Yatras to some natural spots can’t revive Kashmir’s Hindu past but would rather damage centuries old composite culture
Vijay Bakaya, a prominent Kashmiri Pandit leader has said that Kousar Nag was never a pilgrim destination. It has always been a trekking destination for adventure lovers.In the past, off and on some Kashmiri Pandits would visit the place but there has never been an organised pilgrimage like the Amarnath Yatra.
For past some time, there have been repeated attempts to revive the mythological instances of the ancient Hindu past of Kashmir. It is a historical fact that Kashmir in ancient times was a well-known Hindu Kingdom. It continued to be oneuntil the arrival of Shah-i-Hamadan (RA) in 12th century A.D. In between it turned to Buddhism and the fourth Buddhist Council which completely changed the Buddhist thought from the strict Hinayana School to moderate Mahayana School was held in Kashmir in first century A.D. Thus, Kashmir has gone through three religious faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam but all the transitions were peaceful through preaching and not through any compulsion.
The main cause of Kashmir’s composite and tolerant culture is this peaceful transition. Kashmiri Muslims have never objected to Pandits paying obeisance at their holy places. In fact, they have always been helping them. The living example is the Mela Kheer Bhawani.This spring is the most revered pilgrim spot for all Kashmiri Pandits. Every year, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have been converging here from all over the world. They are not only welcomed but hosted and supported by Kashmiri Muslims.
Unfortunately, a section of Kashmiri Pandits after their unfortunate departure in very unusual circumstances from Kashmir has been aligning itself with the extreme rightist Hindutva elements of North India not only to malign Kashmiri Muslims all over the world but by initiating measures which appear to be vindictive. An interesting aspect of the whole situation is that the basic Hindu philosophy of Kashmiri Pandits is totally different from those of the Hindus of other parts of North India. Kashmiri Pandits follow the Trikka School of Saivite Philosophy while as the predominant Hindu philosophy of North India is Vedanta. One of the reasons for peaceful conversion in Kashmir has been the basic philosophy of this Saivite School of Hinduism prevalent in Kashmir and South India. It is based on Monism.
Shiva being the ultimate power is formless but manifests itself in the world as Brahma, Mahesh and Vishnu. Saivism also believes in what Muslims call Qayamat and the equivalent word is Pralaya, the end of the universe. This commonality in basic philosophy helped quick spread of Islam in Kashmir through peaceful preaching.
However, the Indian mainland has faced many forays from Muslim invaders and conquerors. The most known in history is Mahmud of Ghazni who is supposed to have invaded India 17 times and during the last raid destroyed the famous Somnath Temple. Apart from Mahmud there have been many other conquerors whose wrath was faced by the North Indians.
Reportedly, in most of North India, there is a feeling among some Hindus that the Muslims came to India as invaders and conquerors, ruled over them for 800 years and in the end permanently occupied half of their country under the name of Pakistan. They yearn for uniting that part with the mainland to restore and revive Akhand Bharat. No doubt the north Indians suffered these forays but ultimately the Muslim kings especially the Mughals became truly Indian by naturalisation and birth. Akbar was the most revered King! All the conversions in India were not by force. People to a large extent adopted the Islamic faith of their own volition. Spread of Islam in South India too was a result of peaceful preaching. The first preachers came to Kerala in the lifetime of Prophet (PBUH), the proof of which is the first mosque in India near Kochi. Kashmir and South India because of the Himalayan barrier surrounding the valley and the long distance to southern areas remained more or less unmolested from the forays of Mahmud and others. This made them more tolerant towards Muslims.
Converting the symbolic ancient pilgrimages into forays by hundreds of thousands of people is not only damaging the ecology but also alarming people about something like Palestine happening here. If only one percent Hindus from other parts are motivated to come here it would mean a crore of pilgrims! The once very much revered holy Amarnath Yatra has now turned into a battle for Hinduism. The sanctity of the yatra with a limited number of pilgrims going through traditional route is no longer there. Now hundreds of thousands of people throng the place through the short route of Baltal and fly even by helicopters.
Trudging the difficult terrain of the Himalaya to the heights, supposed to be pure and holy, was a journey of faith. Now, it is a quick visit spoiling the serenity and ecology of the area. No religion sanctions destruction of nature! Both the routes are now garbage trails the conditions of which have even been extensively covered by the National Geographic magazine.The latest attempt in this regard of starting another pilgrimage to Kousarnag has sent alarm signals. As described by Kalhana in Rajtarangni, Kashmir in ancient times was the land of Nagas and Pisacas. In that regard every spot in Kashmir is a holy spot. One has to accept the fact that Kashmir now is a Muslim majority land. The valley is now dotted with the shrines of mystic and sufi saints.Reviving ancient Hindu past by conducting pilgrimages is not going to change that character. In fact, these activities are not only going to cause damage to the fragile ecology but also drive Kashmiris up to a wall by hurting their sentiments. Moreover, it is not fair and just to take revenge from the followers of the most revered saint Shah-i-Hamadan for doings of Mahmud of Ghazni! One must also remember that the progeny of Mahmud is still very active in our neighbourhood and has driven both the Russians and the Americans disgracefully out. Kashmir should not be deliberately turned into an excuse for them to conduct new forays to this side!