The Kashmiri References on Khas People

With 7826 verses, which are divided into eight folios, the book begins with the legendary reign of King Gonarda

Sept. 26, 2014, 5:45 p.m.

Jogesh Chunder Dutt, Kings of Kashmira: Being a translation of the Sanskrita work Rajataranggini (London: Trubner & Co, 1879)

The Rajataranggini, a twelveth century book, which explains the history of Kashmir, has many important references about the Khas people. Written in Sanskrit by a Kashmiri Brahman named Pandita Kahlana, the book describes the history of Kashmir and its monarchs in a way that nobody had ever contemplated before his time.

The author, who seems to be a court staff at the royal palace, chronicles the rulers of the Kashmir valley from earliest times, from the epic period of the Mahābhārata to the reign of Sangrama Deva (c.1006 CE), before the start of the Muslim era. Kahlana draws a long list of kings which dates back to the 19th century BCE. His list is comprehensive, although there are many details in the book, which give the impression that the book is not as historical as the author has claimed. With 7826 verses, which are divided into eight folios, the book begins with the legendary reign of King Gonarda. He is described as contemporary to Yudhisthira of the Mahābhārata epic. The real history, however, begins from the period of the Mauryas.

PanditaKahlana was the son of Champakprabhu. He was well read and had good understanding of the Kashmira valley, hills and mountains. His father was a Minister of Kashmira. The book, in its make up looks like Gopalarajavanshavali of Nepal, or similar chronicles of medieval Europe and of the Muhammadan East.

Jogesh Chunder Dutt, who translated the Rajataranggini in English for the first time, also contributed a preface to the book, explaining the overall context of the book. In this preface, referring to the Himalayan region from Kashmir to Nepal, and the overall significance of the book, Dutt points out: “[W]ithin this vast continent lived from the remotest antiquity a portion of the Aryan race who developed among themselves a degree of civilization unattained by any other nature of antiquity. This people, though originating from the same stock, speaking the dialectics of the same language, and following the dialictics of the same religion, had only divided themselves into different tribes according to the physical nature of the portion of the country which they each came to occupy. Th It is very likely that Khasas came to be settled there long before others came to join. This seems to be the basis of animosity that Khasas had against others including the Kashmiri kings.e Kashmirians and the Nepalese who inhabitated the mountainous region of the Himalayas were different from those who dwell in the valleys of the Indus or the Ganges or occupied the deserts of Rajputana or the tableland of Maharashtra. Nor did the division cease there.” Referring to Houen Sang, the Chinese pilgrim, who visited this region in the 7th century, Dutta speaks of 138 such principalities, of which 110 were personally visited by Houen Sang. The internal diversity between them was therefore bound to exist.

The Rajataranggini mentions about the Khas people in different context. Although no specific chapter is devoted to them, they find space here and there. From the details provided, it is clear that Kashmir and the adjoining principalities had significant presence of Khas communities. They came from different realms and wielded wealth and power. They had their own kingdoms (or lorddoms) in several places. They differed vastly with the Kashmiri kings and their people. It is clear that the word Kashmira itself seems to be predominantly related with the Khas [Khas-mira] people; however, Kahlana neglects to explain this connection. This is probably the reason Khasas posed challenge in the existing power relationship. If Kahlana’s descriptions are to be believed in, and the derogatory statements about Khasas are not just the calculated expression, they seem to be less civilized as well.

According to Kahlana, King Jayapira, who was a great patron of learning, ascended the throne of Kashmir in 745. He used to invite men of genius to his court. He also employed learned men in collecting the work of Patanjali, Katyana and Panini. He was brave and used to expand territory continuously. Once when he set out for conquest of the Kingdom of Bhimsena, which appears to be a Khas kingdom, and again in Nepal, “he was beaten and imprisoned, but on both occasions he managed to escape and to triumph, over his enemies in the end.”  Kahlana also writes that in early 10th century, in the short reign of Kashmiri King Gopalavarma, Minister Prabhakara (who was a favorite of the queen mother Sugandha), defeated the reigning Shahi, another Khas dynasty, because he had disobeyed his orders to build a town in Shahirajya. This seems to have been some petty dependent or tributary king. A place called Dinnagrania is also said to have been inhabited by the Khasas. Kahlana also mentions about how the Kashmiri King tried to conquest King Aramuri [Arimundi] of Nepal, and was imprisoned in deplorable condition at the bank of Kali-gandaki river. King Aramuri has been referred to as “the learned and wily king of Nepal”who wished to engage himself in war with Jayapira.

Further, another King, Sussala, has been mentioned in another context. His armies are said to have entered a town of the Khashas. Sussala is credited for attacking and chastising them. He is said to have fortunately returned to Lohara, his place, in time, passing through roads difficult to traverse on account of fall of snow. He faced death at every step but his period of life was not yet ended, and he lived and thought of the means of obtaining Kashmira.

Even though the Khashas wielded powers, they are not named with respect anywhere in Kahlana’s book. In one place Kahlana writes: “The powerful lord of Khasha had, through indulgence in wine and in gross vices, become an object of pity, like a vulgar beast, and lost his senses. His courtiers acted properly or improperly without any restriction.” At another place, Kahlana states how the Khashas were manipulated by interlocutors by making them drink. They were made to drink, and the fact was intimated to Bhoja, the puppet of a local king. The king was informed without reserve, by Bhoja, of what was 'going on, “but that wise sovereign whose senses were not bewildered, felt doubtful about the conclusion of the peace and uncertain about the success of the negotiation without making an impression on the heart of the enemy; and he sent, queen Samanya to Taramulaka.” Still in another reference, Damshaka, a lord of Kampana, is said to have incurred the king's anger because 'he was enjoying prosperity; he fled to "Vishalaya and was kitted by the Khashas.” Another lord, Udaya, crossed over the Sankata in the month of Vaishakha and fought a battle with Bhikshu who was attended by the Khasha. All these accounts give a poor impression of the Khas people.

As it appears, the country of the Khasas is said to have also comprised the valleys lying to the west of Pira-Pantsala-range between the middle course of Vitasta (Jhelum) in the west and the Kastavata [Khasan] in the east. The country of Rajauri, which was ruled by the Kambojas in epic times, was ruled by the Khasas in the later times.

The Rajataranggini is still a valuable work. The scholars writing on the Khasas may find it extremely important even now.

Dr. Bipin Adhikari

Dr. Bipin Adhikari

Dr Adhikari is a constitutional expert. and is associated with Nepal Consulting Lawyers

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