King Ashoka of Maurya dynasty conquered Kashmir in about 250 BC and founded the pre historic city of Srinagri (now Srinagar) and introduced Buddhism in Kashmir. During the era of Muslim rulers massive war of terror was unleashed against Kashmiri Pandits, breaking temples and massacring Kashmir Pandits which continued for five centuries.

The brahmanical social domination coupled with unsteady economic order in Kashmir Valley created room for Sufism. One of the earliest Sufis in Kashmir is said to have been from Turkistan belonging to Suharwadi order in the 13th century. The next Sufi to enter Kashmir in 14th Century with his 700 disciples was Iranian saint, Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani, whose disciples settled in various parts of Kashmir and spread Kubrawi Sufi Order. He was a scholar who was credited with the conversion of  37,000 people to Islam with his charisma under the rule of Sultan Qutub-Ud-Din. Unlike the saints of mainland India, instead of criticizing Hinduism he affirmed his relations with both, promoting universal language of love and peaceful co- existence.

Understanding Sufism

Sufism is a mystic section of Islam.  Sufism is a path of spiritual advancements and expansion of consciousness leading to awareness of self and universe. Substance of Sufism is selfless experiencing and actualization of truth. Some Sufis preach on renouncing the world and some on worldly involvement. Sufism stressed upon universal values of peace, harmony, love and fraternity between all creatures of God, irrespective of a particular religion.

Effect of Sufism on Kashmiriyat

People of Kashmir initially started to convert to Islam under influence of peaceful Sufis before forceful means. Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims were indubitably aware of their religious differences where Sufism served to promote a common path of understanding the world. Owing to these, their shrines grew into popular places of pilgrimage for both Muslims and Pandits, bringing them together in common participation at shrine rituals as well as in helping to build bridge between people of difference castes and faith contributing to communal harmony .The humanistic philosophy of Kashmir Sufis and rishis has played a prominent role in building the Kashmir ethnic identity. In  many areas Muslim Asthans & Hindu shrines stood facing each other and people together made pilgrimages to these places until 1989,  the year which marked the beginning of a political movement for rectification of pol grievances which took a violent turn later which we are all aware.

The syncretism of the two religious communities is further demonstrated through the frequenting of Sufi shrines by members of the groups. Sufis settled on various hills across the region of Jammu & Kashmir, where they sought solitude in the pursuit of meditation & prayers. The local people out of high respect and esteem for them, built beautiful shrines, the existence of which commemorated the existence of those saints. Another important aspect of the Kashmiri culture is its cuisine. Kashmiri food maintains a special position among its members, with both religious communities respecting the established religious diet of their counterpart. Salted tea or Noon Chai is an essential part of Kashmiri breakfast or lunch, while the Wazwan, a multi course intricate meal, the preparation of which is deemed a form of art, is an integral part of every wedding celebration.

Kashmir is the only place in the Indian subcontinent where it is hard to differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim, by only looking at their last name, since even after conversions, people have retained their original surnames, which signified the original profession of their forefathers. The idea of kashmiriyat could be described not as an ideology, but rather a behavioural pattern, as a pluralistic culture of tolerance and sharing of common practices.

Aftermath Of Terrorism

While administration changed many hands and each time minorities suffered but Pandits and Muslims continued to live in harmony till 1989, when Pak aroused the communal sentiments and changed the secular course into a religious movement. Pak employed dreadful yet systematic attempts to introduce ideology of fundamental Islam that was alien to the Kashmiri society since olden times. The Kashmiri youth was brainwashed and weapon trained to indulge in large scale subversive activities like bomb blasts and shoot outs which created an atmosphere of terror in Kashmir. The unholy alliance of organized fundamental interpretations of religion and gun culture led to weeding out of remnants of the humanistic culture of Kashmir. Kashmir is bleeding today owing to the separatists.  The irony is that the people who have their hands drenched in the blood of innocent people in name of religion are actually unaware of the genesis of this beautiful religion.  May the fresh air of new dawn bring back the memories of Sufism and Kashmiriyat in Kashmir and bring back peace and harmony to this heaven on earth.  

Leave a Reply