History of Jammu and Kashmir

Since independence, Jammu & Kashmir has taken more media space and government time than any other Indian state. It all started with the Instrument of Accession signed by the ruler of J&K in 1947, Pakistani invasion, Nehru going to the UN, Article 370, appointment and arrest of Sheikh Abdullah, Sheikh-Indira agreement of 1975, appointment and dismissal of Farooq Abdullah, rigged elections of 1987 (known to be the turning point in the history of the state), Insurgency which started in 1989, kidnapping and release of the Home Minister’s daughter in 1990, migration of Kashmiri Pandits, the siege of Hazbratlal, and so on. In the last few years, stone throwers are making news.

This article was compiled in April 2002 and re-edited in April 2017.

What touched me the most was the gunning down of innocent Amarnath yatris and the death of Brigadier Shergill and Colonel Chauhan by an Improvised Explosion Device The shattering response of government of India was that we have to live with the danger of an IED since the company manufacturing them in the U.K. had shut down. Is this the way we treat our soldiers, who risk their lives to protect the nation in scorching heat and freezing cold? If the same incident had taken place in the US, could we expect this response from the American government and media?

The question that stirred me was, “Was Kashmir always like this?”

This article is based on various volumes of the magnum opus – The History and Culture of the Indian People, General Editor R.C. Majumdar, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Periods referred to in this article are as covered by individual volumes.

This article traces the Kashmiri History from 300 to 1850 A.D. Chapter 1 is up to 1000 a.d., two from 1000-1700, three from 1700 to 1947 and four covers the accession of J&K to India / U.S. towards J&K at the time of India's independence.

It is followed by a gist of events that led Nehru to the United Nations and false facts. At end of article are links to recent articles including the author's E book, “All you wanted to know about the Jammu and Kashmir problem.”

Amongst the oldest chronicles is the Rajatarangini. It is the history of Kashmir, written in verse, by Kalhana in 1149-50 A.D. While this book is considered a masterpiece and followed a method of historical research, the author’s account before the seventh century cannot be considered as trustworthy. He was followed by Jonaraja who, died in 1459 A.D, imitated Kalhana’s style and brought the history narrative up to the reign of Zain-ul-Abidin. Srivara, Prajya Bhatta, and Suka carried on the history till Kashmir’s conquest by Akbar.

Up to 600 B.C.

According to the Rajatarangini, the oldest ruler was Gonanda I, who appears to have ruled in the days just before the Mahabharata. It is Emperor Ashok who is said to have founded the city of Srinagari, now Srinagar.

Among the many tribes in ancient North India were the Uttarakurus, who were located beyond the Himalayas. Though regarded as mythical, they appear as a historical tribe in Aitareya Brahmana, which states that - “Janatapi Atyarati was eager to conquer the land of the Uttarakurus or the land of Gods.” Zimmer places the land of Uttarakurus in Kashmir.

The dialect of the North was known for its purity hence, Brahmanas flocked to the North for the purposes of study. This was corroborated by the fact that Taxila became a centre of learning and classical Sanskrit was first developed in Kashmir.

Alexander left the King of Abhisara to rule in Kashmir. According to the Mahavimsa, the Third Buddhist Council met at Pataliputra (Patna) and deputed a missionary by the name of Majjhantika to go to Kashmir and Gandhara (in modern day Afghanistan).

320 to 740 A.D.

According to Kalhana, the Gupta age was nearly completely ruled by the Gonanada dynasty, which was about 300 years. It is also believed that the Kushanas and the Huns ruled Kashmir during this period.

After them, a new dynasty known as Karkota or Naga was founded by Durlabha-Vardhana. He had married the daughter of the last Gonanada king and became king in 527 A.D. According to Hiuen Tsang who visited Kashmir, the king ruled over parts of western and north-western Punjab as well. The King’s son Chandrapida sent an envoy to the Chinese in 713 A.D. for help against the Arabs. Even after lack of help of any sort, he was able to defend his kingdom against the Arabs.

