Kashmir, also famously known as ‘The crown of India’ or ‘Paradise on Earth’ is a mesmerising valley surrounded by Pir Panjal & Himalayan ranges. It is marked with a history that has seen various faiths & religions grow & prosper within it’s womb. The uniqueness about the place is it’s Sufi culture & Kashmiriyat, which in principle means inclusion of all faiths, religions, philosophies & artistic diversity. Glorious days of Kashmiriyat rested on asserting kashmir’s uniqueness in the Subcontinent, & emerged, in part, out of Kashmiri nationalism in the early twentieth century. The idea of distinctness, however, was not entirely foreign to Kashmir’s own Sanskrit & Persian narrative tradition through the centuries. This interconnected tradition celebrated the sacredness of Kashmir’s landscape, it’s historical tradition, & variety of people who made it their homeland, despite the diversity, into the late nineteenth century. For centuries, assertions of kashmir’s Sufism allowed it to claim a much more significant space for itself alongside & within more powerful empires than it would have otherwise attained. The Kashmiriyat was the distinct & most humane characteristic of this region, which made Muslims of Kashmir reject the idea of extremist Islam of Middle East.
The region was an important centre for Hinduism & Buddhuism. Islam was introduced in the medival centuries & Sikhism also spread to the region under the rule of the Sikh Empire in the 18th century. Kashmir has a significant place in mythologies of all four religions. It is home to many legendary Hindu & Buddhist monuments & institutions. The Hazratbal Shrine holds a relic believed to be the hair of Mohammad. Guru Nanak travelled to Kashmir seeking religious enlightenment. The tale of Lal Ded, whose body is said to have turned into a mound of flowers that was buried both by Hindus & Muslims, describes the Kashmiriyat of this region. The societies were so interlinked & lived in peace that, the sacred Prasad distributed at holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi contained dry fruits from orchards of Kashmir valley & Kashmiri Muslims constituted a large section of potters that ferry Hindu pilgrims on their ponies & backs to the sacred cave of Mata Vaishno Devi. The regions of Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh, though different on ethnic grounds are so dependent on each other, that fall or rise of one region has direct impact on other two regions as well. Jammu, even today is home to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians & Buddhists as well as Dogri, Pahadi, Kashmiri, Gujjar Bakkarwals & Ladakhi community, all living in harmony. The region has always cherished & has been proud of its composite culture, tolerance & accommodation for ethnic, linguistic & religious minorities from all parts of J & K. Any attack on any such community is seen as attack on the self-respect & self-esteem by the people of Jammu.
The Kashmiri culture encompasses languages, literature, cuisines, architecture, traditions, practices, history & music. This culture has evolved over the past two millennia & is largely influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism & later by Islam, post the invasions of Persians & central Asian invaders. Many famous Indian works like Bharat Natya Shastra, Compendium of Yoga, Panchtantra & many other notable literature originated from Kashmir. The famous Kashmiri Kaahva, the non-vegetarian cuisine, folk songs, Kashmiri language are revered & admired all over India. The spirituality & ability to express complexities of life by the simplistic musical phrases are the specialties of the Kashmiri music. Out of various kinds of music existing, Spiritual music holds a very high place for its classical origin, heritage, depth, soothing capability, soulfulness, lyrical superiority & years of evolvement. The land that is so rich in scenic beauty, holds historical significance for all ethnicities, numerous tourist places & best suited for farming of dry fruits & Kesar, which otherwise are scarce all across the country has suffered due to communal hatred that has replaced the Sufi & syncretic atmosphere in the last three decades. The climate is favourable for the growth of applesthat are cherished & supplied all across the country & globe. If not for terrorism, Kashmir would have been the richest state of the country with its GDP surpassing, that of whole of Pakistan.
However, currently Kashmir suffers at the hands of Pakistan sponsored terrorists, despite consistent efforts of Indian Govt & Indian Army. Though, the situation has been under control for the last few years & the locals have finally realized that terrorism will not benefit them in any way & will only result in the state losing it’s identity & long cherished heritage. As is appropriately highlighted by Prof Hazrat Inayat Khan, “Sufism is not a religion or philosophy, it is neither deism nor atheism, nor is it a moral, nor a special kind of mysticism, being free from the usual religious sectarianism. If ever it could be called a religion, it would only be as a religion of love, harmony & beauty”. Now is the time, that we together restore all that is lost from J & K. The abrogation of Article 370 & 35A, is a step forward towards the amalgamation of the state with the rest of the country & speeding up the progress & development of the region. But the bigger question is “How will the Sufi & Syncretic heritage of the Kashmir be preserved” & “Whether the state will be able to achieve it’s lost glory?” Well, the answer lies with the people of J & K. Restoring the Kashmiriyat is in hands of the people of Kashmir alone. The dream to see Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians & Buddhists living together in harmony, benefitting from each other’s presence, growing together & achieving the heights that this state deserves, can be realized only by a cumulative effort by government, civil administration & locals. It gives great comfort to see that the people of Kashmir have rejected the idea of terrorism & separatism. They identify themselves as an integral part of India & are eager to play their role in raising the region & country to former glories.