Kashmir is an ancient land mentioned in the Greek classics of Ptolemy, Dionysios, Hekataios and Herodotos. The Chinese have referred to Kashmir and there are clear references to the Valley in the Annals of the Hanshu and the Tang dynasty. The Arabic works of Al-Masudi, Al-Qazwini, Al-Idrisi and Al-Beruni also refer to Qashmir. The Greeks, refer to Kashmir as Kaspapyros and describe it as one of the cities of Gandhara. To-Yeng and Sung-yuan (578 A.D.) call it as Shie-mi, while Hieun Tsiang (631 A.D.) described it as Kia-shi-mi-lo. The Tibetans refer to Kashmir as Khachul but the Valley is known as Kashrat in Daradistan. Kashmir is known to its inhabitants as Kashir.
Kashmir is surrounded by a girt of mountains, which is crossed through a few mountains. Ou-Kong (759A.D.) has described the 3 passes leading to the Valley. One pass leads from Tou-fan (Tiben); the other from Po-liu (Baltistan) and the third from Kien-to-lo (Gandhara). It is evident that Kashmir had established links with the people of Ladakh, Tibet, Gilgit, Taxila and Peshawar from earliest times.
Kashmir is known as the Paradise on Earth. It has been acclaimed as a land of bliss, peace and contentment. It may be noted that after its exile from the place of its birth, Buddhism found its refuge in Kashmir. “The influence of Kashmir was very marked, especially in the spread of Buddhism beyond India. From Kashmir it penetrated into Qandhar and Kabul and thence over Bactria; Tibetan Buddhism has also its essential origin from Kashmir; so great is the importance of this region in the history of this religion.”
EARLY SETTLERS IN KASHMIR:
Among the early settlers in Kashmir were the three tribes, known as the Nagas, the Pisachas and the Yakshas. They came from Nagar, Hunza and other areas of Daradistan. During the ancient period of our history, each tribe had its settlement around a lake or a spring. In Kashmir, a spring is known as a Nag. These early settlers had to clear forests from the wild animals and snakes, whom they feared and respected. As such, they started worship of the snakes. Then came the Aryan tribes, who introduced their customs and rituals in the Valley. However, in the beginning they met with opposition from the Nagas.
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In our ancient literature, Kashmir was shown as a part of Gandhara, which may be termed as a cultural or political unit extending from Anantnag in Kashmir to Peshawar, with Taxila, as its centre. Before the rise of Buddhism in Gandhara, the whole area was under the Nagas. In the old traditions, we find some big scholars, who belong to the Naga race. Kapila, who is considered the founder of materialistic philosophy or the Sakya-Darshan was a Naga. Patanjali, the author of Paramaratha-Sara, who is also known as an Avatara of Shesha-Naga, was also a Naga. Exactly, in the same way, Naga-Arjuna, and Naga-Bodhi, who command much respect in the Buddhist world, were also Nagas. They were against the Aryan caste system, their religious pantheon and superiority complex. Hence, when the message of Buddhism reached them, they were the first to accept it. It is certain that Buddhism came to Gandhara and Kashmir at the same time. In the Kashmiri chronicles, it has been mentioned those 150 years prior to Naga-Arjuna, a Buddhist scholar, Sakya-Simha, preached Buddhism in Kashmir.
FIRST BUDDHIST KING:
The Rajatarangini of Kalhana begins with the description of the Kuru war, which occurred in about 1370 B.C. Gonada I of Kashmir lived in that period and the date of his accession has been fixed to 1260 B.C. Surendra is the first Buddhist ruler, who built the first Buddhist religious structure at Soura in Kashmir. He is also credited with having built several Viharas as well as the Buddhist centers of learning in the other parts of Valley. This fact also proves that Buddhism existed as a religion in Kashmir, even before the reign of Ashoka. His reign can be fixed in the middle of the 4th century B.C. It is recorded that during the rule of Asoka (269-227 B.C.), some monks of the Sarvastivad School fled away to Kashmir due to the lack of royal patronage. The Cylonese sources reveal that it was Ashoka of Maghada, who deputed Madhyantika to Kashmir and Gandhara as a missionary. According to the Chinese sources, it was Madhyantika, a disciple of Ananda, who succeeded in bringing Sarvastivad Buddhism to Kashmir, after having subdued the Nagas by his supernatural powers. His journey to Kashmir has also been narrated in the Kashmiri sources.
It is reported that Madhyantika brought with him many Bhiksus for settlement and he himself remained in the Valley for nearly 20 years. He developed agriculture and also introduced saffron cultivation in Kashmir the first time. After Surendra, we find another king devoted to Buddhism named is Simha, who became a Buddhist monk and adopted the name of Sudarshana. He even attained Arhathood and established several monasteries in Kashmir.
