A great lover of Kashmir

Jawahar Kaul Ganhar

Kashmir since ancient times has been the centre of Sanskrit learning and as such has given to the country (India) great luminaries in the field of Sanskrit literature as Sanskrit was the main language of communication of the valley. During this period extending thousands of years in the past many great Sanskrit scholars, poets, critics, grammarians, historians etc were born here who wrote valuable literature in the language.
Among the famous writers were Abhinav Gupta founder of Philosphy of Kashmiri Shavisim, Mammata, Anand Verman, Vasu-Gupta, Khemendra, Bilhan and the famous poet and historian Pandit Kalhan considered one of the greatest sons of Kashmir. The other native historians of Kashmir who carry the torch of history writing after pandit Kalhan were Shirivara, Prajyabhatta, Skukha and Jonaraja who continued the history of Kashmir (Rajtarangani) on the model of their pioneer. The work of these scholars is a treasure. As far as history is concerned “Raj Tarangani” is such a historical book which has a international fame. The other famous historian who wrote about medieval Kashmir was Jonaraja who was a man of great learning. This shows that since early times Kashmir had a tradition of historial writings.
It was in 1889 that the work of the Kashmiri scholar Pandit Kalhan came into lime light when a great lover of ancient Kashmir and explorer, Dr. Mark Aural Stein translated Raj Tarangani (River of Kings) with the assistance of Kashmiri Pandits scholars, Gobind Kaul, Mukand Ram Shastri and Harbhat Shastri into English.
Stein was a European scholar born at Budapest, Hungry on November 26, 1862. His father Nicholas Stein was a rich merchant and mother was Anna Stein. It is said Stein had a great desire of visiting India to study its culture and history. After graduation Stein took interest in the archaeological studies as he was advised by his teacher and guide Geogre Bulher, himself an eminent scholar to study rich classical wisdom of India. After getting doctoral degree in 1884 he was appointed as registrar of Punjab University and also Principal, Oriental College Lahore of undivided India.
It was in 1881 Sir Aurel Stein visited Kashmir to study oldest manuscript of Raj Tarangani. During his stay in Kashmir he found large number of manuscript written in Sanskrit and Shardha languages about which his guide George Bulher had already prepared a detailed script. Besides manuscripts he also came across Pandit scholars who were well-versed with the Sanskrit and Sharda language who helped him in the task.
Stein had a great love for Kashmir and called Kashmir his second home. He used to spent long time in a year at a place known as “Mohan Marg” situated in the lap of “Haramukh Peak” near famous tourist resort of Sonamarg which he used as his base camp for central Asain exploration. During his stay in Kashmir he not only developed interest in studying Sanskrit, Sharda and Kashmiri language but also in folk lore of Kashmir from a professional story teller “Hatim Tilwoon” resident of Sindh Valley. It was from one such story teller that Aural Stein learnt the folk tales of Kashmir, which he later on presented to the world as “Hatim Tales”, with the full co-operation of Pandit Gobind Kaul. Stein was so impressed with the beauty of “Mohan Marg” that he had wished that after his death he (Stein) should be buried there but this internationally acclaimed explorer and archeologist passed away at Kabul in Afganistan in 1943 at the age of 81 years and was buried there.
Aural Stein has written number of books on Kashmir and on Central Asia, which include ancient geography of Kashmir, Hatims Tales, Ancient Kohtan Innermost Asia four volumes, besides numerous articles in Royal Asiatic Society Journal and translating of Kalhan’s Rajtarangani which gave him world wide recoganisation.
Rajtrangani has been translated into Germani, Hindi, Urdu and Kashmiri etc languages. To remember this famous European explorer, University of Kashmir organized a seminar on the legacy of Sir Aurel Stein in August 2004 at the center of central Asian studies at the University Campus of Kashmir University, Srinagar.
The University of Kashmir should establish a Chair in his name in the department of History and also act as nodal agency as Dr. Mark Aurel Stein belongs to Kashmir and then to the rest of the world.