by Jia Lal Kilam

A Survey of Afghan Rule in Kashmir

IN the foregoing pages we have noticed the establishment and the end of the Afghan rule and have also described the varying methods which were adopted by individual Subedars in discharge of their administrative functions. Some of them were harsh and cruel. Some were of a moderate bent of mind, but generally they tried to establish an independent rule. But it may by no means be supposed that the Afghans were in any sense of the term religious maniacs fired with a fanatical zeal for the propagation of their faith. Their methods of Government were indeed crude and sometimes very cruel and oppressive, but all this had a political background and seldom theocratic. Forster who visited Kabul in 1783 A. D. says that he observed on his arrival at Kabul a common toleration of religion; that Christians, Hindus and Jews openly professed their creed and pursued their occupations without molestation. At another place the same gentleman observes that " Among the foreign nations who frequent this city (Kabul) the Hindus chiefly of Peshawar contribute more than any other to enrich it by a superior industry and knowledge of commerce; and they enjoy under the Afghan Government a liberty and protection little short of that experienced by the inhabitants of our Indian possessions. The benefits derived by a State from the residence of any class of people usually ensure to them a security of person and property, but the Hindus of Kabul are indebted I believe for special indulgence to one of their own sect, who controls the revenue of the Shah and stands high in favour." This tradition of religious toleration was carried with themselves by the Subedars who were deputed to Kashmir from Kabul. As a result we find that though at times the Kashmiri Pandits as a racial group were very harshly treated. but there was no ban on their appointment to any post, civil or military, on the ground of religion and as a matter of fact the history of Afghan rule in Kashmir will remain quite incomplete without mentioning the Kashmiri Pandit. Even during this period of unsettledness merchants and commercial agents of most of the principal cities of Northern India and also from Turkey. Persia and Tartary were seen in Kashmir. Forster adds " But the heavy oppressions of the Government and the rapacious temper of the bordering states, who exercise an unremitting rapacity on the foreign traders and often plunder whole cargoes, have reduced the commerce of Kashmir to a declining and a languid state,".... with the result " that during Mogul rule the province contained forty thousand shawl looms and at this day there are not sixteen thousand." Forster at other place regrets that " since the dismemberment of Kashmir from the Empire of Hindostan, it has been subject to the Afghans, who possessing neither the genius nor liberality of the Moguls have suffered its elegant structures to crumble into ruins and to hold out against them a severe testimony of the barbarity of their nation." It should be borne in mind that though Kashmir was a province under Afghanistan, there were many small principalities situate between Kashmir and Afghanistan, which were for all intents and purposes independent. This led to the weakening of the link between the two countries with the result that the central authority at Kabul did not interfere in Kashmir affairs, even though a Subedar may have grievously misbehaved, as long as the annual tribute was regularly paid. Forster explains this state affairs with the remark " But when it is considered that the approach to this remote province leads through hostile or independent territories that Taimur Shah (Kabul king) is equally withheld from distant enterprise by the accumulated arrears and consequent weakness of his army to which may be added the fear of domestic treason a sufficient cause will be seen for his passive regard to the interior Government of Kashmir, contenting himself with the tribute, he is seldom disposed to control the conduct of a remote Governor." The result of this weak central policy was that almost all the Subedars deputed from Kabul declared their independence at one time or the other and most of them made themselves responsible for very cruel and oppressive methods of administration. Forster adds that " during my residence in Kashmir often witnessed the harsh treatment which the common people received at the hands of their masters, who rarely issued an order without a blow of the side of their hatchet a common weapon of the Afghans." At other place Forster remarks " that this extreme rigour has sensibly affected the deportment and manners of Kashmirians who shrink with dread from the Afgkan oppression." According to the same author " the manners of the people have undergone a manifest change since the dismemberment of their country from Hindostan. Encouraged by the liberality and indulgence of the Moguls they gave a loose to their pleasures and the bent of their genius. They appeared in gay apparel, constructed costly buildings ...... The interests of this province were so strongly favoured at the Court (at Delhi) that every complaint against its Governors was attentively listened to and any attempt to molest the people restrained or punished." From this it becomes abundantly clear that the treatment of the Afghans towards Kashmiris, the vast majority of whom were Muslims was really very harsh. The Kashmiri Muslims were never enlisted in the army and in the civil administration too the Kashmiri Muslims had very little hand. It was held an established rule in the Afghan Government to refuse admission of a Kashmiri to the army. The army of Kashmir during this period consisted of about three thousand horse and foot I who were mainly Afghans. They were seldom paid regularly and sometimes the arrears consisted of even two years' pay. Sometimes for want of better subsistence they lived on water nuts.

