Acharya Abhinavgupta Millenial Celeberation

Raj Nehru
Kashmir, the land of sages the citadel of spirituality has always been held in highest esteem. Even during Mahabarata time Lord Krishna has said that it is unwise to annex Kashmir as it is the land of Paravati. Right from Mahabarta era till 900 AD, Kahmir has remained as the womb nurturing different cultures, be it vedic, vashnavite, shavite, bhuddist, tantric or Shakti cult. Perhaps the flame of sprituality continued. The Kashmir of this period also provides us an example of higher order tolerance, where no clash of cultures ever happened nor any exile of faiths and practices. It had in fact provided the enabling environment to practice and debate various view points where all streams contributed to the elevation of collective consciousness. In a true sense this was the real Kashmiriat and not the one that is getting imposed today.
Kashmir not only produced great saints, scholars, artists, grammarians but also has registered itself as the birthplace for the greatest Kings and Conquerors, who had been successful in extending their boundaries from central Asia to Konkan and North East, without any bloodshed, treachery & plunder. Not a single incident of loot is ever reported. Amongst many such great Kings, Lalitaditya Muktapida’s name is one amongst the tallest, whose comparison is also made with Napoleon and Alexander. I also happen to read at some place that Lalitaditya’s total conquered area was larger than Alexander & Napoleon
Interestingly, when Indian kings were giving up to external aggressions in the rest of the country, Kashmir rulers were giving aggressirs a tough time. Whether Mahamood Ghaznavi or Ghori, despite their several attempts to attack Kashmir,  were defeated many times by Kashmir Kings. Ghaznavi had to return as a defeated invader in many battles, with Kashmir Kings, including ones at Rajouri, Poonch and at fortress of Loharkoot. Unfortunately Kashmir had to give up to the cunning and treachery of Shah Mir somewhere in 1338 AD, who usurped the throne and then rest became the history, consequences of which are being paid till date.
It was during the reign of the mighty Lalitaditya, who made Kashmir the imperial power with his might, valor and military skills and brought Atrigupt, a Shaivite, to Kashmir. Atrigupt was serving the King of Kanauj, Yasovarman, who was also defeated by Lalitaditya  Lalitaditya was deeply influenced by his scholarly knowledge. Despite Lalitaditya himself being a Vaishnavite, he requested Atrigupt to come over to Kashmir which indicates the kind of inquisitiveness to learn, accommodative and adaptive beliefs and valuing diversity by Kashmirian kings a very rare and unique culture that could be found anywhere. Lalitaditya got built a spacious house and also granted a Jagir of land to Atrigupt. It is through his lineage we had Abhinavgupt born in Kashmir. Abhinavgupta , also known as Acharya Abhinavgupta was an ardent practitioner of Shiva Yoga and many believe him to be a Bhairva incarnate born to bless the Kashyapvaer with his spritual pursuits. He was born somewhere in 940AD to Narsimhagupta & his contributions not only strengthened Kashmir but also enriched India’s philosophical traditions.
He has explained about his birth in the first shaloka of Tantrloka, that is worth noticing.
“ Vimalkalashriya Abhinavshrishti Mahajanani….”
“Through the union of my mother Vimala and father Narsimgupta who was filled with Amrit of Anutar Shastra. I Abhinavgupta was born”.
Abhinavgupt also known as Bhairav incarnate, is considered as Visionary of Visionaries, Thinker of Thinkers, Perceptor of Perceptors &  Acharya of Acharyas. One of his disciple, Madhuraj, who had travelled from Madhurai to find a guru and finally found that in Abhinava in Kashmir has explained about him in his book” Gurunath Paramarsh. Maduraj, while leaving a pen picture in his book has mentioned that Kashmir was the real seat of learning.
Abhinavgupta in his entire period authored more than 40  literary works on various disciples  including Systems, Siddhant, Kram, Bhairava, Yamala, Kaula, Tantra Shastra etc. In an era when there was no technology, electricity and under the harshest weather conditions, it is a real wonder to imagine how Acharya was able to produce such a world class work that has starting attracting global attention now. More than 50 universities and western scholars around the world are researching over his work.  Acharya’s commentaries on Aanadvardhan’s Dhavnya Loka and on the Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra also made him famous all over the country.
Surprising to many, Rajtarangini has not mentioned about him and his great works. Perhaps when we closely examine this, it may be because, Kalhana being focused more on Kings and those scholars attached to Court of the Kings or who enjoyed ruling class patronage. Abhinavagupt was undoubtedly ahead of courts and patronages
Unfortunately, we donot have full access to his all the works given the gruesome period of Kashmir after 12th Century, where destruction, vandalism, murder and loot plundered our common heritage and most of the ancient works were destroyed.
It is said that at the age of 68, he wrote the Bhairav Stotra and later entered a cave near Bheerava, with his 1200  disciples, chanting the verses of Bhairav Storta and got fully immersed in Shiva and never returned back.
Remembering him after 1000 years makes it important as he is an important link to the rich tradition of Kashmir and rekindling it has gained significance at a  time when radicalized Kashmir is bent on destroying its roots on one hand and on the other, the exilees are running the risk of culture dilution through their geographical disintegration. Celebrating his millennial year will undoubtedly bring back focus on the heritage and spritual connections that Kashmir has with the larger subcontinent and will enlighten not only the Kashmiris  (specifically our youngsters) but entire nation and the world, which will also serve the purpose of giving true and rightful homage to this legend.


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