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.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Northern Buddhism"

Iqbal looks at the rise and fall of Buddhism in the valley

(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.)

Northern Buddhism and the Mystery of Ancient Copper Plates

The Ancient copper plates carrying the fundamental details of Northern Buddhism are buried somewhere in Kashmir valley and, as the historians and numismatics argue, it remains a great historical mystery for the researchers to unveil the truth. Does the state know it? If yes than what the state has been doing to locate these copper plates. Perhaps very few people are aware of this mystery. The state’s tourism and Culture department may also not be fully aware about this as their discourse clearly suggests so.

Had the case been anything different, the concerned authorities should have undertaken necessary measures to locate these hidden plates to explore one more dimension to the valleys cultural tourism.

This is a fact that there is no Buddhist population, nowadays, in Kashmir valley while Ladakh province of this state remains dominated by them. While Buddhism is hardly practiced here in the valley, it had been the most dominant faith before the mass conversion to Islam. People of Kashmir are learnt to have been staunch followers of Buddhism prior to the conversion. The fact is further testified by the observations and revelations that were bring up during various excavations and researches leads to explore ancient Buddhist sites and artifacts in valley of Kashmir. Today no living Buddhist monument is found any where in the valley but remains of several Buddhist pavements and stupas have been discovered which where functional during their respective times.

Valley of Kashmir is learnt to have served as the cradle for ancient Buddhist knowledge. Although Buddhism was born in Budhgaya, the ancient Maghada (Bihar) but it was reshaped in the glorious valley during the period of imperial Kushans in 2nd century AD. The most significant event associated with Buddhism in Kashmir is the International Council Convention that was held here in the valley during the period of Kushan’s.

The council is said to have sat for six months and collected scattered sayings, theories and dictums of various doctors of the law. The council is believed to have, `composed 100,000 stanzas of Pupadesh Shastra explanatory of the canonical sutras; 100,000 stanzas, of Vinayas Vibhasa Sastras, explanatory of the Vinaya; and 100,000 stanzas of Abhidharma Vibhasas Sastra, explanatory of the Abhidharma. For this exposition of the Tripitaka all of learning from remote antiquity was thoroughly examined; the general sense and the terse language was again and again made clear and distinct and learning was widely diffused for the safe guiding of the disciples’.

The commentaries of the council are said were written in Sanskrit on copper plates, which were enclosed in stone boxes. These boxes were then deposited in a stupa specially built for the purpose. Where this stupa existed has become the mystery. Nobody till date has succeeded to locate the site. Although it was Huen Tsang,the Chinese Ambassador who was first to give birth to this mystery when he in his accounts made the mention of copper plates which are buried some where in kashmeri stupa. He could not give the exact location of the site and left it for the future scholars to identify it.

Tarrant an Indian historian has suggests Kundal Van’ as the place where the council was held. But where is that place that is still to be established. Different scholars have been identifying Kundalvan with few places of Kashmir bearing somehow a similar name. The names of the places suggested in the process are Kuntikleun (the area from Harwan to Gupkar in Srinagar) Kund in Kulgam and Kanelvan in Bijbehara. I suggest Kundalen in Shopian as the corrupt form of Kundalvan. Dr. Token Sumi a Japanese scholar believes those ethnological studies about the Yakshas in Kashmir may lead the archaeologists towards the right direction. Few scholars believe that numismatic studies may help the excavators to locate the actual area where the council has met.

Where these plates are hidden and how could be reached to them, is a big question. It would not only require the services of trained archaeologists but necessary funding as well. In absence of the relevant government agency, the state has never been so serious about this task. But now when the Department of culture has been setup, it is expected it would take some initiative to locate the hidden treasure of this land. If this treasure is found it would certainly be a turning point not only for Department of culture but for our international tourism as well.

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