The province yielded a revenue of about 20 to 30 lacs of rupees out of which a tribute of about seven lacs was remitted to the Kabul treasury. But this account was seldom utilised in any beneficent projects. The Mogul gardens were lying in ruins excepting Shalimar garden, which was well looked after. Magnificent Mogul palaces near Hari Parbat hill were mere heaps of ruins. The palaces were dismantled and the stones and other material were used for unimportant purposes. Taking into consideration the decline in trade and commerce a revenue of about thirty lacs was indeed very exhorbitant. Revenue from shawl industry alone was computed at twelve lacs of rupees. "The price at the loom of an ordinary shawl was from eight to twenty rupees according to the quality of its work, though shawls worth a hundred rupees were also manufactured; Best paper in the East was manufactured here and a wine 'resembling that of Madeira' was produced here which possessed excellent quality. Essential oils frcm roses were held in great estimation and yielded an yearly income of more than a lac of rupees. Of the minerals iron of an excellent quality was found here. There were other industries which on account of lack of encouragement were languishing.''

At other place Forster says that "the rupee is the current coin of Kashmir and that struck in Moradabad in Rohilcund is held in great estimation. From the baseness of the silver a large discount is allowed on that of Kashmir. Copper money of the value of a half penny and cowries, a small marine shell compose the other currency of the Province."

Forster has many harsh words for the Kashmiris. But in spite of all that he has had to say in their condemnation he has had to admit. that even during those days of wanton cruelties and despotism " the Kashmiris are gay and lively people with strong propensities to pleasure. None are more eager in pursuit of wealth... or who devise more modes of luxurious expense. When a Kashmiri even of lowest order, finds himself in pocsession of ten shillings he loses no time in assembling his party and launches into the (Dal) lake and solaces himself till the last farthing is spent. Nor can the despotism of an Afghan Government which loads them with a various oppression and cruelty, eradicate this strong tendency to dissipation, yet their manners it is said, have undergone a marked change since the dismemberment of their country from Hindostan."

The lot of the Kashmiri Pandits when compared to other people was indeed happier. Though at times they were very harshly treated, yet the political power was generally and largely centred in their hands. The local bureaucracy was manned by them and some of them were employed in offices even at Kabul. Some others engaged themselves in trade and commerce and did good business both at Kabul and Kashmir Whenever they found political firmament overcast with adverse clouds, they at once hurried to Kabul where they were always very well received, and stayed there till the return of better times. Along with this they had acquired a spirit of adventure which carried them in all parts of India: from Mir Jaffar's Bengal to Nizam's Haiderabad in the South, the Kashmiri Pandits had made their home everywhere. Moorcraft who came to Kashmir in 1822 A. D, found the Pandits as highest officers in petty Muslim principalities between Kabul and Kashmir. At Kathai, he found a Kashmiri Pandit, Nidhan Kabu, with a huge Tilak mark on his forehead, in charge of the administration in the principality. Even in the trans-border tribal areas there were Kashmiri Pandits. Forster while going to Kabul in 1783 A. D. was Eleld up by a band of Afghan marauders near Dicka a border district of Afghanistan when a Kashmiri Pandit came to his rescue. Forster says " Not rinding anything of value on my person they were proceeding to treat me with violence, when a Hindu of the family of the Diwan of Kashmir (Pandit Dila Ram) who had known me in that country interposed his good offices and proposed a ransom for my releasement. This generous Hindu exerted so much warmth in my behalf and spoke so urgently to those marauders that one of them gave a severe blow on the face. He did not however desist and by an active perseverance and supported by a small sum of money, he accomplished his purpose."