The Greeks who had over-run Persia in the 6th century B.C. conquered Gandhara some time after 518 B.C. Alexander marched his armies into India in the beginning of 326 B. He was welcomed by the king of Abhisaras, whose sway extended to some parts of Kashmir also. After his departure the Greeks established certain cheifships in the regions extending in the north-west of India. Demetrious became the king of a vast territory, which included Kashmir also. Menandar who succeeded him exercised authority on Kashmir. A large number of Indo-Greek coins including those of Menandar, describing him as the King of north-western India, have been found in Kashmir and adjoining areas.
It was Menandar, who came under influence of Buddhism. It goes to the credit of Nagasena, to have defeated Menandar in a religious discussion. This discussion was held at a place near Kashmir. The Milindapanha is best source of information on the history of early Buddhism in Kashmir. It informs that Menandar built the Milindavihara and joined the Sangha as a monk and finally attained Arhathood. The Milindapanha was written in Kashmiri, but latter on was translated into Pali.
The Indo-Greeks appear to have accepted the doctrine of Buddhism. The Kharoshti inscriptions found at Swat, Taxila and Lolab in Kashmir prove the existence of Buddhism during the third century B.C. These kings erected Stupas, constructed Viharas and installed images of Sakyamuni.
NAGAISM AND BUDDHISM:
As Kashmir formed a part of Gandhara during the ancient period, the whole area from Anantnag to Peshawar was termed as Gandhara. Its capital was situated at Taxila. The Nagas inhabited this area. They were always at war with the Aryans. After some centuries, they became masters of the Sanskrit learning and produced famous scholars, important among those are Kapila, Patanjali, and Naga-Arjuna. At the outset, the Buddhists had to face a strong opposition from the Nagas of Kashmir. However, Madhyantika succeeded in winning over the Nagas and they began to abandon the rites and ceremonies prescribed in the Nilamatapurana. Further, as they could not appreciate the caste system, they adopted the doctrine of Buddhism, which taught universal brotherhood. Subsequently, they started to worship the image of Buddha and mixed their own ceremonies with it. In the same way, the Greek, the Iranian and the Scythian doctrines got mixed up with the tenants of Buddhism.
Raja Jalauka who came to the throne after the death of Raja Ashoka, has been mentioned as “the vanquisher of the Buddhists.” He was a rank communalist, who let lose a rain of terror on the Nagas, by storming their habitations. At the instance of Avadhuta, he took a vow that he would follow only Shaivism. He persecuted the Buddhists, and destroyed their Viharas and Stupas. While patronizing Shaivism, he built Shiva temples on the Buddhists sites. Jalauka could not even tolerate the sound of the Buddhist hymns on the pretext that these disturbed his sleep and on this excuse, he got demolished all the Buddhist Viharas.
The Brahmanas are the worshippers of Shiva, Vishnu and their Saktis. Vasugupta is said to have founded Shaivism in Kashmir. In the beginning Buddhism had to face strong opposition from the Shaivists, which resulted in bringing much hindrance to its progress. But later on both the Buddhists and the Shaivists intermingled and Buddha was termed as an Avatara of Vishnu, with the result that separate entity of Buddhism vanished from the Valley.
The Chinese history describes the Guishuang, or the Kushans, as one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi, who had been living in the arid grasslands of eastern Central Asia in the early first century AD. Kujula Kadphises the first Kushana king, invaded and expanded his sway on Afghanistan, Gandhara, and Punjab. He is the founder of the Kushana Empire. It was Kanishka, the fifth Kushan king, (57-89) who conquered the whole of north India, from Kashmir to Ujjain. Thus, he became the ruler of a vast Kushana Empire, which included ancient Bactria besides the vast regions of Kabul, Gandhara, Kashmir, Punjab, Taxila, Mathura, Ujjain and Patliputra. Kalhana in his Rajatarangini makes mention of Kanishka, besides Hushka and Jushka, as the wise kings, who patronized Buddhism by building Mathas, Caityas and Viharas.
With the coming of the Kushanas, Buddhism received a tremendous support. There is no denying the fact that during their rule, Buddhists enjoyed royal patronage. The coins of Kanishka, Hushka or Huvishka have been located in Kashmir. In the S.P.S. Museum, Srinagar, we do have one rarest coin of Kanishka, with the representation of the standing Buddha in Hellenistic style and with a legend in Greek script mentioning “Boddo”.
