The Anthropological Survey of India launched the People of India project on 2 October 1985 to generate an anthropological profile of all communities of India, the impact on them of change and development process and the links that bring them together.
As part of this all-India project the first ever ethnographic survey of all communities of present day Jammu & Kashmir state (111) was taken up in collaboration with local scholars. The results of the survey were discussed at the workshops held in Sri8nagar in June and October 1986, and in jammu in October 1987 and April-May 1991. Discussions were also held in Leh in 1992.
The identity of jammu & Kashmir described as the crown of India has evolved through history. It was the abode of the Naga people followed by other peoples in all periods of history. During the colonial period Dogras brought together five eco-linguistic and cultural regions to form their kingdom that lasted almost a hundred years. The state of jammu & Kashmir which was left with the three regions after independence in still the most diverse region in the country, a meeting ground of religions and cultures, languages and ethnic types. The kasmir Valley through history remained the nerve centre of power and politics, culture and civilization.
The state as a whole is characterized by a range of heterogeneity in terms of social divisions, such as kram, multilingualism, large complex and stratified communities, traits such as non-vegetarianism, many links with environment and ecology, a delightful way of adopting and discarding surnames, distinctive dress patterns and headgear, various forms of marriage, such as marriage by exchange, marriage by service, marriage by
contract (muta), polyandry, village exogamy, etc. Each region has unique traits and variation.
In the first years of independence the state made considerable progress in education. Effective implementation of land reforms resulted in redistribution if surplus land among members of a large number of communities. However later the censuses returned low level of literacy particularly female literacy, adverse sex ratio and adverse girl child sex ratio in the age group of 7 years and above.
kashmiriyat is the ethos shaped by ecology, history, a unique blend of Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic traditions and centuries old traditions of interaction, interdependence, understanding and tolerance. Though Kashimiriyat and similar ethoses are under stress, the voices of moderation are still heard and traditions of tolerance are alive.
K.S. Singh was a former member of the Indian Administrative Service and Director General, Anthropological Survey of India.
The state of Jammu & Kashmir described as the crown of India emerged in three phases as highlighted by Dogra histriography. The nucleus was provided by the Jammu raj established by the Dogras in the tenth century which alongside the main kingdom mushroomed into lineage based petty estates. As the Dogra chief wanted to control the trade in pashmina, he annexed Ladakh—and then Baltistan—by conquest in 1834-41, surrounding the Valley. Last of all, the Valley of Kashmir was added to the kingdom. Under the treaty signed at Amritsar on 16 March 1846, Kashmir was given to the Dogra chief. Thus the princely state of Kashmir as popularly called came into existence, which consisted of the five distinct regions defined by language, culture, ecology, religion and ethos. The Dogra rulers who called themselves the rulers of the kingdom named 'Jammu and Kashmir and Tibet etc.' maintained the autonomy of each region by granting them freedom in cultural and religious matters. After Independence, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir emerged which was left with the former three regions, the Valley, Jammu and Ladakh. Jammu & Kashmir remains the most diverse region of the country. The two other regions, went to Pakistan where they are now known as Azad Kashmir and the Northern Territory (Gilgit-Baltistan). However, throughout history, the Kashmir Valley was the most important of these territories. It was the pivot, the centre of civilization, culture, power, politics and movements which influenced and was influenced by developments, migration, trade and politics in adjoining regions.
Kashmiri is one of the few regions in the country with an identity and autonomy of its own crafted by a long and uninterrupted tradition of scholarship in Sanskrit and Persian which produced a plethora of literature on various subjects. The Kashmiris wrote about their kings, rulers and queens with all their eccentricities, nobility and perversity, and about themselves. However, no systematic ethnographic survey of the state as it exists to day was undertaken in the colonial period under the aegis of the ethnographic survey in British India and like in some princely states of the south. A thin ethnography existed in the Provincial Gazetteer of: Jammu and Kashmir territories written by W.R. Lawrence in 1875. He mentions female infanticide, sati and hypergamy across the Rajputs and other castes. The traders and merchants from Kashmir and Central Asia and Dogra soldiers married local Ladakhi women and bred Arghun and ghulamzadas, that is, slave born, respectively.