The social system of the Pandits was peculiar to themselves. They had evolved their own customs and a ritual very rich in detail for their guidance in matters pertaining to marriages and Yagnopavit ceremonies. These customs were followed by them all over India and even now these customs are followed with a slight variation. They never married outside their caste and seldom ate food prepared by a non-Pandit. But inspite of this isolationism in social matters, they fully imbibed the spirit of times. They used even in their private communications Hejiri era month and dates which were in use then and always carried their seals with themselves wherever they went. The religious functions they performed according to Hindu calendar.

The scholarship of the Pandits in Persian reached its high watermark during this period. They wrote exquisite poetry in Persian and were master writers in prose Munshi Bhawani Das stands preeminent amongst the prose writers of the day. So also Lachhi Ram Saroor who rose very high at the Court of Nawabs of Oudh mainly because of his high poetical merit. Rai Rayan Anand Ram Karihalu was a great favourite of Shah Alam II and a great poet. He was a great Persian and Arabic scholar So also Pandits Taba Ram Turki ( 1776 A.D to 1847 A.D.), Sat Ram Baqaya, Pandit Daya Ram Kachru (1743 A.D. to 1811 A.D.) Aftab Bhan, Gobind Kaul, Kailas Dar (died 1772 A.D.) Lasa Kaul, Deva Kaul, Thakur Das, Gopal Dar (1735 A.D. to 1798 A.D.), Raja Kak Dar, Rugh Nath Kaul (1735 to 1807 A.D.) and many others. The contributions made by them to Persian literature have elicited the significant remark from competent critics that in the mastery of the Persian language the Kashmiri Pandits were second only to the Persians. About Pandit Anand Ram Karihalu it is remarked that his rnastery of Arabic and Persian was so complete that even amongst the Muslims nobody could compete with him. Pandit Birbar Kachru (1789 - 1859 A.D.) to whom reference has been made in these pages has written a voluminous history of Kashmir. He has dealt with social and economic conditions of the people in a very detailed and lucid manner. Pandit Anand Ram Pahalwan has carried the History of Kashmir by Narain Kaul from 1712 A.D. to 1785 A.D. Birbar Kachru, besides being a historian, wrote good poetry as well.

The Kashmiri Pandits of this period were very orthodox in religion, but that did not cripple their minds. In outdoor life they behaved and described themselves as any other citizen would do. The use of words like Banda, Bandai Khas, Bandai Dargah, Ahqar, Ibn etc. with their names would show this. Not only that. They offered sometimes their prayers also in Persian language, and prefixed even their Gods with such epithets as Hazrat etc. Thus in a writing of 1155 Hejiri (1742 A.D.) we find "Banda hai gulamani Hazrati Sharda Devi Bhawani Barai Qadmbos wa Gusul Dar Kurukshetra Raseed." They had indeed eagerness to have a dip in the holy tank at Kurukshetra, but did not hesitate in using expressions and style, which were not strictly of an orthodox type.

Kashmiri Pandit of those days freely entered military service. They found their way into Mahomedan, Marhatta, Sikh and English armies. For instance in various writings we find:

(a) Bandai Dargah Rupchand Parimoo Sakini Kani Kadal dar Amli Nawabi Zain Khan Bahadur (2) Anand Ram Valoo hamrahi Lashkari Zain Khan Bahadur dar Risalai Qassirn Khan (3) Mehar Chand Kaul Sakini Bagdaji Minmahlati Rainawari hamrahi Lashkari Zain Khan Bahadur.
(b) Banda Rupchand (2) Bhawani Das (3) Heeraman Pandit (4) Sada Kaul hamrahi Lashkari Mohammad Said Khan Bahadur Rustam Jang Bahadur.
(c) Narain Pandit Sapru (2) Vishinath Pandit Sapru (3) Zind Ram Kaul, Hamrahi Lashkari Sidique Beg Khan Bahadur.
(d) Thakur Das Pandit Sapru (2) Fateh Chand Kaul (3) Sobha Shanker (4) Gopinath Chhachabali (5) Pandit Daya Ram walad Zind Ram. This gentleman bore the title of a Raja.
(e) Raja Sahib Ram Kaul (2) Banda Bishnath and (3) Bhawani Shankar hamrahi Lashkari Murshid Zada Ifaq Nawab Momamaduddoullah.
(f) Pandit Gangaram Bath hamrahi Lashkari Ambajee.
(g) Bandai Dargah Ram Narain Kaul uruf Kharu hamrahi Babujee Scindhia Bahadur.
(h) Heera Kal Zutshi hamrahi Buhl Sahib kidar Aqbi fauji Lake Sahib rawana shuda bud.
(i) Kishen Chand Kaul hamrahi Lashkari Fraser Sahib.
(j) Ajudhianath, hamrahi Thomas Metecalfe Sahib.
With a few exceptions, all these gentlemen mention their residence in Kashmir. Here or there we come across with a Kashmiri Pandit who puts down his residence as Shah Jehanabad etc. None of them used Srinagar as their residence. The name Srinagar had fallen into disuse and the city was described by the name of Kashmir. The name Srinagar was revived by the Sikhs after many centuries.