FOURTH BUDDHIST COUNCIL:
In about 63 AD. Kanishka paid a royal visit to Kashmir to meet its ruler, Satya Simha, who had renounced the throne and had become a Buddhist monk. During discussion he felt impressed by the various arguments advanced by the former King Satya Simha and the sage Parshva. Upto that time, Kanishka had been influenced by the Greek, Iranian and Sumer doctrines and divinities. Now, in Kashmir, after meeting the great Arhats, he repented his past deeds and accepted the benevolent teachings of the Buddha. He was advised by Parshva to summon all the monks for collection of the sacred texts and to prepare commentaries of the Sutras, the Vinaya and the Abhidharma. Consequently, the 4th Buddhist Council was held at Kundalwan in Kashmir, which has been termed as Kien-to-lo by the Chinese. Besides the large audience, this Council was attended to by 500 Arhats, 500 Bodhisattvas and 500 Panditas. The event as described by Hiuen Tsiang reads as under:
“Kanishka forthwith ordered these discourses to be engraved on sheets of red copper. He enclosed them in a stone receptacle, and having sealed this, he raised over it a Stupa with the scriptures in the middle. He commanded the Yakshas to defend the approaches to the Kashmir kingdom, so as not to permit the other sects to get these Shastras and take them away with the view that those dwelling in the country might enjoy the fruits of this labor.”
This Council is important because it marks the birth in Kashmir of a new and progressive Buddhism known as the Mahayana. These doctrines were carried into Kabul, Kandhar, Central Asia and Tibet by the Kashmiris. Kanishka, patronized such activities and even, made a gift of Kashmir to the Sangha.
Kashmir’s contribution to the development of Buddhism has been acknowledged and several historical evidences mention a large number of Buddhist relics to have existed in the Valley. A detailed description of some important Buddhist monuments is given below:
Surendra, the son of Khagendra built a Vihara, known as Narendrabhavana in the town of Suru, in the Darada country, but the Vihara has not been traced so far.
Surendra also built a Vihara called Saurasa Vihara at Soura on the shore of the Anchar Lake in Kashmir. This Vihara also remains unidentified.
Jaloka established a Vihara at Jalora, which may be identified with Zohlar in Zaingir, Sopore, Kashmir.
Raja Asoka built a Vihara in the town of Vitastatra, which was lofty and high. He also built a Stupa at Suskaletra. Both the towns have been identified as Vethavutur and Hukalitar, situated around the Verinag and Badgham. Some ancient relics were found at Verinag spring. At Hukalitar, a few statues of the Buddha were found.
Jaloka has been mentioned to have built the Vihara of Krtyasrama. This place has been identified with the village Kitshom, near Baramulla, Kashmir. Ou-Kong mentions this Vihara as Ki-tche.
Jushka is said to have built a Vihara at Jushkapura, a village to the north of Srinagar. Huska has been mentioned to have built a Vihara at Huskapura, mentioned as Hu-se-kia-lo by Hiuen Tsiang. It is known as Uskur now and is situated near Baramulla, Kashmir. Laltiyaditya (725-753 A.D.) also is reported to have built some Stupas and Viharas at Uskur.
Queen Amritaprahba built a Vihara, known as Amritabhavana for the use of foreign monks. Ou-Kong mentioned it as Ngo-mi-to-po-wan. Amritabhavana has been identified at Antbhavan, Vicharnag, 3 miles to the north of Srinagar. Remains of a Vihara have been found at this place.
A Ladakhi guru is said to have built a Stupa, called Lo-stumpa, during the reign of Meghavahana. The site of this Vihara has not been located as yet.
Queen Yukadevi, is said to built a Vihara at Nadavana, which was a wonderful and beautiful Buddhist structure. Nadavana has been identified with Narvor in Srinagar, Kashmir. The Vihara is non existent at present.
Queen Indradevi is said to have built a Vihara, called Indradevibhavanavihara. This Vihara is non existent at present.
Queen Khadana is said to have built a Vihara at Khadanyar near Baramulla, Kashmir. No traces of this structure are available now.
Jayendra, the material uncle of Parvarasena II is reported to have built a Vihara known as Jayendravihara. With a colossal statue of the Buddha installed in it. Hiuen Tsiang has mentioned it as Che-ye-in-to-lo and on his arrival in Kashmir, where stayed for some time. This Vihara was burned down by Ksemagupta and its Buddha statue was melted down by him to make a statue of Shiva. Location of this Vihara requires to be searched either at Chattabal, Srinagar or at Ushkar in Baramulla. Attached villages of the Vihara, being given to the Khasa chief, indicate Ushkur as the correct alternative.