He was followed by Lalitaaditya Muktapada in 724 A.D., the greatest king of that dynasty. He defeated the Tibetans and the Turks. His extensive conquests, up to Bengal, made Kashmir the most powerful kingdom since the days of the Guptas. The most famous of his works is the Martanda Temple. He died in 760 AD while the dynasty continued to rule till the middle of the ninth century AD. When Jayapida, the grandson of Lalitaditya, lost the throne of Kashmir, he came to North Bengal.

Besides the Purannas, there are certain texts called Upapuranas, also 18 in number. Among these works is the Vishnudharmottara, a Vaishnava work from Kashmir. It deals with fine arts like dancing, singing, painting, and sculpture besides other subjects. The Pancharatna had three distinct versions, amongst which, the one relating to Kashmir is known as the Tantrakhyayika.

The Hinamaya school of Buddhism was divided into Vaikhasika and Sautrantika. The former was popular in Kashmir on account of their acceptance of the Vibhashas, compiled around the second century A.D., and translated by the Chinese in 383-434 A.D. These are mainly studied and preserved in Kashmir. Vasubandhu (5th century A.D), a native of Gandhara went to Kashmir, made a study of the Vibhashas and condensed them into Kosa. This Bhashya (commentary) came to be regarded as one of the classical texts by monks of Hinayana and Mahayana sects. It attained so much importance in China that schools were started after Kosa. It is still studied in China and Japan.

The Sautrantika School came into being as a bitter opponent of Vaibhasikas. The traditional founder, Kumaralabdha, was a native of Taxila. Another great proponent was a native of Kashmir and a great Sastra-master, Srilabha.

In the 8th century A.D. Sarvajnamitra, a nephew of the King of Kashmir became one of the principal teachers of Nalanda.

Renowned scholar, Kumarjiva, responsible for translating over 100 Sanskrit texts into Chinese, was taken by his mother at the age of nine to Kashmir to study Buddhist literature. After completing his studies, he visited Central Asia. From 318 to 413 A.D., he translated texts and was the first to interpret Mahamaya philosophy in China. The fact that Kumarajiva was taken from Kuchi to Kashmir for the purposes of education shows the high position held by Kashmir in the Buddhist world.

Among the Kashmiri scholars were Sanghabhuti (381-384 A.D.), Buddhajiva (423 A.D.), and Dharmamitra (422-424 A.D.). Another noble son was Gunavarman. He proceeded to Ceylon and Java and preached Buddhism there, reaching Nanking in 431 A.D.

750 to 1000 A.D.

Lalitaditya’s son Vajraditya, who ruled from 762 A.D., is said to have sold many Kashmiris to the Arabs of Sindh and introduced many Islamic practices in Kashmir. The Arab governor of Sind raided Kashmir around 770 A.D. and took many slaves and prisoners. The next successor was Jayapida. He was a brave general like his grandfather Lalitaditya. Away from Kashmir, he won some battles and lost others. He ruled Kashmir from 770 A.D., up to the closing years of the eighth century. Thereafter, a series of kings ruled Kashmir. The Karkota dynasty came to an end in 855-856 A.D.

Avanti-varman was the founder of the Utpala dynasty. Through a series of engineering operations, he used river waters to increase agricultural output significantly. He was an able general who brought neighboring areas under his control. He died under tragic circumstances, to be succeeded by his minor son Gopala-varman. His mother Suganadha ran the administration, and later on went to become Queen. She was overthrown by the Tantrin infantry, a powerful political organization in Kashmir. What followed was a number of kings with no significant contributions. The Utpala dynasty came to an end in 939 A.D.

Next in line was Yasakara who earned a reputation as a man of great learning. Besides being a good administrator, he built a Matha (monastery) for the residence of students coming from Aryadesa to Kashmir for higher education. Following him, an important king was Parvagupta who died in 950 A.D., only to be succeeded by his wife Didda a woman of keen intelligence. A no nonsense women, she got rid people of who came in her way of ascending the throne in 980 A.D., which again gives a clue about the power held by women. She died in 1003 A.D., not before establishing the supremacy of the Lohara dynasty in Kashmir.

