Kashmiriyat: In a cultural prism

 Muneer Ahmad Magry

Kashmiriyat is a composite culture. It represents the fruits of interaction between ancient ethno- religious traditions  of Kashmir. It is a synthesis of Budhism, Hinduism and Islam. It believes in inter community tolerance and co-existence. The Hindu- Muslim “Rishi-Sufi” movement thrived between 14th and 15th century. It was a period of socio-cultural assimilation. The success of Islam in Kashmir is strongly linked to the fact that Sufi saints were able to cope with cultural differences and managed to live collectively together. Kashmiriyat remains a secular movement. But during the current period, essence of Kashmiriyat is fading, because of unending violence, and is being overtaken by radicalism and communalism.

Excerpts:

 

Fruits of Interaction:

        “Composite culture is known as shared culture, popular culture. It is symbiotic in that people who share it have cooperative and mutually dependent relationship. It involves the amalgamation of different world views, thoughts, beliefs, food habits; dress partners, and so forth. It is the culture which transcends the boundaries of the religion but albeit of religious unification. The cultural boundaries are fuzzy and not demarcated clearly. Plural societies are embedded with cultural diversity; composite culture is an acknowledgment of heterogeneous identities rather than imposition of homogenous culture and identity. Here, I am sharing the most culturally ethos storyline, Kashmiryat. To begin with, while Kashmiris who originally migrated from countries like Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Afghanistan mainly occupy the Kashmir Valley, they were also spread out in the other areas of the state like Kishtwar, Bhadarwah, Doda, and Ramban. They were distinct from other ethnic groups with their tall stature, broad shoulder, well developed forehead, and long narrow face. As far as their dress was concerned, they wore short pyjamas, along with a loose-fitting and large sleeved gown locally known as Pharan, and a skullcap. They were intellectually sharp, friendly, cheerful and quite efficient in the fields of doing business and agriculture. Kashimiriyat represents the best fruit of the centuries of interaction between ancient ethno-religious traditions of Kashmir and Islam. It is a synthesis of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islamic teaching. It was thorough the cultural appropriation of Hindu-Buddhist religious elements such as immanence of God, respect for other religions, belief in reincarnation, the right path developing mind’s potential through meditation and absorption, belief in miracles, and love of idols of gods and goddesses by the Sufis created the social religious space of Kashmiriyat.  The Kashmiriyat, as a matter of fact, functioned as not only a social space for inter -community interaction but also as a value that broadened the Hindus’ and Muslims’ horizon of intercommunity tolerance and co-existence in Kashmir. Kashimiriyats idea can be traced to the historical past of Kashmir. In the 13th century, the main religions of the Valley (Hinduism and Buddhism) encountered Islam”.

 

Rishi – Sufi Movement:

        “The new religion seemed appealing to many of the inhabitants of the region who converted to Islam. Such religious and cultural encounter created a new culture by assimilating various ethno-religious traditions and beliefs that were shared among the different communities. This idea of sharing traditions came to be called the Hindu-Muslim “Rishi-Sufi” movement. The most important part of such movement was experienced between the 14th and 15th century. It was during this period that there was a clear socio-cultural assimilation process in Kashmir. Certain characters such as Lalla Ded influenced this concept. She managed to prove that there could be an in-between among Hindu Vedic traditions and Muslim mysticism. Among her legacy relies the foundation of Kashmir’s biggest Sufi order. Indeed, the success of Islam in Kashmir is strongly linked to the fact that Sufi Saints were able to cope with the cultural differences and managed to live collectively together. Also, Sufism is a division of Islam which does not preach strict orthodox values. Hence, this facilitated cultural assimilation. Another view is that Kashmiriyat is not an ideology, but rather a behavior pattern shared by Pandits and Muslims in the region. Besides, Kashmiriyat is also perceived as the sense of mutual supports which still not wholly free of tensions. In other words, this notion refers to a pluralistic culture of tolerance, but does not represent syncretism. Even though many centuries have passed (and there is a religious difference among the diverse ethnic groups in Kashmir) most of the Kashmiri traditions remain very close to their original form. Indeed, modernization is transforming costumes and rituals at a fast pace”.

 

A secular Movement under attack:

“Kashmiriyat could not have been possible without the Muslim interaction with the spiritual symbiosis that existed between ethnic communities, Buddhism, and Hinduism. It also needs to be remembered that though Kashmiriyat has evolved through influence of the religious teachings, in essence it remains primarily secular movement. However, in recent years, Kashmiriyat has been under attack from the communities of Kashmir for various reasons. While the Fundamentalist Muslims who demand autonomy from India see Kashmiriyat as deviation from Islam, the Hindus of Jammu and the Buddhists of Ladkah who seek autonomy from the dominant political control of the Kashmir Valley see Kashimiriyat as the Muslim religious tool for Islamisation of region. Thus, the current Kashmir conflict should be considered as an interreligious political conflict in which people among different communities demand their right to decide the future of politics in Kashmir. The essence of Kashmiriyat is fading because of the unending and worsening violence; it is being overtaken by radicalisation and communalism. Radicalisation has made deep inroads into society, eroding the communal and social harmony that for a long time characterised the Valley’s Kashmiriyat (or ‘identity’). As this brief will show, today, the youth in the Valley are overwhelmed by a deep sense of alienation”.

[Courtesy: Daily  Rising Kashmir, Srinagar, Kashmir, January 06, 2019].

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