Skandavhavanvihara was built by Skandagupta, one of the ministers of Yudhisthira. Its location has been determined as somewhere in the modern Mohalla of Khandabhavan in Srinagar, Kashmir. No traces of this Vihara are visible in the locality.
Lalitaditya (725-753 A.D.) is credited to have constructed the Kridaram-Vihara, the exact position where of is unknown.
Rajavihara was built by Lalitaditya at Parihaspura. It housed a colossal statue of the Buddha besides other relics of gold and silver. Parihaspura was the new capital built by the King near the confluence of the river Jehlum and the river Sindh on a plateau between Panznor and Hartarath near Divar-Ekamanpura. The plateau is nearly 2 miles long and 1 mile wide. The site of the capital is in ruins. Its material was transported by Shankravarman (883-902 A.D.) for the construction of Shiva temples at Pattan. The Rajavihara was burnt down by the royal troops of Harsha during the war against Uccala. Examination of the site reveals that the Rajavihara was a quadrangle of 26 cells around a square courtyard paved with stones. Its final destruction is attributed to Maharaja Pratap Singh, who permitted carriage of its stones for construction of the Srinagar – Baramulla Road during 1892-1896.
During, Lalitaditya’s reign, Cankuna built a Vihara in Srinagar in which he placed the golden statues of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. Cankuna appears to be the title of one of the ministers of Lalitaditya. As he was a Turk, it is evident that he came from Sinkiang and bore a Chinese title Taiang Kiun, which has been Sanskritized by Kalhana.
Jiyadipa (754-784 A.D.) built a large Vihara at Jayapura, in which he placed three statues of the Buddha. Jayapura has been identified as Anderkot, near Sumbal in Kashmir.
Queen Ratnadevi is reported to have got built a magnificent Vihara and a Matha at Ratnpur, now known as Ratnipora.
At Harwan, 2 miles away from the Shalimar garden in Srinagar, near the water reservoir, a very important Buddhist site was discovered by R.C. Kak in 1925 A.D. He unearthed a Stupa, a set of cells and a rectangular courtyard with diaper pebble walls. A large number of tiles with Kharoshthi numerals and beautiful motifs and human figures were found, which shows that the site belongs to the later period of the Kushanas in Kashmir.
At Ahan, near Sumbal, on the banks of a tiny lake, known as Ahansar, another important Buddhist site was located by F.M. Hassnain in 1962. He unearthed a pavement decorated with the same kind of Harwan tiles, some pebble style walls and a dilapidated Stupa. No further excavations have been done at the site.
It was specially constructed as a venue of the fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir, held during the reign of Kanishka. It also known as Kundalvanavihara. This important Buddhist site has not been located so far.
RAITHAN AND RAJAGIR:
The village of Raithan at a distance of 12 Kilometers from Srinagar, is situated in the vicinity of Yecchgam and Yecchkot, the original habitations of the Yakshas, the guardian tribes of the fourth Buddhist Council records. Many a Buddhist relics are found in the area, including the famous Buddha panel.
Kashmir has played a lofty role in the history of Buddhism. It is from the Valley that the progressive type of Buddhism, called the Mahayana, was carried to China, Korea and the Pacific islands by the Kashmiri monks. Before its coming under the Hindu or Muslim rulers, Kashmir was a Buddhist country right from the 1st century to about 8th century A.D. It is a historical fact that Kanishka, the Kushan King of Kashmir, convened his 4th Buddhist Council in Kashmir. It was held at Kundalwan, and its discourses were engraved on copper plates and deposited in a Stupa, under orders of the King.
It seems that Kashmir is now emerging out of chaos and turmoil and is searching its roots and identity. These copper plates, deposited in a specially constructed Vihara in Kashmir are our precious heritage and we are proud of it. There is an urgent need to make serious efforts by the Kashmir University and the State Archaeology to search out these relics. As I have had the privilege of giving extension lectures on the Buddhist Culture in the Japanese Universities, I know that they will afford every material help to us in this search.
1. EXHIBITION OF BUDDHIST HERITAGE:
Most of our Buddhist heritage stands lost to us due to vandalism of the Hindu kings like Ksemagupta, Durbha-Vardhana, Avantivarman, and Shankravarman, wiped out the entire Buddhist population by loot, arson and fire. They also destroyed several hundred Viharas, Stupas and other Buddhist structures, by converting them into Shiva temples and utilizing their building material for construction of their own temples. However, some part of our Buddhist heritage is still alive and in safe hands, which needs to be exhibited to the people in the newly constructed S.P.S. Museum, Srinagar. The details are as under:
a) Gilgit Manuscripts: These world famous Gilgit manuscripts were sent to the National Archives of India, New Delhi for repairs and renovation during the Tribal raids of 1947. Since then these manuscripts have not been returned to the Oriental Research and Publication Library, University of Kashmir, It is suggested that steps be taken by the Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir, to bring back this our Buddhist heritage to in Kashmir, so that the re-editing work he started again, as in the past.
