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The History of Kashmir – Reading Kalhana’s Rajatarangini (The Waves of the Rulers) – Ranjit Sitaram Pandit’s Translation

I fulfilled a childhood dream of reading Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, an excellent source of the history of Kashmir, recently.

I bought a translated work: Kalhana’s Rajatarangini by Ranjit Sitaram Pandit on Amazon. There is also a free version on Internet Archives (archive.org).

Following are some interesting things I found. As you will notice, a lot of reading was not to deep dive into the past, but to find the connection between the present and the past.

My aim is to get you comfortable with historic books (I always felt they are boring, dry, badly printed, with too many superscripts, footnotes, citations and other hard-to-read formats). I hope this raises enough curiosity in you to discover this book by yourself. If you are from J&K like me, it is even more fun to read the history and understand our society better!

I am also trying to build a high-level timeline of some interesting events I have noted below. I am trying to find analogous events around the world to get a feel of what was happening elsewhere in the world.

Keep in mind, that I am not a scholar and am relying completely on the book itself. I am sure there are some translation issues and/or the author’s own biases / point-of-view creeping in. Till I get my hand on the original Sanskrit work (do you have access to one?), I will go by what I read here, as-is.

The first thing I learned was that book is broken into 8 Tarangs (waves). The early Tarangs (from 1st till 6th) are covered in only 260 pages (in the translated work) but the 7th and 8th take 429 pages. Each Tarang starts with a prayer to Parvati, Shiva or Ganesha.

One thing to note is that he used the works Kashmir and Srinagara from the very beginning. So it was an interesting journey to find names of places that I could map to a name used nowadays.

Let us start with Shiva too.

Amarnath

Amarnath has been a place of pilgrimage and a place for devotion since the beginning of Kashmir’s history.

The author tells the story of King Kinnara (Nara  I) who he says was a good person but flipped due to a life experience. Filled with desire for the married daughter of a Naga, he tried to forcefully win her. Enraged, the Naga destroys the king and destroys the city. Repentant, he then abandons his home and travels to Amarnath and builds a lake there.

In Tarang 1, during the reign of Nara 1 (994 BCE)

Five Yojanas of rural land was thus kid waste and known as Rama-
nyatavr, it is even to this day full of heavy boulders and holes. 265

After doing this hideous slaughter of humanity, next morning
the Naga was full of remorse and being depressed by the denunciation
of the people, he abandoned that locality and departed. 266

Gleaming like the ocean of milk a lake was constructed by him on a
distant mountain, which on their way to the pilgrimage of Amara-
natha, is visited by the people to this very day. 267

Through the favour of his father-in-law the Brahman had attained
the status of a Naga; one other called the ‘lake of the son-in-law*
in the locality has also become celebrated. 268

In the footnotes for 1.268, the translator provides more context on the ‘lake of son-in-law’

268. On the route of the pilgrimage to
Amaranatha on the mountain top there
is a lake which, according to legend,
is the lake of Susravas — it is also now
called Sesanag. The colour of the
water is white. There is also another
lake popularly called Zamatur Nag —
the ‘Jamatr Saras’ of Kalhana— which
means the ‘lake of the son-in-law’.
Siva in the cave at Amaranatha is in the
form of congealed ice. The pilgrimage
referred to by Kalhana is still very
popular and attracts the devout from
distant parts of India.

Darbar Move

The concept of Darbar Move in modern times is something that is so J&K! In winter, the government secretariat moves to Jammu. In summer, the government secretariat moves to Jammu. This is called Darbar Move.

I used to hear that is an old practice followed since the days of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. But turn out it is even older a practice.

In Tarang 1, during the rule of Abhimanyu I (not dated in the book but reigned before Gonanda III, whose reign started in 1184 BCE)

As heavy snow-falls occurred for the harassment of the Buddhists
year after year, the king, during winter, resided for six months in
Darvabhisara and other places. 180

A reason for this is found in footnotes for 1.27

According to modem geologists the valley of Kasmir was no doubt a vast lake in the remote past and that the climate of this Himalayan region must have been intensely cold. The legend of the Jalodbhava probably refers to icebergs. According to the old Kashmiri traditions the land was at one time too cold for human habitation during winter when it was in the grip of the Pisacas, the ‘Powers of Darkness.’ The kings during this time used to leave the country and resume their rule when the Pisacas had left.

Hunger Strikes

The number of times hunger strikes are mentioned was a big surprise. Seem like it was common for citizens to go on hunger strikes. Hunger strikes were taken very seriously by the rules. These hunger strikes were done by men, women, priests, the army and wait for it, even the king! In fact, there was a Minster for Hunger Strikes!

