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April - June 2023

BOOK REVIEW (By P. R. Kannan)

Kathasatisagar by Prof. Raj Nehru and Dr.C.K.Gariyali, published by Prabhat Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., 4/a9, Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi 110002; email:; Price Rs.600.

This book, Kathasatisagar, Folklore of Jammu-Kashmir, by two authors, who are most familiar with the subject of five-thousand-year-old Kashmiri Pandit culture, and who are themselves Kashmiri Pandits, is an extra-ordinary work of labour of love. Prof. Raj Nehru has worked in public life in different roles and is an expert in Human Resource Management and Development. Dr.C.K.Gariyali, an ex-IAS officer, is very much wedded to the cause of Kashmiri Pandits and has authored books on Kashmir. The title of the present book, Kathasatisagar, is an adaptation of the title, Kathasaritsagar, a collection of stories of morals and ethics by Kashmiri author Somadeva. The book is divided into nine parts. Part 1 deals with History, Culture and Ancient Kashmir. An overview of Nilamata Purana, the Sthala Purana of Kashmir, Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, a Samskrit epic of 7826 verses, which records elegantly the history of kings of Kashmir from Mahbharata times upto 12th century A.D., and Kathasaritsagara of Somadeva is provided. Nilamata Purana and Rajatarangini record the glorious beginnings of Kashmir- how sage Kashyapa drained the waters of Satisaras through the intervention of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; Shiva struck the ground with his Trishula, and out flowed the waters from underground, resulting in Vitasta river, which is the very manifestation of Parvati. During the reign of many kings of Kashmir, Sanatana Dharma was strongly upheld and enforced. Many temples were built, many scholars were encouraged to write books in Samskrit poetry, drama, grammar etc.; many art forms flourished.

Part 2 describes Buddhism in Kashmir and refers to Harwan Monastery and University and Chinese traveller Husan Tsang and has an interesting chapter on Jesus Christ in Buddhist Kashmir. Part 3 deals with Temples and Sacred Places – Amarnath, Sharada Peeth and Temple, Martand Sun Temple, Abodes of Shakti, and Vitasta and other rivers. Part 4 gives an oversight of Scholars, Sages and Kings – Abhinava Gupta, Adi Shankaracharya, King Lalitaditya, King Avantivarman, Utpaladeva, Vivekananda (his mystical experience in Ksheer Bhavani Temple makes for interesting reading), Gopinathji, Nand Bab and Kashkak. Part 5 gives a bird’s eye view of the important Festivals of Kashmir – Mitra Poornima, Yaksha Amavasya, Shivaratri, Kashmiri New Year, Full Moon of the Crow. Part 6 gives a brief account of the Folk Tales relating to Swami Jeevan Shah, Shankaren Makach and Mahadev Bishta, the Robin Hood of Kashmir. Part 7 deals with Culture – Yajnopavit, the Vedic legacy of Kashmir, and Kashmiri language. Part 8 gives an account of Women: the Shakti – status of women (how it changed from independence, scholarship and skill in ancient times to subservience, fear and seclusion in Muslim rule of 500 years), Queen Kota Rani, Lalleshwari, Rupa Bhavani, Arnimal; this is followed by a few samples of the poetry of the women saints. Part 9, the final part, deals in some detail with the accounts of the Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits – Seven Exoduses between 15th and 20th centuries, the valour and selflessness shown by Shri Bhat and Birbal Dhar and the heart-wrenching martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur. This Part makes very pathetic and distressing reading. It makes clear as to how the fanatical Muslim rulers effected ethnic cleansing and resorted to mass murder, torture, rape and other unimaginable crimes. One very important point made in this connection is with reference to the massacre of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. The book bemoans the state of denial of the crimes by the administration, the complete lack of action against the perpetrators of crime and the absence of any worthwhile plan of action for return and rehabilitation of the ousted local population.

In the last issue of DILIP, we had written in detail of the close contacts of Shri Kanchi Shankara Matham with Kashmir from ancient times. The Matham is holding Vishwa Shanti Yajna in May every year during Shankara Jayanthi at Srinagar with a ten-day festival of Havans, Pujas, discourses, bhajans, folk art display etc. Govt. of India- Ministry of Culture, in coordination with Kalakshetra of Chennai held a four day Vitasta Festival from 27th to 30th January 2023, in which all aspects of the glory of Kashmir were presented by eminent speakers, and, which also featured various folk art presentations. Let us pray for the early reintegration of Kashmir with the rest of India in all respects.