b) Tiles of Harwan:- The tiles, from the courtyard and platform discovered by R.C. Kak and shown by him in his Ancient Monuments of Kashmir at page XIX to XXIII have been uplifted by the Archaeological Survey of India, during the militancy and taken outside Kashmir. The University of Kashmir and its Institute of Kashmir Studies may take measures to ask them to return back our Buddhist heritage. On the World Heritage Day, the Vice Chancellor of the Kashmir University has already made this demand in his public lecture at Pari Mahal. The University and its task force may be asked to pursue this matter with the Archaeological Survey of India
2. ASHOKA STUPA:
The fact that Srinagri the capital of Kashmir was founded by Ashoka, a Buddhist King, who is credited to have erected several Stupas and Viharas around his capital, at and around Pandrethan. During this period this city extended from the Gopa hill to Khadoori or the modern Khrew. The whole area which is at present occupied by the military cantonments built during the reign of Maharaja Hari Singh (1925-1948) was a royal site, where several palaces were built by Ashoka. Towards the southern side, above the mountain spur, he is credited to have built a huge Stupa in honor of the Buddha. Some of the stone statues of the Buddha, which were removed from the site have been deposited into the S.P.S Museum, Lal Mandi, Srinagar.
In order to commemorate our Buddhist heritage, it is essential to rebuild the Ashoka Stupa at Pandrethan. Such a measure on our part will be appreciated by the Buddhists of China, Burma, Korea and Japan and the tourists of those countries, would visit this Buddhist monument every year. It will be a great attraction for the Buddhist pilgrims, who will follow the example of the earlier Chinese pilgrims like Che-yan, Che-Mong, Hiuen Tsiang, Ou-Kong and others.
4. THE TOOTH OF BUDDHA:
Hiuen Tsiang points out, that Kashmir used to possess a miraculous tooth of the Buddha, preserved in a Sangharama situated about 10 li southeast of the new capital. Now, if one tries to transfer to a map the data furnished by the Chinese pilgrim, one perceives that the Vihara sheltering the tooth of the Buddha must have stood, close to the narrow gap between the Zabarwan mountain and the Gopadari hill, known as Aitgajor ‘the passage of the Sun.’
Walter Lawrence, in his the Valley of Kashmir informs that a Ladakhi Lama, told him that the Gopadari situated towards the north of Pandrethan, was a sacred place for the Buddhists, who used to call it Pushpahari. Naropa, the great Kashmiri Kalachakra Tantric used to stay in the sacred sanctuary of the Gopadari. It is suggested to search out the remains of this Stupa, situated in the private estate of Maharaja Karan Singh between Hari Vivas and the Ziarat.
5. STUPA AT KHANMOH:
Hiuen Tsiang, who visited the Valley of Kashmir in about 631 A.D, the capital of Kashmir covered a vast area from Gopadari to Khrew and included the villages of Pandachookh, Zevan, Jawala, Khanmoh and Lado. He also records the existence of several hundred Buddhist Viharas in Kashmir. In particular, he informs about a famous Stupa near Khanmoh where there existed a huge statue of Avalokiteshwara Bodhisattva and another Vihara which housed the tooth of Buddha. Unfortunately, most of these Buddhist shrines were converted into the Shiva temples by the Hindu Kings of Kashmir (519-1320 AD.). While lamenting over this destruction, Hieun Tsiang in his Si-yu-Ki, names these Shiva temples, as the temples of the heretics.
Now, in order to honor our Buddhist heritage, it is necessary to re-erect a Buddhist Stupa at Khanmoh.
6. CENTRE OF BUDDHIST AND LADAKH STUDIES:
The Kashmir Council of Research was founded in 1975, under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, as a non-governmental, non-partisan co-operation of men of letters to encourage researches in arts, humanities and field sciences. In 1980 the Council passed several resolutions, regarding microfilming of Kashmir manuscripts, establishment of Central Asian Studies Centre, and establishment of Chair in Ladakhi at the University of Kashmir. It is gratifying to note that the University has established the Central Asian Centre and the Alamdar-i-Kashmir Centre but it has failed to establish a Centre for Buddhist and Ladakh Studies. While recognizing our Buddhist heritage, we have to move forward and establish a Centre of Buddhist and Ladakh studies at the University of Kashmir. This act would result in cementing our ancient historical relations with Ladakh and Tibet and the Buddhist world.
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