Mission ”Kashmir”

Dr.Etee Bahadur
Mission Kashmir is an action packed movie, it was a hit at the box office in 2000, although the critics bring forth the view that their was a lack of conviction in the storyline. Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the Director probably wished to tell more about Kashmir, its society and the various issues of the valley, but unfortunately these things did not come out in the movie. (Screen, 3 November 2001)
This article today is about another mission in Kashmir, it is about the mission of a Muslim missionary in mediaeval Kashmir. The book,A Muslim Missionary in Mediaeval Kashmir (being the English translation of Tohfatu’l-Ahbab) by Kashinath Pandit in 2009. The book is a biography of Samsu’d -Din Muhammad Araqi an Iranian Shi’a missionary of the Nurbakhshiyyeh order who visited Kashmir twice. The reason for his first visit to Kashmir was to procure some herbs which were necessary for treatment. These herbs and medicines were to be found in the mountains of Kashmir and the rocks of Tibet. Kashmir was a faraway place from Khurasan and Araqi had brought with him a few gifts, to the Kashmir royal court , one of which was a fur-coat studded with twelve gold buttons. Six months went into the making of this fur-coat by the goldsmith who was known for his art of gold work and the buttons of gold attested to his skill.
This obviously meant that preparations were on for more than six months at Herat for the departure of Araki to Kashmir for his ‘mission.’
Araki reaches Kashmir along with a Mir Dervish who gives him company in this long journey.This biography of Araki provides details of how his mission in Kashmir was accomplished, and the text has referred to it as, ” to remove the darkness of kufr (infidels) and aberration” (2009, 64).
It is in his first visit that we see how Araqi establishes his Sufi credentials, as he is seen going into a trance at the cruise at the Wular lake when he accompanies the sultan for shooting ducks (Siberian ducks who migrate to the lakes in the Valley during winters, 2009, 83). Music and dance, we know, are a part of the Sufi tradition. Soon as the stories of Araqi’s ecstatic dance reach Srinagar and a lot more people of saintly disposition become his disciple and his circle of friends widen.
He is now, not the same Araqi, who is seen to go in a trance at the Wular.
By his second visit, Araqi begins to receive stronger support from the ruling clan and this makes his mission in Kashmir, of bringing about a transition to Islam in the Valley easier. The first part of this mission is to destroy temples. The temple at Koh-i-maran( Hari Parbat temple) is one among the many temples destroyed and the book in an entire part refers to it under the heading, Arakismssion of destroying idols and temples of infidels. (2009, 209-276) Further with the strong support that Araqi receives from the ruling clan, we take note of the fact that by his second visit, ” everyday groups of infidels numbering five hundred to two thousand or even more came to the residence of Shmasu’d-Din bringing with them the ceremonial thread ( zunnar)” once they had reached his residence , ” his subordinates and Dervishes would take off the ceremonial thread from the necks of the infidels and polytheists, administer kelima to them , make them eat beef and get them circumcised.”( 2009, 237-238) The biography tells us that , ” in each locality and habitat , a ‘master -mulla’ was appointed to educate the converts on the Quran, principles of Islam , system of offering prayers (namaz) , fasting , Islamic laws and tenets of faith etc.” (2009,238)
As the biography moves on we read, that Araqi in the first visit to the Valley , had found that the womenfolk had retained and held on to their cultural ties tenaciously. The vestiges of the pre-islamic faith, as Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani had found in the country were still there. Now on his second visit, he moves in a planned manner. His men spread across the country and infact , as we read, “reached each and every house. When they came to a homestead , they would get hold of a cow belonging to the housekeeper, kill it and sit down and eat beef in the company of the womenfolk and family members . Along with this they administered the recitation of the kelima to the womenflolk of the household, and taught the basics of religion, the pillars of faith and the teachings of Islam.” (2009, 241)
It was indeed a forcible and planned conversion which took place in the Valley of Kashmir to convert the Kashmiri Hindus.
(The author teaches Development Studies , at the Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies Jamia Millia Isalmia)


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