There were ethnographic materials in Persian compiled during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A comprehensive ethnography in Urdu was compiled in 1930 by Muhammad Din Fouq, Tarikh-i-Aqwam-i-Kashmir (Lahore, 1934) but it was not available to us in print or in translation.
The Anthropological Survey of India under the People of India project undertook the first ever ethnographic survey of the communities of this state in collaboration with local scholars and local institutions during the period 1985-9, before disturbances in the Valley occurred.
Kashmir was the abode of the Naga people who according to myth had sought refuge against Garud, their step brother and enemy. Their father Prajapati Kashyap and his wife Kadru, the daughter of Daksa, fathered not only the Nagas but also the Devas, Daityas, Khasas and Bhadras, etc. Kashmir swarmed with the Naga lineages, the important ones being, Takshak (from which Takshila has been derived), Kashyapa and Korkota.
Kashmir was a major seat of Naga cult associated with the historical Nagas who gave it identity. According to the latest researches being conducted all over South-East Asia the Nagas lived off water. Close relationship of the Nagas with water resources in the Kashmir Valley is suggested by the name naga, a common name for the Naga people, serpent and water springs. The original Naga myth about the reclamation of Kashmir Valley deserves to be re-examined. It seems that Nagas had two branches, the earlier one represented by Jalodbhava who lived in the lake. The water demon Jalodbhava probably represented the early wave of Nagas who developed differences with the Nagas who came in later, ready to reclaim land from water in order to switch over to agriculture. This transition from water to land or fishing to agriculture was mediated by Balaram, a Naga himself who carried his plough as a weapon. Invited by Kashyap to drain the water of the lake Satisar, Balaram bored a hole with his plough through Varahmullah (Bararnulla) hill. The geologists tell us that some 80,000 years ago due to tectonic developments the water from the lake did drain out from a gorge in Varahmullah (Arun Kaul, 2002). The lake was transformed into land for agriculture. The stage was set for the neolithic revolution later, as suggested by Burzahom rock art site. This completed the transition of the Nagas from a water based people to agriculture, the beginning of settlement and the rise of Kashmir as a kingdom. The Nagas were thus associated with all major events in myth and history, the draining of Satisar lake, the birth of Vetasta (Jhelum), the cultivation of kesar, the worship of Naga deities, from Nagar in Gilgit to the Valley, Buddhism and Nagarjuna.
There are many versions of the etymology of Kashmir. It seems to derive from its ecology, the mythical reclamation from a lake of the river basin that today forms the Kashmir Valley (ka-water, shimir, reclamation, Ved Kumari, Nilamata Purana, vol. 1, ID, 22). A semitic tribe, Kash is said to have founded the cities of Kash, Kashan and Kashgar. Local people call their land `Kasheer' not Kashmir. The Himalayan tribe Khasa inhabited south-west Kashmir in the ancient period but now there are no Khasas as such in Kashmir which are distributed along the lower reaches of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Nepal. However the first historian, Herodotus identified Kashmir with Kashyap Muni; Kashyap mir is the mountain of Kashyap. According to another version Kashmir is derived from Kashyap mar, the abode of Kashyap. It seems that the draining of water of the lake by Balaram invited by Kashyap was considered such a great feat that it identified Kashyap with the reclaimed territory.
After draining came the settlement of peoples. The Nilamata Purana composed by the King Nil in the sixth-seventh centuries AD discusses this process and describes the Naga lineages, about three hundred of them who lived in Kashmir and adjoining territories of Darya (Dard territory), etc. Kashyap is said to have invited Pishachas, Manavas, Darvas (or Dardas), Abhisaras, Gandharas, etc. The Dardic people probably represented the earliest wave of speakers of the Dardric language group which is said to be anterior to later Indo-Iranian and Indo-Aryan language families. The Pishachas were
probably sheep herders who introduced mutton-eating or cattle breeders who outnumbered other groups (Riyaz Punjabi, 1990). There were conflicts between Pishachas and Manavas who were favoured by the Nagas. A group of Nagas was expelled from the Valley, who set up a Naga kingdom in the new territory Jammu. The Nilamata Purana described 14 communities, the most important of them being Nagas and some occupational groups such as Aurabhrikas (shep-herds), Mallas (wrestler), etc.
