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, May 6, 2012

The Nag and the Cave

Iqbal brings us close to Kashmir's historical gems

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 51, 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.)

Verinag- the Love of Jahangir

Jahangir, the famous Mughal emperor, who expired at Chingas near Rajouri on his return from Srinagar to Lahore, wished, while on death bed, to be carried to Verinag and buried there. This was the charm of Verinag of which its royal founder seems to have been quite sensible; Verinag with its shady trees, cold-water and murmuring streams over shadowed by the somber pine-clad hills is situated in South Kashmir about 74 Km from Srinagar.

It is considered to be the real source of river Jehlum. Abul Fazl, in ‘Ain-e-Akbari’ says of Verinag, “A pool measuring of a Jarib, which tosses in foam with an astonishing roar and its depth unfathomable and is surrounded by a stone-embankment”.

The construction work over the spring was taken under by Jahangir (AH 1014-1073- AH, and completed by Shah Jahan (1037-1068 AH). The developmental work over Verinag included the laying of garden, raising pillared pavilions constructing royal bath rooms and an octagonal arcade around the spring.

Jahangir (1014-1037 AH), while providing a brief account of the spring writes, “It is an octagonal reservoir about 20-yards. Near it are the remains of a place of worship for recluses; cells cut out of the rock and numerous caves. The water is exceedingly pure, although I could not guess its depth. A grain of poppy-seed is visible until it touches the bottom. There are many fish to be seen in it. As I had heard that it was unfathomable, I ordered them to throw a cord with a stone attached and when this card measured in gaz it became evident that the depth was not more than one and a half the height of a man. After my accession I ordered them to build the sides of the spring with stone, and they made a garden round it with canal and built halls and houses about it and made a place such that travellers the world over can point out a few like it”

Of the buildings, that Jehangir ordered to be constructed here, only the range of twenty-four arches round the spring remains partially intact. The rest are either in ruins or completely invisible. The arcade originally formed of stone was repaired by Maharaja Rambir Singh (1857-85 AD) in bricks.

The two inscriptions raised into the wall of arcade one by Jahangir and the other by his son Shah Jahan retain the physical memories of these two monarchs one of the inscriptions that belongs to Jahangir-runs as;
Padshahi haft-Kishtiwar `adalat-gustar’Abu-al-Muzaffar
Nurud-ud-Din Jahangir Ibn Akbar Shah Ghazi Batarikhi
Sanah 5 Julus darin Sarchashma faiz-amin nazul ajlal formudand Tarikh.
Az Jahangir Shah-e-Akbar Shah.
Inn bina Sar Kashidah bar aflak
Abani-e-equal yaft tarikhash
Qasr abad-o-chashma-e-Verinag
This inscription carries the foundation date as 5th regional year of Jahangir with Kings higher titles in Persian.

The other inscription of Shah Jahan’s period read as:

Haider ba Aukmi Shahi
Jahan padasi dahr.
Shukre Khuda Ki Sakht
Chunin ab shar Jui.
In Jui dada ast Ziju-e-bahish yad.
Zin abshar yafta kashmir abrui.
Tarikh-e-jui guft ba gosham.
Az chashma-e-bikhif birum amadast Jui.
This inscription provides the date of the completion of the work as 1036 AH by one Haider, on orders of Shah Jahan.

Although Verinag, alongwith other tourist sites of south Kashmir, is receiving some tourists, though lately, a lot remains to be done yet. Steps are needed to be taken to showcase and also boast the tourist potential of this site besides preserving its arcade and inscription as these are the past glories of this historic spring. Like many other such historical sites, Verinag also suffered human vandalism and utmost neglect.

Kashmir Caves

Kashmir valley carries evidences of few such caves, the identity of many of which remains a great mystery even hundreds of years after they were first discovered. Who built these caves and for what purpose? These and many more questions remain unanswered to this day and are likely to remain a mystery for times to come in the absence of a thorough and empirical research. Although the land has a very ancient tradition of cave digging as, earlier people used to dig out the underground caves to live in and provide shelter for the people of the community. In was during this time that people probably found many natural caves as well and settled in them.

In early sixties and seventies underground cave pits were discovered on the plateaus of Burzhama (Srinagar) and Gufkral (Tral). In recent past few caves were identified in Manasbal locality as well. These discoveries stand well interpreted and their meaning well understood. Archaeologists tell us that such caves served as manmade and natural shelters for the earlier habitants of this land who preferred to live in the caves instead of building structures on the surface of the earth.

There are other caves attributed to various Hindu deities. Few of these caves are still being worshipped by Hindus while some other caves are believed to have served as meditation sites for various saints of the land. The caves attributed to Hindu deities include the world famous Amarnath Cave, which houses the Siva Linga. Hindu pilgrims from far off lands of India visit the cave during the Amarnath Yatra and pay obeisance at this site.

One another cave which really is an archaeological wonder and houses internally five feet high temple is seen at village Bumzu about 65 kms from Srinagar on a plateau on the left bank of river Lidder. It has been carved inside the massive limestone rock. Who carved it and for what purpose is not exactly known while legends have numerous stories to tell us. It is locally known as Gufa Mander. Cunningham (Archaeologist) describes it as a very old construction while other archaeologists are attributing it to medieval period and say that the cave was either carved out during the tenure of Bhimshahi or Queen Didda. It is the only site where we find that a temple was built inside the cave which, many archeologists believe, is very much significant as well impressive one. Visitors have to climb a flight of 22 steps from the road to reach to the gate of the cave.

There are other two famous caves with one at Gufabal (Kulgam) and other at Ashmuqam. These are attributed with celebrated saints of the land, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din (RA) and his disciple Sheikh Zain-ud-Din Rishi (RA) respectively. The Peer used to meditate in the cave at Gufabal and his disciple made Ashmuqam cave as his last abode. These caves are still extent and visited by devotees of the saints.

Apart from these known and well identified caves there are several caves found in Kashmir. The proper identity of which still remains a mystery. One such group of caves is seen in Kupwara in frontier district of the land at Lasthiyal, Kalaroos. These are not natural caves some people have carved them in a proper sequence from the massive lime stone rocks. These are in a row and uniform in size. No scientific study of these caves has yet been under-taken while few scholars who tried to identify them could not come up with concrete picture of these caves.

However the famous historian of Kashmir, Dr. Fida Muhammad Hasnian, has something to say about the caves. He says that these caves served as the indicators of some major historical events, which might have taken place in this area during ancient periods. He emphasizes for a major archaeological survey of the area.

Recently, one more prehistoric cave, used by some ancient settlers, was found in village Hefseermal on the right bank of Nallah Rembara in Pulwama District. This cave has been dug out from a side of low plateau.

All these caves found at various places have been left uncared and unpreserved and are in utter ruins. Infect, these caves have to face human vandalism while the concerned department seems snoring over the issue. Steps are required to be taken to preserve the cave heritage and to explore it for heritage tourism as well.

Thanks to Archaeological Survey of India authorities who have been maintaining the Bumzo cave and have been successful not only in its restoration work but also in bringing on the tourist map of the land.

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