Kashmir has been much in the news the world over for the last 30 years for all the wrong reasons.

Baramulla, earlier known as Varhamul used to be the gateway on the only path leading into the valley from Rawalpindi – known as Jhelum Valley Road.

Kanil Bagh is a well known locality in Varhamul and herein stands a 12 ft tall Shivling all alone under the shade of a tree. No temple, no flowers, no offerings, nothing! This has been there for a very long time waiting – waiting for the worshippers to return.

One can only imagine the grandeur when this Shivling must have been worshipped in it’s temple. There are many such Shivlings in the valley like Naranag Kangan; Narasthan Tral; Payer Pulwama ;Chattergul Ganderbal ;Buniyar Uri and many others. The history behind how these Shivlings came to be like this is long and painful but I will try to explain in brief.

The year was 1339 CE when Shah Mir usurped the throne from Kota Rani and became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. Islamization of the valley populace did not take place immediately as Shah Mir did not make any major changes in the system. Sanskrit continued as the official language and the Hindu Darbaris continued to be part of the darbar.

The change in the policy came into force only after Muslim Tablighis appeared on the scene mostly from Iran and Central Asia. It is said that Mir Syed Ali Hamdani came to Kashmir with 700 followers and that is when proselytization started. Islam became the official religion, Persian became the official language , Temples were turned into Khanqahs, Hindus were asked to convert and those who refused were put to the sword. This process reached it’s peak under the reign of Sikander Butshiken when most of the temples were set ablaze and idols were destroyed and that earned him the name But-shiken(Idol breaker). Hindus were massacred, Hindu rituals and festivals and even wearing of clothes in the Hindu style was prohibited. Not many Hindus survived this brutality. Many died while many converted and the populace became Muslim. The few who did not convert hid themselves in forests or fled towards Kishtiwar and Rajouri after hiding or carrying with them the idols they managed to save from destruction.

The atrocities continued with the patronage of the Hamdanis, Jeelanis, Geelanis, Kirmanis, Andrabis and many others until 1819 when Maharaja Ranjit Singh annexed Kashmir ending the Afghan Durrani empire and the five centuries of Muslim rule in Kashmir.

This is when Hindu Gods reappeared on the scene. Since the temples had been destroyed and the Hindus had no means to restore or rebuild them, these Shivlings were placed on a pedestal at the bank of a stream or a spring where the worshippers would pour water and offer flowers along with their humble prayers. I have personally seen these temple-less idols in almost all the villages in the valley on the banks of all kinds of water bodies.

This period saw some respite for the Hindus in the valley which by now was majority Muslim but the peace did not last for long. The poor Hindu was hounded out of his home yet again in 1990. (I have written about that at https://kreately.in/the-journey-of-kashmir-from-dar-al-sulhpeaceful-to-dar-al-harbhateful-part-1/).

The ruins of the grand temple structures of Martand, Avantipore , Pattan, Parihaspur, Buniyar, Pahalgam, Naranag stand testimony to the Hindu architecture of the valley.

Kashmir has been the origin of Shaivism(one of the major traditions within Hinduism that reveres Shiva as the Supreme Being) and has produced a number of Acharyas from Abhinavgupt to Swami Laxmanjoo. Hindus not only in India but the world over acknowledge this fact and follow the scriptures that originated from these Acharyas. However, determined efforts have been made to erase this and change the historical discourse both physically as well as academically. The believers of the faith have been reduced to zero by way of conversion, assassinations over refusal to convert or chased out of the valley.

The last nail in the coffin was stuck in 1990 when the Islamists decided to Islamize the valley completely. The Hindus were forced out of their ancestral homes and hearths. This time they could not take their gods with them. Their houses were torched, properties were damaged and efforts were made to erase every footprint that Hindus ever existed in the valley. It is impossible to imagine that the same place was once the origin of Shaivism.

History has been harsh to these Gods and their believers. But the Shiva stands, bearing testimony that His worshippers existed then and shall return to offer prayers once again. 
Image Courtesy - outlookindia.com , https://www.searchkashmir.org/

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