Kalhana describes Kashmir not only as a seat of Nagas ruling lineages but also a place guided by great Naga spirits such as Nilnaga, Sankhnaga and Padmanaga. Sheshnag is spring of life. Kalhana describes the annual festival held in honour of the great Nagraja Takshaka on the twelfth day the waining moon of Jyeshtha and Kashmiri Pandits continue with the remeberence and worship of snakes, observation of many practices mentioned in the ancient texts including Nilamata Purana, such as khechri amyabas (offering khechri to Yaksha), vyth-e-truvih, i.e. floating down earthen lamps in the river Vitasta (Jhelam) and worship of Naga deities (Riyaz Punjabi, 1990). A part of the Naga heritage of Kashmir as mentioned above also merged with Mahayan Buddhism which 'flowered in the Valley, a Kashmiri version of Buddhism.
The earliest reference to Kashmir, occurs in Panini and the Maha-bharat which also refers to Kashmirah as a people. The Mahabharat mentioned Kashmirah as a distinct community along with Dard, Khasa, Pisacha, etc.
The Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir is bounded by China in the north and east, Afghanistan in the north-west and Pakistan in the west. In the south it is linked with the rest of the country. Here the state boundaries of Himachal Pradesh (south) and Punjab (south-west) touch the southern boundaries of Jammu & Kashmir. With a total geographical area of 2,22,870 sq. km., the state lies between 32° 17° to 37° 5° N longitudes and 72° 400 E to 80° 300 E latitude. The declaration of a cease-fire line on 1 January 1949 left an area of 83,809 sq. km. under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Thus about one-third territory of the state is under illegal occupation of Pakistan alone (Chib, 1977: 29-52). In October 1962, China captured an area measuring about 41,500 sq. km.
The physiography of Jammu & Kashmir presents a picture of a three storeyed house with three distinct physiographic divisions (Raina, 1972: 1). The first storey is formed by the piedmont plain bordered by the Shivalik Hills in Jammu. The second storey constitutes the Middle Himalaya which borders Kashmir Valley on the south; Pir Panjal is a significant mountain of this group. Beyond the Kashmir Valley are located the Greater or Inner Himalayas running north-west to south-east, in many parallel ranges. These ranges constitute the third 'storey. In fact two huge mountain masses of the world, viz., Karakoram and the Himalayas dominate the landscape of Jammu & Kashmir, with the Indus entrenched between them.
The state consists of many river valleys. The valleys of Kashmir, Gilgit, Hunza, Sind, Shigar, Zanskar, Shyok and Nubra are notable among a large number of valleys found in the length and breadth of the state.
The drainage pattern as found in the state too has a peculiarity which, in geological parlance, is known as 'antecedent drainage pattern' which denotes that the rivers of this region are older than the mountains. They have a special geographical significance for the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The entire landscape of the state has been eroded by the rivers resulting in a divergence in topographical features. The Indus, the Jhelum, the Chenab and the Ravi are the famous rivers of the state and some of their tributaries are the rivers Poonch, Tavi, Ujh, Lidder, Kishenganga, Sind, Dras, Shyok, Nubra, Shigar Hunza, Gilgit and Astore. The state is studded with a number of lakes: Maansar, Surinsar and Sonsar lie in Jammu region. Majority of the lakes in Kashmir region such as Dal, the Wular, the Manasbal and the Achchabal, are some of the loveliest glacier-fed lakes. Among the salt water lakes, -viz., Pangong Tso, Tsomoriri and Lingzithang, all situated in the arid deserts of Ladakh plateau.