Two powerful women in the 10th century were Suganadha and Didda. It gives you a sense of the status of woman then.

A Turkish family ruled the Kabul Valley and Gandhara for a long time. Kallar, a minister, overthrew the king to lay foundation of the Hindu Shahi Dynasty in the second half of the ninth century A.D., and is identified as Lalliya Shahi in the Rajatarangini. Lalliya was brave and able to withstand the invasion of King Sankaravarman of the Utpala Dynasty of Kashmir. After the death of Lalliya’s son, Kamaluka, his grandson Bhima - in about 900 A.D., ascended the throne. By giving his daughter in marriage to the King of Lohara in Poonch, he was able to exercise influence in Kashmir to build a magnificent temple of Vishnu and call it Bhimaksava, which has now been converted into a Muslim Ziarat. There were a series of kings thereafter. It ended with King Jayapala who fought the Sultan of Ghazni.


The Buddhist Sivasvamin has gifted us long epics, Kapphanabhyudaya and Haravijaya, which narrates the story of Siva killing the demon Andhaka. Another epic was Yudhishthiravijaya, narrating the story of Yudhisthir up to his coronation. The Jain Somadeva, composed the Nitivakyamritaa which is almost based on Kautilya’s Arthasastra. Numerous books were written during this period.


In Kashmir, we have two schools of Saivism, the Spandasastra and the Pratyabhijnasastra. The former was founded by Vishnugupta, to whom Siva revealed the Sivasutra. The important works of the latter are Sivadrishti and Pratyabhijnasutra composed by Somananda and his pupil Utpala. In Paramarthasara, Abhinavgupta, has combined the teaching of Advaita with the practices of Yoga and the Bhakti of Saivism and Vaishnavism in such a manner that it can be said to strike a new path altogether.

During this period, Kashmir continued to be an important centre of Buddhism which attracted monks from western countries. The Vikramasila monastery in modern day North Bihar had six important dvara-panditas, one of them being from Kashmir, Ratnavajra. A scholar named Ananta translated texts and preached Buddhism in Tibet during this period.

Kashmir Saivism

The system is also referred to as ‘Trika’ - the triple principle with which the system deals with Sivai-sakti-anu. Though the other schools of Saivism accept these three categories, Kashmiri Saivism regards the individual soul and the world as essentially identical with Siva and so those three are reducible to one. The beginnings of Kashmir Savisim are to be traced to the Sivasutras, whose authorship is attributed to Siva himself. The sutras are said to have been revealed to sage Vishnugupta, who lived about the end of the 8th century A.D. Kallata with Somananda were his pupils.

The Ultimate Reality in Kashmir Saivism is Siva himself. He is pure consciousness, absolute experience and the supreme lord. He resides in all that moves and all that does not. He is called anuttara, the reality beyond which there is nothing. The manifestation of the universe is effected through Power (sakti) of Siva. Sakti is Siva’s creative energy. The five most important modes of Sakti are -

One, Chit-sakti the power of intelligence, which means that the Supreme shines without dependence on any other light.
Two, Anada-sakti, the power of independence which is bliss or joy.
Three, Icchchha-sakti, the power of will.
Four, Jnana-sakti, the power of knowledge.
Five, Kriya-sakti, the power of action.

Since Sankaracharya visited Kashmir, it is likely that Advaita influenced the formulation of Kashmir Saivism Solar Cult. Though questioned recently Kashmir may have some hand in popularizing the worship of the Sun in western India. Towards middle of the 8th century was built the magnificent Marthananda temple.

Surya Martand Mandir Anantnag

While resting in the Valley, the learned Brahmans told Sankaracharya that unless he defeated the knowledgeable members of Sarada Pitha, they would not accept the supremacy of his philosophy. With his arguments, he defeated all the learned men at that high seat of learning, including Jains and Buddhists. The King of Kasmira or Kashmir had made arrangements for the Sankaracharya’s stay at Srinagar but he chose to stay near an ancient Siva temple overlooking the city. Since then, the temple has popularly been known as the Sankarcharya temple.

Receive Site Updates