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Kashmiri Pandits

Original price was: ₹60.00.Current price is: ₹50.00. Sell Tax

Kashmiri Pandits

Description

The Kashmiri Pandits (also known as Kashmiri Brahmins) are a group of Kashmiri Hindus and a part of the larger Saraswat Brahmin community of India. They belong to the Pancha Gauda Brahmin group from the Kashmir Valley, located within the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits are Hindu Kashmiris native to the Kashmir Valley, and the only remaining Hindu Kashmiris after the large-scale of conversion of the Valley’s population to Islam during the medieval times. Prompted by the growth of Islamic militancy in the valley, large numbers left in the exodus of the 1990s. Even so, small numbers remain.

History

Photograph of the Martand Sun Temple, Hardy Cole’s Archaeological Survey of India Report ‘Illustrations of Ancient Buildings in Kashmir.’ (1869)
Early history

See also: History of Kashmir
The Hindu caste system of the Kashmir region was influenced by the influx of Buddhism from the time of Asoka, around the third century BCE, and a consequence of this was that the traditional lines of varna were blurred, with the exception of that for the Brahmins.[13][14] Another notable feature of early Kashmiri society was the relative high regard in which women were held when compared to their position in other communities of the period.

A historically contested region, Northern India was subject to attack from Turkic and Arab regimes from the eighth century onwards, but they generally ignored the mountain-circled Kashmir Valley in favour of easier pickings elsewhere. It was not until the fourteenth century that Muslim rule was finally established in the Valley and when this happened it did not occur primarily as a consequence of invasion so much as because of internal problems resulting from the weak rule and corruption endemic in the Hindu Lohara dynasty.

The Dãmaras (feudal chiefs) grew powerful, defied royal authority, and by their constant revolts plunged the country into confusion. Life and property were not safe, agriculture declined, and there were periods when trade came to a standstill. Socially and morally too the court and the country had sunk to the depths of degradations

The Brahmins had something to be particularly unhappy about during the reign of the last Lohara king, for Sūhadeva chose to include them in his system of onerous taxation, whereas previously they appear to have been exempted.

Medieval history
Zulju, who was probably a Mongol from Turkistan, wreaked devastation in 1320, when he commanded a force that conquered many regions of the Kashmir Valley. However, Zulju was probably not a Muslim. The actions of Sultan Sikandar Butshikan (1389–1413), the seventh Muslim ruler in Kashmir were also significant to the area. The Sultan has been referred to as an iconoclast because of his destruction of many non-Muslim religious symbols and the manner in which he forced the population to convert or flee. Many followers of the traditional religions who did not convert to Islam instead migrated to other parts of India. The migrants included some Pandits, although it is possible that some of this community relocated for economic reasons as much as to escape the new rulers. Brahmins were at that time generally being offered grants of land in other areas by rulers seeking to utilise the traditionally high literacy and general education of the community, as well as the legitimacy conferred upon them by association. The outcome of this shift both in population and in religion was that the Kashmir Valley became a predominantly Muslim region. It was during the 14th century that the Kashmiri Pandits likely split into their three subcastes: Guru/Bāchabat (priests), Jotish (astrologers), and Kārkun (who were historically mainly employed by the government). The majority of Kashmiri Brahmins are Kārkuns, and this is likely due to the conversion of the majority of Kashmiris to Islam, which led to a decrease in demand for Hindu priests, which led most Kashmiri Brahmins to seek secular employment.

Butshikan’s heir, the devout Muslim Zain-ul-Abidin (1423–74), was tolerant of Hindus to the extent of sanctioning a return to Hinduism of those who had been forcibly converted to the Muslim faith, as well as becoming involved in the restoration of temples. He respected the learning of these Pandits, to whom he gave land as well as encouraging those who had left to return. He operated a meritocracy and both Brahmins and Buddhists were among his closest advisors.

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