The Nilamatpuranam and Kashmir
by M. M. Karmayogi J. L. K. Jalali
WE have to thank Prof. Ram Lal Kanjilal (my professor in the Shri Pratap College) and Prof. Jagaddhar Zadoo for their joint labour in compiling the present edition of Nilamatapuranam, which was published as far back as 1924. When I used to see my Bengali Professor transcribing the Sanskrit text in Bengali script, so valued by the Bengalis, I was amused. Whenever he would copy out a Sanskrit book or document, he would transcribe it in Bengali. I could not then understand why he did so. Later after 40 years I could satisfy my curiosity, when I came in contact with the late renowned scholar, Prof. Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyaya (or Chatterji) ; who would tell me that he used to recite Bhagvadgita in Sanskrit written in the Bengali script. Prof. Kanjilal and Prof. Zadoo’s compilation is admirable although there are inexplicable lacunae in it, which could have been filled in, had a little more labour been put in or effort made to carefully go through the different portions of the Puranam. Though the Editors have themselves referred to such lacunae not all and most important, I as reader and student of the Puranam feel that the Research Department of the Jammu and Kashmir State should have taken it up again and made further search for MSS of the Puranam, which I believe may still be available and have not been known to the department by a non-Kashmiri, least of all by the foreign scholars, without knowing and studying the life, habits, customs, manners, rituals, etc. apart from a thorough knowledge of the land of NAGAS, called Kashmir. To write on metre employed, to infer how men and women lived, who the inhabitants in the past were, does not give the true content of Nilamatpuranam. It is a storehouse, which has to be swept of all excresenees and then made into a running story of historical value of Kashmiri’s past of several thousand years, a past in which for more than a milliard it was a Saras (inland sea) bounded by high mountains and inhabited by people living on its shores and on the mountain slopes whom we know as Nagas, ruled over by a king called Nila with his Headquarters at NILAKUNDA (Vernag) fifty miles to the east of Srinagar of today.Before I proceed further, I consider it proper and an act of gratitude to refer to Dr. Buhler who was responsible for delving the Puranam, out of practical neglect. In the edition of the Puranam, compiled by the two learned professors and followed by others, it appears that what Dr. Buhler has written about the Puranam has been taken for granted and no deeper research has been made. Nilamata is the basic history of Kashmir and the Kashmiris, and it was Dr. Buhler who was responsible for introducing the Paradise on Earth to the scholars and through them to the people of Germany, UK and the world. In Kashmir , occasionally as far as I remember, a learned Brahman for the matter of that, my own family priest, would mention the rites and rituals enjoined on the Kashmiris in the Puranam. I was too young. I could not easily follow what he would say, but my revered mother, Devamali, who though lot conversant with the 3 R’S would avidly try to digest whatever she heard and, repeat to her children during the evening hours after the day’s chores had been finished and we were preparing for the warm bed of wintry night a night really reminiscent of the eight of the Pishachas who had been destroyed by the severe frost and snow after they were fought out of the Valley with the help of Vedic Aryans, invited by NILA at the behest of his father Kashyapa, from the plains of Bharat.
Along with this she would recite verses from Sanskrit and Persian too, and other stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata, especially the stories of Harischandra, Nala and Damayanti, Sati Savitri Ahalya, and others. This was responsible for my earnest desire to study what the foreigners called “Myths” and even today a great archaeologist would welcome me “to cherish my myths”, perhaps thinking under an obsession that by post dating those “Myths” he could succeed in shaking my faith, or those of other citizens of India in the well established and well pronounced antiquity of my Shastras and scriptures far beyond the 4000 years B. C. creation of the Christian world.
Nilamatpuranam from its very composition does not appear to be a work of the Rishi begun and completed at one long sitting. It has been on the anvil for fears and the strokes of the hammer have not been uniform. So looseness, introducing of general theories, beliefs, stories and mythically imaginational rhapsodies, have found this valuable tome of important information. This has been responsible for some confusion as well. If the Puranam were taken up and held in the hand and then shaken off all the superfluities, it would give an interesting story of Kashmir, its formation, its original inhabitants, intruders and their outlaw, and consequential inhabiting of the previous race of people called Kashmiris whose ancestors have been the NAGAS, it has clearly to be borne in mind that the author is one well versed in Sanskrit, saturated with Naga words, terms, idioms, expressions, and has a tradition of centuries, of ages, behind him in making this composition. Even the term NAGA itself need not be taken as a Sanskrit but as a Naga word adopted by the Sanskritists. One can never be sure whether the language employed originally has remained intact during the course of centuries to the time the composition has been actually recorded in black and white. These are the considerations which the present day reader has to keep in mind before he comes to a particular conclusion in a particular matter.
