Friday, March 1, 2024
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Shirya Bhatt: The Saviour of Kashmiri Hindus

Late Sarwanand Koul Premi

The birth anniversary of Shriya Bhatt, ther savior of Hindus of Kashmir in the fourteenth century was observed yesterday.

Who is not aware or not in know of the brutality, barbarism, atrocities and unjust and unfair rule of kings and governors – foreigners and non-Kashmiris-in Kashmir, between the 12th and 15th centuries A. D. During those hundreds of years, the Hindus in Kashmir, particularly the Brahmins now known as Kashmiri Pandits, suffered the worst and were subjected to the greatest injustices, cruelty and inhuman treatment. The treacherous rule and invasions of Halaku Khans, Changez Khans, Shahmirs, Rinchens and Sikandars is past of history a history which no sane person can ignore.

The Brahmins of Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandits, have been spiritualists, religious – minded, tolerant, God-believing and God-fearing, compassionate and highly scholastic. Ancient Kashmir has produced historians, poets, spiritual giants, dramatists, and prose-writers, in Sanskrit.

Kalhan’s Rajatarangini is a world-famous Sanskrit classic in verse. Khemendra, Jonaraja, Shrivara, Prayga Bhat have been great historians. Mamata, Rudrata, Vagha Bhata, Anandavaradhan have been poets of great repute and Charak an author of book on medicine. Abhinavagupta, Jairatha, Shivopadya, Ratanakanth and Balbhatta have written books on Shaiva philosophy. And Somadeva has been the great and reputed author of the valuable Brahaskatha.

I have given names of only a few of the illustrious sons of Kashmir of yore. And this is the heritage which we boast of. Unfortunately, their valuable ad unparalleled works were very mercilessly destroyed by fanatics and lunatics during the 12 -15th centuries. The following cruel incidents during this period are given as historical facts:

Eleven families of Kashmir – Kashmiri Hindu ‘Kaah Gara’ is still a household saying. This reminds us of a period when Hindus in Kashmir were eliminated to such an extent that only eleven families could survive by concealing themselves and living by natural means.
At one stage, about sixty thousand Kashmiri Hindus, most of them Brahmins, were made fugitives and were forced to leave the Valley. While passing through Khus Batapora, Pir Panjal Pass, they all perished in cold and snow, and a place where they were cremated by being thrown into flames is known as Batagaji (Fire-place of Batas-Kashmiri Hindus).
On another occasion, about seventy thousand Kashmiri Hindus were forced to leave the Valley and migrate to place outside Kashmir, their place of hearth and home. On reaching Batote – Batavota, they got divided. Some went towards Bhadarwah and Kishtwar, some took the route to Reasi and Poonch, and others left for the plains, towards Lahore etc, and settled at different places away from the Valley.
Temple shrines, and vihaars were destroyed, demolished and desecrated, and Sikandar the “Butshikhan” – the iconoclast, the breaker of idols went to such an exent that he would not even tolerate the blowing of conches in temples and houses. He was the worst of the lot for Hindus in Kashmir.
Searches were made in Hindu houses and heaps and bag-loads of religious books, manuscripts and valuable books were seized and thrown, the into the Dal Lake.
Maunds of the holy thread, the Janyu, were collected and burnt in the presence of the Hindus from whom these were snatched by the cruel, unjust and intolerant ruler, Sinkandar, the iconoclast.

These have been the tragedies which befell the Hindus of Kashmir. One after the other, rulers proved so much intolerant of the other faith (Hinduism) that most of them earned notoriety in the pages of history, between the 12th and fifteenth centuries A. D., for persecution of Hindus and destruction of their temples, shrines books, libraries and cultural objects. Physical as well as mental torture had become a routine for the Hindus at the hands of the then rulers.

There are numerous horrible and terrifying tales scattered through the pages of history; till Sultan Zaiu-uj-Abidin took over the reigns of power in the Valley. It was 1423 A. D. He ruled for about fifty years till 1473 A. D. This gave some relief; mental social, physical to Hindus, though the king was of the same clan. A story, according to which this king changed his mind and attitude towards Hindus and came to be called Badshah, the great king and Batashah, the king of Batas (Kashmiri Hindus), goes like this.

One day one of the princes in a boat in the river Jhelum threw a pebble into the earthen Jar full of water which was being carried by a Hindu lady at the Alikadal Ghat. The Jar did not break, nor did water flow out. The prince fainted, and fell ill. The Sultan came to know of the happening and thus of the spiritual power of the lady. He went to her husband, begged pardon from both the husband and wife and requested them to cure the prince. Later, the king himself fell ill and all the royal physicians could not cure him. Fortunately, Shirya Bhatt, a great physician of the time living in obscurity was found out by the King’s men and made to treat him. Shirya Bhatt succeeded when others had failed. Zain-ul-Abidin rose up asked him to for anything as a reword. But Shirya Bhatt made the following three requests, instead:

All temples and places of worship be restored to Hindoos.
All unjust taxes be withdrawn.
All those Hindus who had fled from the Valley be called back, allowed to resettle in Kashmir and all their movable and immovable properties be restored to them.

As the sultan proved true to his word, all the requests were accepted. Thus started a new life for Hindus in Kashmir. Those who had left the Valley under suppression and depression started coming back and settling once again as before.

All the temple and places of worship were restored and thrown open to Hindus. Tazia and taxes were also withdrawn. Thereafter Badshah, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin came to be known as Bata-Shah.

This all could only be possible through the personal sacrifice and selflessness of Shriya Bhat, who could have demanded wealth and anything else for himself.

But for the sake of his community, he changed the couse of the events of the history. To this day, Shriya Bhat is alive for us. He is Amar and shall be remembered with all reverence till the history is there. Shriya Batun Guzer, the Octroi-Post of Shriya Bhat near Vichar-nag, commemorates his name.

Let us all pay homage to Shriya Bhat to-day in his Memory. Let us take an oath today to rise above selfish ends and serve our community and our motherland, the way Shriya Bhat did.

(This article by the author appeared on April 11, 1986, in Martand and here we reprint the same article on the request of Rajinder premi the son of
Late Sarwanand Koul Premiji)


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