AR Bhat

The region of Kashmir has a rich history of religious diversity. From the early history of Hinduism to the rise of Buddhism & finally the advent of Islam, the region has always been a cradle showcasing ‘Unity in Diversity’. Buddhism has its root in Kashmir since the times of King Ashoka (Maurya Dynasty) & even before. It was the period when Buddhism and its teachings flourished in the region. The Stupa Jayendra Vihar (at Ushkur) stands testimony to the period.

In the 9th century, Buddhism gave way to Shaivism. The ancient Hindu temples in stone architecture are but a reflection of the richness of the history of the region. Martand, Avantipura, Pattan & Parihaspura ruins represent the graceful stone architecture of medieval times. In the later period, this was replaced by the brick & wooden architecture prominently associated with the era of Muslim rule in Kashmir. The Khanqah of Shah Hamdan, the mosque of Madin Sahib, the tomb of Zain-ul-Afidine’s mother, Jama Masjid & Ziarat of Dastogir Sahib are some of the masterpieces that are situated in Srinagar city.
It is perhaps this rich heritage that led to the evolution of centuries old indigenous tradition of communal harmony and religious syncretism in the region – ‘the Kashmiriyat’. Emerging around the 16th century, it is characterised by the religious and cultural harmony, patriotism and pride for Kashmir.

Kashmiriyat exemplifies the joint Hindu-Muslim culture, festivals, languages, cuisine and clothing in the region. In the spirit of Kashmiriyat, festivals of Hinduism and Islam are celebrated by adherents of both faiths. The legend of Kashmiri mystic, Lalleshwari, in which her body turned into a mound of flowers that was buried by both Hindus & Muslims, serves as an emblem of Kashmiriyat that is alive even today.The revival of ‘Kashmiriyat’ is a conscious effort by all segments in Kashmiri Society. Efforts are being made to revive ‘Kashmiriyat’ by various communities of Hindus & Muslims through united opposition to violence in the state. Efforts to promote Kashmiriyat through cultural activities, social programmes and literature have also increased throughout Jammu & Kashmir. The weaving of carpets by Muslim weavers featuring Hindu deities, celebration of Urs by Sikh & Hindus alongwith the Muslims & hosting of ‘Jwalimukhi Fair’ in Khrew are but a few examples. Kashmiriyat, synonymous to the culture of Kashmir resonates with the rich religious & traditional heritage of the region.

Kashmir & its people are a part of India for centuries who love the composite culture of India. The people of Kashmir have noble & kind sentiments for peace & harmony. They uphold values of secularism, Shaivism & Sufism and philosophies of a high order which describe the synthesis in Kashmir’s spiritual traditions. Kashmiris have always had tremendous love for religion & nature. Being surrounded by overwhelming natural beauty and melody of relics from different religions over the ages, the people of Kashmir imbibe in them a harmonious outlook towards all religions & nature. Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism & Islam in Kashmir have blended together since times immemorial to reiterate the common goals contained in all religions. Sages such as Nand Rishi, Lalleshwari and others from Kashmiri history provided the torchlight for love & brotherhood of mankind. It is but a matter of time that the waning wave of violence in Kashmir shall surely give way to the image of harmony & love that portrays the true picture of Kashmir and the society shall also regain its economic prosperity.

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