The Valley of duality

Kashmir is an enchanting land where nature reveals herself in all her beauty.

The muted roar of the aircraft engines indicate the undercarriage being lowered for descent. The sunray’s glance off the snow-clad Pir Panjal range of mountains as we enter the airspace over Srinagar. Even this fleeting glimpse confirms what I have been reading and hearing all these years.

Kashmir is an enchanting land, where nature reveals herself in all her beauty and finery. Poets have waxed eloquent over this “terrestrial paradise”. As I crisscross the well trodden tourist circuit of Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Gulmarg and other sites, the real significance of these panegyrics sinks in. The words of Sir Walter Lawrence, “The valley is an emerald set in pearls, a land of lakes, clear streams, green turf, magnificent trees and mighty mountains, where the air is cool and the water sweet”, seem as true even today as they were nearly a century ago.

Wherever the eye roams, it sees tall pines on snow covered mountain slopes, rivers gush and roar as their crystal clear waters rush along, the ubiquitous walnut trees line the sides of the roads, the apple orchards are abloom and the air is crisp, cool and invigorating. Standing before the Avantipura ruins, the mind journeys back in time to sixth century AD when the accomplished poet-historian Kalhana wrote his magnum opus Nilamata Purana, a repository of all matters concerning Kashmir, be it history, the way of life, customs, politics, sacred places, rituals etc.

The rivers Vitasta (present day Jhelum) and the Sindhu (Indus) formed a huge lake called ‘Satisar’, from whose waters rose the land of Kashmir, ruled by a succession of dynasties like the Kushans, Karkotas and others. Invaders like the Huns, Turks and Afghans occupied the land at various times. The Moghuls left their impression on this enchanting landscape. Apart from emperor Akbar, Jahangir was so enthralled by this munificence of the creator that he visited Kashmir 13 times and built the Shalimar and Nishat Bagh gardens on the banks of the Dal Lake. Emperor Shah Jahan fell in love with this place and created the Chashmashahi gardens. But Kashmir is not about beauty alone.

Giant intellects have enriched and embellished this bounteous soil. As poet Bilhana says “Kashmir is the land where Sanskrit poetry and saffron both grow together.” Kashmir’s contribution to Sanskrit poetry, poetics, grammar, dramaturgy, apart from philosophy, architecture, sculpture, painting, medicine and astronomy, is itself a branch of study. The Kashmiri school of Shaiva philosophy and literature has seen unparalleled men like Anandavardhana, Abhinavagupta, Kshemendra and many others. Great religions like Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism have flourished here. Learned and noble men of Islam and Sufism have walked this sacred land.

Alas, today this beauty is marred by distrust, hatred, jealousy and fanaticism.  Every few steps, menacing firearms point at you from behind sandbags manned by soldiers with fingers on triggers. The vicissitudes of history are again churning this land. Where and how will it culminate?

Assembly elections 2019 | Get the latest news, views and analysis on elections in Haryana and Maharashtra on

For election-related news in Maharashtra, click here

For election-related news in Haryana, click here

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)