In this period also Kashmir fully maintained her fame for Sanskrit learning. Shri Sundara Kantha a great saint was a profound Shaiva philosopher. His disciple Shri Shivopadhyaya has written a learned and a lucid commentary on Vijnana Bhairva which is a treatise discussing 112 forms of meditation. It is written in the form of a dialogue between Bhairava and Bhairavi. Shivopadhyaya lived in Kashmir during Sukh Jiwan's reign (1754 A.D. to 1762 A. D.) Reference may also be made to Pandit Sahib Ram who was a great Sanskrit scholar. His profound scholarship has elicited highest praise from many European scholars and his works have been referred to by many students of history.

There have been yet many other Kashmiri Pandits and Panditanis who have made collosal contribution to Kashmiri poetry. To mention only two of them reference may be made to Pandit Parmanand and Shrimati Arini Mal. Pandit Parmananda's poetry is primarily devotional saturated with religious mysticism. But he was not a believer in asceticism or aloofness from the world's cares and anxieties and responsibilities, though his primary aim in life has been to seek the " Supreme Bliss." In one of his poems, he says:

"Seek first the supreme bliss, O Parmananda, Then play fresh parts on life's stage, in rags of freshness clad..."
In an another poem of his, Parmananda is more explicit. Says he:
" In this nine windowed and three storeyed house,
The mind looks out now through this gate now that;
Make fast the smallest outlet, hold him in;
Then seek the ethereal skies within.
There shines,
Eternal Sun who by unborrowed light,
Illumines the worlds - who rises not nor sets,
The burning breath of love will set all things
Ablaze, like oil will water feed the flame,
The Ego melt to naught - that state is God.
The holy Sanctum seen, one need not be
Confined within, for God who lives enshrined
In peace within, in Beauty shines without.
Throw open all sense gates and let the mind
Move freely in or out at its sweet will -
It can't alight where there is aught but God."
[Translation by Pandit Zinda Kaul, popularly known as " Masterji " ]

Shrimati Aranimal was the wife of Munshi Bhawani Das, an erudite Persian scholar to whom reference has been made in these pages more than once. Her lyrics are masterpieces in Kashmiri language and the word pictures of delicate sentiments drawn by her are so vivid, real and charming, that very few Kashmiri poets have reached the standard set by her. Some of her poems have been set to music and are sung even now by Kashmiri ministrels with great interest and gusto. Some of her poems have been translated into English by Principal J. L. Kaul, a cursory study of which is enough to establish the poetical genius and mastery of technique achieved by that unlettered woman.

Before bringing this review to a close reference may be made to a fact which would go a long way in proving the breadth of outlook and vision Fossessed by Kashmiri Pandits of this period. We have witnessed during this period a number of Shia Sunni riots, but not a single riot has taken place in which the participants were the Kashmiri Pandits. That the Kashmiri Pantits never gave a cause for grievance to any other community so as to provoke it to a riot, must go a long way in the eyes of any fair-minded critic to establish the cosmopolitan and broad outlook of the Kashmiri Pandits, though at the same time it may be mentioned that in their steadfast devotion to their own religion the Kashmiri Pandits were second to none in this world. But this taught them to respect other religions in an equal manner which in its turn gained them the devotion and friendship of an overwhelming majority of their own countrymen and others. This paved the path for their rise in all branches of life to great heights. And this secured them an abiding place in History.

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