In Tarang 4, during the reign of Candrapida (682 BCE)

On one occasion, to the king who was seated in the assembly a
certain Brahman woman, who had sat down in hunger-strike, spoke
when questioned by the law-officers. 82

In Tarang 7, during the reign of Harsa (little after 1095 CE)

As the king was not prepared to consider a withdrawal, the troops
were secretly incited by him to demand large travelling allowances. 1156

When they, who were mostly from the ranks, had started a hunger-
strike with ironical speeches, the camp of the king, whose treasury
was at a distance, was thrown into commotion. 1157

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Sussala (little after 1120 CE)

While the Damara hordes were planning to retreat, owing to
dissensions in their league just at this time, the king’s affairs were
reduced to a tangled skein by his own soldiers. 807

They, having blocked the entrances in front of the royal palace with
drawn swords, held hunger-strikes at every step clamouring for the
allowance for the campaign which had accrued due. 808

Officials to Manage Hunger Strike

In fact, such seems to be the prevalence of hunger strikes, that there were officials to handle them.

In Tarang 6, during the reign of Yasakara (939 CE – 948 CE)

The officials in charge of hunger-strikes having reported that a
certain man had sat down for a hunger-strike, the king had him
brought before himself and he said: 14

Karnataka

Imagine my surprise when I start seeing my adopted homeland’s name pop up more than once. It was a revelation on how much Kashmir and Karnataka were bound by people exchange.

In Tarang 4, during the reign of Lalitaditya (little after 695 CE)

The people of Karnata, who wear the hair with a top -knot, as
they bent down in homage dropping the golden Ketaki leaf, bore
his glory as their ornament on the head. 151

Though I wonder who the Rani Ratta was! Footnotes suggest she was a queen of Rastrakuta dynasty.

At this epoch a lady of Karnata known as Ratta, who had lovely
eyes and whose glory was wide spread, protected as the sovereign
ruler the region of the south. 152

The passes of Mount Vindhya were guarded after killing those,
who were thorns in her side, by this queen whose power, like that
of Durga, was without limit. 153

There is an interesting reference to coconut wine!

His legionaries got rid of fatigue, in the breeze on the banks of
the Kaveri river, sipping the cocoanut wine at the foot of the palm-
trees. 155

Though I wonder why 7 when mentioning Konkan

While he overran the seven Konkanas darkened by the areca-nut
trees and glowed like the hot-rayed sun driving the seven horses,
his military prestige spread wide. 159

In Tarang 7, during the reign of Harsa (little after 1095 CE)

During the reign of king Kalasa, Bilhana who had gone away from
Kasmir and whom king Paramandi of Karnata had made a Vidyapati
and whose parasol was the only one which was seen by the elephants
in the Karnatic army when the king was on the march, after hearing
of the liberality of Harsadeva, the friend of good poets, reckoned
even such prosperity to be deceptive. 935-38

Then there is a reference to the Pampa Sarovar of Hampi.

Replete with water extending to the horizon and resorted to by
various kinds of birds and deer, was the lake named Pampa which
was constructed by him. 940

When the queen of Karnataka won the heart of King of Kashmir

On seeing the beautiful wife of Parmandi, the ruler of Karnata,
painted in a portrait he was wounded by Love whose arrows are
flowers. 1119

Bhaderwah

I came to know the ancient name of Bhaderwah: Bhadravakasa! It seems to be an important seat for royalty and

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Sussala (1112 CE)

While he stayed in Bhadravakasa, his son named Prasa carried on
intrigues with the Damaras by bribes of gold. 501

On Bureaucracy

Kalhana did not think highly of the bureaucrats of his time. And seems this mistrust was even older.

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Uccala (little after 1101 CE)

“Indeed the officials ire ready to kill, given to corruption, seizure
of the property of others and worse than demons, one should protect
these subjects from them” — thus reciting the verse and believing
ever this counsel of prudence of traditional lore, he rooted out
officials. 86-87

He, however, takes it to the next level

For, indeed, the officials like cholera, the colic and wagering stakes,
smite the world swiftly and are another epidemic for the subjects. 88

The crab kills its father, the white ant destroys its mother but the
ungrateful functionary, when he has obtained office, destroys every-
body. 89

If an enlightened man trains and helps an official to rise to power,
the villain like a Vetala would destroy him without scruple. 90

The bureaucrat and the poison-tree, it is amazing! render the very
ground, on which they prosper, difficult of access. 91

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Salhana (1111 CE)

The shameless Tantrins, cavaliers and councillors who had deserted
the defeated conspirators again formed a combination having made
common cause and brought in Salhana. When Garga saw this and
not finding any one worthy of the throne, he had the eldest imme-
diately consecrated king. 375-376

Satisar and Baramulla

Early in the Tarang 1, Kalhana talks about the geographic origin of Kashmir.

Once upon a time there was the lake of Sati; and from the beginning
of the Kalpas the land in the womb of the Himalayas was filled with
waters during the intervening period of six Manus. 25

In the footnotes, the translator elaborates by quoting someone named Bernier. This Bramulla angle was new to me, to be honest.