The varied topography determines the varied climate of the state. The plains and the lower reaches of the valley have hot and tropical moist climate but it becomes cool temperate beyond 2,000 metres above the mean sea level. At an elevation of 3,000 metres and above the climate is pleasantly cool until it embraces the perennial snow-line where it is arctic. The amount of rainfall goes on increasing progressively up to an altitude of 2,500 metres above sea level before it starts decreasing. There is scant rainfall in the mid-Himalayan region and no rainfall in the trans-Himalayan region of the state. The precipitation is greatly affected by the direction and intensity of winds.
South-west monsoon causes minimal rainfall beyond Punch and Uri whereas the western disurbances affect this state to the maximum resulting in heavy rainfall and snowfall. Mean monthly temperature in the state varies between 14° C to -17° C. An exceptionally high temperature was recorded at Jammu (47.2° C) on 12 June 1953 whereas exceptionally low temperature was recorded at Dras (-45° C) on 28 December 1910.
The Jammu region exeriences humid subtropical or monsoon type climate. The temperature ranges between 42° C in summer to 13° C during winter. Proximity of hills saves this region from the devastating hot winds blowing in the plains of north India. The region experiences rainfall both during summer and winters.
One of the most powerful expressions of Kashmir's personality is observable in its weather. . . . Besides altitude, the surrounding mountains with their snow-clad peaks exert an overriding influence on the local weather making pro-cesses. They protect the valley from the blasting cold of the north as well as the scorching heat of the south and contribute significantly to its notable temperate character . . . a mild summer, a not too vigrous winter and an absence of regular rainy season are three distinctive features of the climatic regions of the Kashmir Valley:
Heat there is, but hot ‘tis not
Cold there is, but cold ‘tis not . . . Sufi(Raza et al. 1978: 61)
It is under this magic spell of Kashmir that Jahangir, the Mughal emperor exclaimed:
Gar Firdaus bar roo-e-zameen ast,
Hameen ast-o, hameen ast-o, hameen ast-o.
(If there is a paradise on Earth; it is here, it is here, it is here.)
Nowhere his ears revelled with such a sumptuous feast of sounds played by a harmonious symphony of its numerous springs, streams, rivulets and rivers; nowhere his eyes met with such a brilliant combination of colours: the sapphire-blue sky, the azure glassy sheet of water, the thick green mountainous surroundings casting their waivering shadows in sprawling lakes, the majestic arms of vast glaciers nursing the delicate water streams into the roaring torrents; its salubrious climate, the innumerable margs (meadows) and nargs (springs), the verdant gardens bedecked with flowers of hues that decorate a rainbow and the stately Chenars (Cheh = what; naar= flame). The beautiful nature has endowed the Valley with the best of beauty, richness and colours. Jehangir was doubtlessly enthralled by the valley's lush greenery but he could, not pos-sibly have been thinking of that arid region in eastern Kashmir which is known as Ladakh. . . . If Ladakh cannot boast of nature's bounty, its high desert plateaus and granite peaks have a rugged charm of their own. (Ahluwalia, 1987: 10)
How did Ladakh become arid and desolate? The local traditions attribute this to the curse of Zoji-Lha-Mo, the goddess of the four seasons, who was the wife of Naropa. When the latter went to Ladakh, he wished her to be left behind. She was displeased at that, and turned her back towards Ladakh and her face towards Kashmir. This caused Ladakh to dry up and Kashmir to become fertile (Francke, 1972: 7). Its isolated, ancient culture endows it with a mystery; its borders touch Tibet, Chinese Turkistan, Baltistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It experiences temperature below freezing point for about five months in a year. There is an acute paucity of rainfall and lack of humus in the soil. Ladakh is one of the most elevated regions of the world, and very barren. The air is extremely rare and devoid of oxygen. The climate is rigorous: burning heat in the day succeeded by biting cold at night.
Thus the climate in the state changes from humid tropical to temperate and finally to Arctic and Tundra type near the perennial snowline. The slope, altitude, and lithology also change from place to place. These factors in combination have resulted in a unique type of vegetal cover in this mountainous state. Deciduous, conifer, shrubs, and scrubs are all found within the confines of the state (Chib, 1977: 47).
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