus an important centre of trade and commerce and the headquarters of a flourishing timber industry. “Both in treatment and the material used in the lovely terracotta heads with their somber lines and the serene and peaceful poses, we notice a close affinity to the “Pater Gandhara School” on the one hand and to the Gupta art on the other,” writes Bamzai
The fragments collected both at Ushkar and Akhnur consist of pieces of bodies, covered with drapery or partly covered, or even nude; broken bodies of princes, princesses, attendants, holy men, Buddhist mendicants in their draped robes; elaborate decoration that once might have been personal ornaments, such as crowns, necklaces, armlet, bracelets, ear-rings and the like; architectural fragments of a highly ornamental style, including pillar capitals with vine ornaments, volutes, etc.

He further writes, “Stylistically, they seem to inherit two different aesthetics: the mongrel Indo-Roman school of Gandhara school, when there was a shift of artistic activity to areas where schist was not available, (Kashmir, Taxila, Kabul, Bamiyan, Central Asia), a school of sculpture took to working in stucco. Here, gradually, they developed a sensitive, somewhat romantics, style; but later they found that burnt clay (terracotta) lasted longer and was not destroyed like stucco by rain and sun. Patronage of these artists fell low in Taxila and adjoining areas, when Buddhism was dying out, and they crossed the Pir Panjal range into Kashmir where, from towards the end of the 5th century A.D. the building trade was very brisk and flourishing.”

Tile pavement of Hionar

It is a forest site located near the tourist resort of Pahalgam on the left bank of Nallah Lidder, a tile pavement was found by Archaeologist in 1979. The site revealed a pavement which was formed of square and rectangular tiles carved in various human and animal motifs. The most outstanding is the motif of Egyptian king Nariman depicted on one of the tile.

Tile Pavement of Hutmur

Hutmur: Another title pavement scattered on a vast forest land was cited by experts at village Hutmur few kms below Hutmur. The remains of small pebble walls were also recorded at the site.

Tile pavement of Kotbal

Remains of tile pavement were recently discovered by State Archaeology Department on Kotbal hill in Anantnag district in year 2005. The tiles exposed at site carried several motifs but most outstanding were those motifs which showed few female dancers in a Greco Budhist style.

(Kashmir Images)

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