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, July 23, 2010

A European Scholar Who Loved Kashmir

Iqbal narrates the story of a special visitor who left a permanent legacy

(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.)

Arul Stein and Kashmir

Sir Mark Arul Stein was a Hungarian scholar born in Buda piston on November 26,1862. It is said that from the very beginning he had a deep interest in touring and studying eastern culture. For this purpose, Stein is said to have achieved degrees in several disciplines of eastern history and culture from leading European universities and later worked on a doctorate in the same field. In 1885 he got an opportunity to visit the then British India where he got the job of a principal in the Lahore College. It was from here that Stein started his mission of research and went to nearby Bunar area to examine the scattered remnants and debris of ancient Undayana Empire, which were scattered on its beautiful landscape.

In 1901, Central Asian plains attracted the passions of Stains. He spent a good time in ancient Khottan and studied the material culture of the region. He came across a collection of ancient, artifacts, manuscripts and Tibetan antiquities there. He studied the material properly and forwarded his observations in his book Ancient Khottan in 1907. In this book he has also brought to light the ancient links of Khottan with other contemporary cultures. He felt the imprints of sub continent's on its culture and history.

Stein made extensive archaeological researches in Baloochistan and discovered several ancient settlements there. His discovery of Mahaban was a remarkable one. Of his high expertise Stein was again recommended for Central Asian survey and in 1906 he made a historic discovery at Tunhang that consisted of the remains of western portion of the Great Wall of China. The wall and caves were of ancient times, constructed to protect ancient China from the attack of Hun. The discovered caves still remembered here as Buddhist caves. One of these caves was closed from all of its sides. Incidentally in 1900, when the doors of this cave got opened a big collection of manuscripts and paintings made on silk cloth were recovered. China took the major portion of this collection. Stein could, however, get access to study several of these manuscripts. What Stein observed in his second expedition he compiled it in his another book. In year 1915 Stein went to Russia and from here moved to Samarqand, Khurasan and Seistan. He made a detailed survey of these dates and came across ancient settlements and remains Buddhist monasteries and Stupas on the mountain passes of Seistan. He conducted extensive researches on its typography, geography, archaeology, history and culture and published it in his grand book Sir India (in four volumes) in 1928.

Stein's Kashmir research was extraordinary. He had great love and affection with this land and its people and made several visits to this valley. Mahind Marg was the place where Stein used to study and compile them in the shape of books. The place is situated in the laps of Harmukh. "It was this place that Stein had desired to be buried in", as recorded by his Kashmirii Pandith friend Ramchand Bali. However, Stein died in Afghanistan and is buried there in Kabul's Christian graveyard.

Till the arrival of Arul Stein in Kashmir, several European missionaries had made several visits to Kashmir and provided their sketches of this land. Father Gersome Xavier and Benoist de Gois accompanied Mughal emperor Akbar to Kashmir. The next European traveler of note who wrote on Kashmir was the Jesuit priest. A more detailed account was given by a French physician, Francis Bernier who accompanied Aurangzeb in 1665. George Forster, Vigne and Moorcraft also provided interesting travel diaries of Kashmir. Fredric Drew and Cunnigham’s geographical, archaeological and numismatic accounts generated a good deal of interest among scholars to study more and more ancient remains, epics and culture of the valley.

George Buhler's memorable tour of Kashmir in 1875 had resulted in the discovery of valuable material for a systematic study of the history of Kashmir. He primarily got engaged in collection and examination of old Sanskrit and Persian manuscripts. He gave graphic and accurate notes of some old sites in the valley which he had visited himself. In his tour report he had indicated the manner in which a thorough study of Kalhan's Raj Tarangni and historical typography of Kashmir was undertaken. It won't be wrong to say that Arul Stein followed the Buhlers methods in his researches on Kashmir.

He was in Lahore when desired to have a genuine manuscript of Raj Tarangni. For this purpose he arrived in Kashmir in 1888 and succeeded in the discovery of 17th century copied manuscript of Kashmir chronicle written by Ram Kanth. Stein was very well conversant with Sanskrit, Persian, Kashmirii Pushtu and English. He could also decipher the ancient's scripts like Greek, Arabic, Kharaoshti, Brahmi and Sharda and translate them. During the translation of Raj Tarangni Stein is said to have studied not only the Kanth's manuscript but even had on the spot investigation of various historical sites and remains of Kashmir. And so identified several names recorded in corrupt form in Raj Tarangni.

It was really a very difficult task for a foreigner to study Raj Tarangni and to trace out the various historical events, sites and dates from the chronicle and identify those on the ground. In the words of late Moti Lal Saqi "the role of Stein in the restoration of Kashmir history and cultural heritage is extraordinary which in itself is as the foundation as the sum of the researches. If there had been no Stein, the Kak and Sofi accounts would have remained incomplete."

Kashmir served as the first milestone in Stein's research pursuits. That is why he was in deep love with Kashmir. Stein in his accounts has made mention of it.

"After several central Asian expeditions, I could get time and peace in my beloved mountain valley of Kashmir to rethink and study those investigations and observations which I had made in my re-searches of those far flung areas. There was no change in my love for Kashmir". Stein used to spend his summer vacations in Kashmir and visit and investigate the archaeological sites here. Besides he took keen interest in learning Kashmirii language and literature. With the help of his Kashmirii friend Govind Koul, he could consolidated and compile Hatam's tales, a collection of tales. These were narrated to him by one Hatim. Teli, who was a professional story teller of Panchle. Stein also visited Gilgit and identified and deciphered several human records on the mountains of Hunza and other places. These records were in shape of human and animal carvings and descriptions were given in Kharoshti and Brahmi epigraphs. He could decipher names of several Kushan and Kidar princes on its rock edicts. The incomplete task of Gilgit was later on taken up by Ahmad Hussain Dani, a Pakistani archeologist who identified hundreds of epigraphs and other human carvings on the sides of newly constructed Karokarm high way. He forwarded his results in the article Human records on Korkaram high way.

Unfortunately, the survey of Leh and Kargil areas remains still untraced. If its survey is done we can have a more concrete picture of Ladakh. It was Stein's survey of the region, which encouraged the later archaeologists to search the human records of the area. Arul Stein wrote a series of books on central Asia and Kashmir. His leading write ups include translating of Kalhana's Raj Tarangni, ancient geography of Kashmir, Sir India, Alexandra's tract in India, Marco-Polo-s account of Mongolian roads in Kashmir, Hatim's tales, identification of Parihaspura, a note on Avantipura, a note on Kashmirii monuments and memoir of maps illustrating the ancient geography of Kashmir.

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