SRINAGAR: For the first time in recent history, a high profile academic centre to study Kashmir, its tumultuous history, religions, cultures and politics has come up in the valley. The focus of the study, however, will be “within the broader perspective of Indian thought and culture.” The Vision document of the Institute of Kashmir Studies, set up in the Kashmir University with the support of South Asia Foundation, has categorically spelled out its aims and objectives. “Historically Kashmir has been an integral part of the cultural mosaic of India and no study of Kashmiri thought and culture is possible without situating it within the broader perspective of Indian thought and culture,’’ the document says.
The Institute has been a dream project of Governor Lt General (retd.) S K Sinha, who is also the chancellor of the Kashmir University. The Institute was caught in a controversy when its first director Prof Ishaq Khan was shifted to Sheikh-ul-Alam chair. His successor, Dr G. M Khawaja alias Meem Hai Zaffar – an expert in Kashmiri Shaivism – was elevated from the position of college Principal to the director of the Institute.
“Kashmir has been a highly advanced seat of learning since ancient times. To the poets like Bilhana, Kalhana and others it was Sardadese. Taking its place along with the famous universities of Taksasila and Nalanda, Sardapitha was also known as Sripitha for conferring Sarvajna degrees,’’ the Vision document says, introducing the Institute and its academic objectives. “As a matter of fact, Kashmir had been in the vanguard of the advancement of human knowledge and civilization,’’ the document says.
The Vision document sets a clear course for the pursuit of the academic research in the Institute. “From the early centuries of Christian era almost to the end of 12th century A.D, Kashmir was a great seat of learning and knowledge. Throughout the Indian sub-continent it was known as Sardapitha, i.e., the abode of Sarasvati, the Goddess of knowledge. During the 3rd century AD, 4th Buddhist Council was held here,” the document states.
Describing the vision behind the Institute, the document reveals that its aim is “to create and enhance intellectual space for inter-disciplinary research and inter-faith dialogue, in order to promote better understanding of the pluralistic culture of Kashmir vis-à-vis issues of contemporary relevance and to restore Kashmir to its earlier position of being in the vanguard of the advancement of human civilization.”
The Vision document does talk about the past seven centuries of Muslims in Kashmir but its emphasis is on Reshi movement. “When Kashmir was enlightened by the massage of Islam, the people here did not totally reject the spiritual heritage which their ancestors had bequeathed for them. In the ancient times the spiritual personages in India including Kashmir were known by the epithet of Reshi. After the advent of Islam we find a new galaxy of Reshis who have propounded a beautiful blend of the essence of Kashmiri spiritual tradition and Islam,’’ the Vision document says and adds. “These Reshis were true Muslims but still they did not take meat and abstained from all kinds of violence and preached the same message to their followers, thus in the contemporary Kashmiri Islam we have not only pristine and clear message of Islam but also the spiritual essence of Buddhism as well as Shaivism.”-SANA