We have to be thankful to Dr. Buhler for his labour of love, and I bow to these German scholars first, and then to English and French savants who have made my Kashmir known throughout the world. After all foreign scholars, whatever their country, environments, surroundings, bring-up and outlook have been, born and bread up in an atmosphere different from that of mine, whenever they have come and had an urge to visit India and then my Kashmir, I and my People were not known to them, and they started comparing my land to Switzerland not Switzerland to Kashmir, or comparing me to a Jew and not a Jew to me a Kashmiri, for they had seen Switzerland and the Jews first. This ‘liking’ was not confined to land and the people only, but to the hoary scriptures, and other literary works and compositions and introduce Hoiner’s Iliad or Odyssey to me rather than my Ramayana and Mahabharata to the people of Rome and Greece. It was but natural. And what our Indian authors, scholars and researchers learnt and then produced was nothing but investitured in the thinking of those ‘Foreign Greats’ because India was a dependency of Great Britain, and whatever the British Masters wanted the slaves to learn and practise was presented to them in the then “modernised” garb. And the wonder is that whenever I would study an Indian “modern” author, I had to learn what lie had copied from a foreign scholar or a foreign periodical, until Tilak, Aurobindo, Gandhi, Tagore, Malaviya, Jawaharlal, Das, Bose, Savarkar, Parmanand and others taught me I-ness and My-ness first to well understand You-ness and He-ness. It does not mean, no, never, that there is nothing worth learning from foreign scholars and researchers, authors and writers, saints and mystics or their ancient scriptures, philosophies and other thoughtful literature.
Dr. Buhler was not a Kashmiri. He and Dr. M. A. Stein did their best to learn and know about Kashmir through the medium of Kashmiris knowing Sanskrit (and Persian too in some cases). But this did not qualify them to be called Kashmiris for the purpose of fully understanding Kashmir as a Kashmiri would. All the same they have done a wonderful and unforgettable service to the Kashmiris for which they are and will be always remembered with a deep sense of gratefulness. Kalhana has mentioned in his memorable Rajatarangini the Nilamatpuranam in these words: “That land is Protected by Nila, the lord of all the Nagas, whose regal parasol is formed bv the circular pond (of the Nilakunda) with the Vitasta’s newly rising stream as its stick”. And these two compositions of intrinsic worth and invaluable information form the base of Kashmir History, its Kings, and dynasties, its people, high and low, their customs and manners, their rites and rituals, their traditions and faiths, their economic condition and administrational structures, and so on. Kashmir was geographically an isolated realm accessible to the few interested either as invaders or as visitors (more political than sight-seers), intent upon knowing the people and their faith and everything concerning them as for as possible, and required for statal purposes. The Nilamata has information in regard to the origin of Kashmir, its aboriginal, their beliefs, their node of living, their general behaviour, occupation and the like. It will be a interesting to find in its hoary pages what the general trend and tone of descriptions is. The most dominant is Manes-worship, then comes worship of gods and goddesses. While dealing with and talking of ancestors (pitris) the author describes how shraddhas have to be performed, what offerings to make not without dakshina, (cash and kind) to priests performing the shraddhas. Even in shraddhas the ceremonies are prefaced with worship (puja) of specified deities & gods and goddesses a thing which throughout the Hindu (brahman) world continues even unto this day and will continue for ever. But there is a demarcation between shraddha functions, and other functions like weddings, birthdays, Mekhlas (Yajnopavita) etc. If any shraddha ceremony falls on any of these functions, it is not performed; and nothing connected with shraddha is allowed to be done on that day. This is very important. Even though we never forget our manes and manes-worship, such festivals and functions of worldliness are not intermixed with shraddhas of one’s pitris (ancestors). The festivity rules out shraddhas.
In the Nilamatpurana as edited by the two professors mentioned above, verses 804 to 808 describe what should be done in the form of Japa, Homa, shraddhas, austerity, charity etc. on Vaishakha Shukla 2nd and 3rd (dvitiya & tritiya) or lunar 2nd and 3rd of the month of Baisakh April and then slokas 817 to 821 give in detail what is to be done on the Purnima (15th lunar day of Vaishakha (April) in the form of worshipping Brahmans with sesame, of Homa (sacrificial offering) with sesame, shraddha, lights in temples with sesame and sesame is be given to 5 or 7 Brahmanas with honey to eat, and so on.
In between the two sets of slokas there appear slokas 809 to 816 which describe what should be done to celebrate the Birthday or Jayanti of Mahatma Buddha, which includes acting, dancing, but which is evidently a contradiction to the observance of tila shraddha, tila eating, tila sacrifice, etc. This contradiction without any doubt leads to the inference that the slokas 808 to 817 are an interpolation in the Puranam inserted to fall in line with the accepted belief in the incarnation (avatra-ship) of Buddha in the rest of India, made by some later interpolator, which has been responsible for the fixation of the date of 7th Century A.D. for the Puranam by Dr. Buhler, and this dating has been accepted by the joint editors of the Puranam, and now by other authors and scholars and writers who have dealt with or written upon this Purana. This is an interpolation and can in no case be taken as the evidence for establishing the date of composition of the NILMATA. On the other hand, there is sufficient evidence in the Purana itself which establishes beyond doubt that this Puranam must have been written several centuries before Christ, and the Nirvana of Buddha. And in support of that are the various rites and rituals, which are still observed at this time in the twentieth century.
