What would Kashmir be like if Kalhana’s “Country of Spiritual Merit” had continued its march unmolested by foreign oppressors?
In the most depressing dense fog reeling under the unscheduled power cuts, turning breathless due to the stinking Dal Lake in its last throes, wading through water logged streets due to choked drains, and turning crazy due to dilapidated roads, and worst traffic jams, one imagines even though hypothetically, what would Kashmir be like if it had remained a sovereign country as it was in the time of Kalhana? May be a utopian dream but worth dreaming in the present dreary days!
Pandit Kalhana who was an illustrious son of Canpaka, a minister of the Kashmiri King Harsha compiled from 1148 AD to 1158 AD the written record of the reign of Kings of Kashmir from the earliest times till his own time. This is the earliest book of written history in the entire sub-continent. He called this book Rajtarangini or the River of Kings! According to him ancient Kashmir was famous for five things: learning, lofty houses, saffron, honey and grapes! The most famous seat of learning, Sarda University was in Kashmir. This university had a library which contained books which one could not get anywhere in India. Kashmir used to have 14 storey high wooden palaces!
If Kashmir had continued its march unmolested, the first thing we would have had would be abundant electric power. Not only would everything be running on power but we would be exporting it to our neighbours and earning colossal revenues. There would be electric trains and trams. There would be power based central heating of houses. As Arabs had oil which pushed them up technologically for all their needs, we had the cleanest source of energy, the water! Unfortunately, it has been stolen from us.
In regard to agriculture and horticulture, we would have achieved self-sufficiency. We would not be importing edibles from outside state which we have to do at present due to neglect in regard to tremendous possibilities in these fields. Moreover, we would not have had a huge parasite population slowly eating away our vitals! We would be exporting Apple juice concentrate, Saffron, Walnut-kernel, Almonds all over the world. Kashmir label would have been a special patent. Lavender grows in the wild. There would be many perfumeries here. We would not be boasting of the Asia’s largest Tulip Garden, but exporting cut flowers all over the world. Commercial floriculture would be one of the most viable and lucrative professions. Frozen Trout from Kashmir would be in great demand. In fact, there is no end to the possibilities in Agriculture related fields.
On the Tourism front, it would truly be the Eden of the East. It would have been a year round destination. There would be almost a dozen ski resorts in Pir Panjal Mountains giving the best experience of winter sports in the world. Of course we would have had at least two International Airports with round the clock landing and take-off facilities equipped with the best instrument landing systems and radar. There could not have been any other destination in the world in relation to Adventure Sports. Mountaineering, rock-climbing, trekking, skiing, white water rafting and kayaking, para-gliding, caving, mountain biking and so on. In fact, Kashmir would be the ultimate destination for adventure tourism!
In regard to learning, we would have had not only one Sarda University but half dozen institutions of the highest class in different fields of education and learning. Kashmir would be the best place for boarding schools tucked in mountains. Sufism and Philosophy would have been ideal subjects for research of the highest order. There would be no question of schools in shanties and pupils freezing in cold unheated schools. In fact, there would be no winter vacations as happens in Europe and America because of fully heated schools. Winter is the best time to study! Kids would be enjoying their summer holidays like those in Europe and America!
In the sphere of health care, not only would Kashmir be having top class primary and tertiary healthcare, but would be an ideal destination for Health Tourism. People would be coming from all over not only for recuperating in the most salubrious climate but there would also be facilities for specialised treatment on global standards. Children would not be dying for want of proper treatment!
Above everything else, Kashmir would have been able to maintain its pristine environment by limiting influx of hordes of tourists and pilgrims. In ancient times, Kashmiris would allow only a select few to enter the Kingdom. Most important of all, there would have been accountability at all levels. There would be no free for all! It would have been a Paradise in the real sense of the word.
One wonders what happened to this beautiful land. As some Kashmiris say it suffered because of the evil eye cast on it by outsiders! Instead of becoming a “Country of Spiritual Merit”, it became a living hell! Will it ever return to that glory again? It may seem difficult or rather impossible! However, one can draw consolation from the road sign on one of our mountain roads which says, “Difficult can be done now, impossible may take some time!”