As mentioned in the Puranam, there are very important landmarks which confirm that it is of a very old time and not of the 7th century as arbitrarily fixed by Dr. Buhler and followed by easygoing writers. For instance the Purnima of Shravana month (August) nowadays we celebrate as the day of Lord Shiva, and non-Kashmiri Hindus call it RAKHRI. It is the Purnima when the pilgrims to the Holy Cave at Swami Amarnath Ji have darshan of the Holy Lingam, led as they are by the Holy CHHARI every year there. The Chhari is not mentioned, nor the pilgrimage. What is mentioned in the Puranam is that at the junction of Vitasta and Sindhu rivers (which is now called Prayag at Shadipora) people should take a bath and then worship the god of gods “Sharangin” (the archer Vishnu). And how that should be done is described in slokas 853 to 856. It will be marked that it is the Naga custom that is followed viz. that of playing with girls in water. Why Sharingin is mentioned is as far as one can see attributable to the nature of the amorous play after the archer though said to be Lord Vishnu, but correctly speaking the Archer Cupid or Kamadeva is worshipped. And this playing with girls is to be done “Visheshena”. This custom must have, been far older, even before Buddha was born, and his name and teachings and later philosophical invasion of Kashmir took place. In Kashmir, Shaivism was also preceded by Shaktism, and if we say that Kashmir is more the land of Shakti than Shiva, we are but within our proper bounds; because even now wherever you go you find the shrines of Devi (Shakti) spread over, these worshipped and maintained more than the temples of Shiva. If Vishnu is not worshipped here in Kashmir, it is because of the same Shakti Puja which the Vedic Aryan Rishi, the author of Nilamatapuranam harmonised with the introduction of ‘SATI and SATI SAR’ …. because one does not know what the Nagas called this inland sea in their tongue and making her responsible for the desiccation of this watery abode of Shakti, the Lake or inland Sea.
Again, the custom of celebrating the festival of Chaitra Purnima ard the day after, with dance, women, liquor, and Ira flowers indicative of cupidity; things which are of Naga origin and belong to Naga time, and have been faithfully recorded by the Rishi of Nilamata with his Aryan touch. When we come across the festival of celebration of the fall of First Snow, it is a very very old custom, and people are asked to celebrate it with songs, dances, liquor, and what is remarkable is that “shyama devi” is to be honoured or worshipped, which I would interpret as young, beautiful girls whom Shastras would call Shyama, decked in new clothes and adornments, and enjoy the festival with friends, servants, relations, and eat special dishes on snow covered with heavy cloth (I think it refers to the heavy woollen flooring like Lois). This markedly is to be celebrated with <verse> on this fall of snow. This is definitely a Naga custom of very olden times which has come down to us intact, though with the centuries of Buddhism that invaded in between this custom had lost its fervour, and it was only after the ouster of Buddhism that it regained some of its original charm. We keep it alive by “nav shin kharun” and asking the person tricked to entertain the “tricker” (the use of these two terms may be pardoned) on the occasion. This custom could not have been mentioned in the 6th or 7th century when Kashmir was under the influence of Buddhism and it was a time when there was a struggle between the past and the present, and forces to usher in Lalitaditya and his halcyon days, day of glory for Kashmir, were to make themselves felt all rounds.
In short, when we go through the Puranam and the rituals and customs mentioned very carefully, it becomes clear that the Puranam has an older, much older, chronology than ascribed to it. It is true there are some customs and rites which are not mentioned in the Puranam, those were not then observed, and have come into vogue later. It will be seen that the author of the Puranam does not mention the hill Gopadri, which was known so during the reign of king Gopaditya ( 369 B. C. ). So, the composition must have been made before that date. This Gopadri became known as Shankaracharya after the visit in the 8th century A. D. of Adi Shankaracharya Ji to Kashmir, when both Gopadri hill and the Jyeshtheshwar temple on it were given the new name in his honour. For fear of length, I content myself, and I hope my readers will also remain content with what has been recorded above, which undoubtedly establishes that the Nilamatapuranam is of a date much earlier than Buddha, and that the mention of Buddha Jayanti is a later interpolation which does not fit in with what is written about Dvitiya or Tritiya and the Purnima of Vaishakha… KALOHAM (I AM TIME).
…and I am Sid Harth