The histories
of the ancient kings of kachemire
maintain that the whole of this country
was in former times one vast lake and
that an outlet for the waters was opened
fay a certain pire, aged saint, Kacheb
(Persian for KaSyapa) who miracul-
ously cut the mountain of Baramoule..
..I am certainly not disposed to deny
that this region was once covered
with water: the same thing is reported
of Thessaly and of other countries;
but I cannot easily pursuade myself

Great Srinagar Fire

It seems that during an attack by Damaras, the whole city of Srinagar burnt. Was the magnitude of the fire a direct result of their actions or did the weather fan the fire, is not clear. The recounting of damages also indicates the massive size of the city. I was not aware of this incident.

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Sussala (1123 CE)

Thus it happened that during a fierce battle which was raging
on the bright twelfth day of Jyestha, the Damaras set a dwelling house
in Kasthila on fire. 1169

Or perchance that fire originated in the high winds or was due to
lightning— it spread beyond control and all at once set the entire
city ablaze. 1170

While the smoke emanating from Maksikasvamin, like charging
elephants in battle array, had just become visible from the Great
Bridge, it suddenly thereafter reached Indradevl-bhavana Vihara and
then instantaneously the entire city was seen in flames. 1 171-1 1 72

The descriptions of fire reflect the complete destruction of the city.

The houses in the darkness of the smoke-screen lit up by the flames
came into view for a while as if to bid a final farewell. 1174

The Vitasta, with the houses nestling on both banks ablaze, looked
like the blade of the sword of Death, wet with blood on both
edges. 1175

The bathing huts along the banks of Vitasta / Jehlum get mentioned elsewhere in the book too.

The bathing huts and the boat bridges, in large numbers, having
been drawn off from fear of the fire, the waterways in the interior of
the city also became deserted. 1182

What more need be said? Srlnagara bereft of its Mathas, shrines,
houses, shops and the like was turned, in a mere trice, into a forest
which has been burnt down. 1183

Most of the dead ended up in the river! And another reference to bridges as a common part of the landscape.

The bridges over the waterways, which were stinking with dead
bodies swollen by soaking in water, were traversed in those days by
the people holding their noses. 1210

This fire was followed by a great famine.

The fire having burnt down the collected stores of all food-stuffs,
of a sudden, a dire famine which became difficult to endure now
prevailed throughout the land. 1206

There was a lot of wanton violence too.

The houses which had survived the conflagration, the people
suffering from starvation, who were demanding food, set on fire
from day to day. 1209

The condition of citizens was exceptionally bad.

Tortured by hunger and scarcely able to move, the people with
their tall bodies, tanned by the rays of the fierce sun, resembled the
charred pillars. 1212

Bad Start for the Kings of Kashmir & Battle in Mathura

While Kalhana mentions that there were 52 kings before Gonanda I, it is with him he starts telling the story of Rulers of Kashmir.

The first named king of Kashmir, Gonanda I was related to Jarasandha. This is how his story goes:

In Tarang 1

The aid of this king having “been sought by Jarasandha he laid
siege to Mathura, the city of the enemy of Kamsa, with large forces. 59

When he pitched his camp on the banks of the Yamuna, he caused the
fame of the warriors together with the jewels of the Yadava
ladies to fade. 60

Gonanda I got into a fight with Balaram (who it seems had plough on his flag)

On one occasion, to save his army which was broken up on all
sides, he who had the plough as the emblem on his banner encountered
him fighting in battle. 61

They were almost equal in their battle prowess. It seems it would be a draw!

During the combat of the two warriors of equal prowess having
remained too long in the hand of the goddess of victory owing to the
uncertainty of the issue, one might well ask if the triumphal garland
had withered away ! 62

But eventually, the first named king of Kashmir lost to Krishna’s brother in a battle at Mathura.

Eventually, with his limbs wounded by weapons in the battlefield,
the king of Kasmir embraced the earth while the Yadava king embraced
the goddess of victory. 63

Comparison to Heaven

The comparison to heaven is as old as the valley itself!

In Tarang 1

Such is Kasmir, the country which may be conquered by the force
of spiritual merit but not by armed force ; where the inhabitants
in consequence fear more the next world; where there are hot baths
in winter, comfortable landing places on the river-banks, where the
rivers being free from aquatic animals are without peril; where, reali-
zing that the land created by his father is unable to bear heat, the hot-
rayed sun honours it by bearing himself with softness even in summer.
Learning, high dwelling houses, saffron, iced, water, grapes and the
like — what is a commonplace paradise.

Yak-Tail

All in J&K know Yak! Living in Ladhak, it is wooly, gentle-looking and domesticated. Throughout the book, there are many references to yak Tail being used as a fan for royalty. I am assuming it was a fan-made from yak’s tail hair and so the name. Maybe the fan that was made from yak’s hair looked like its tail!

In Tarang 1, during the reign of Gonanda II (not dated by Kalhana/transalator)

Placing him, whose side-locks were wavy with the fanning of the
royal yak-tail, on tire throne, the ministers hearkened to the law-suits
of the subjects. 81

There is a story where a king falls in love with the daughters of a folk singer. He married one of them and Kalhana describes her being fanned by yak-tail as an ultimate marker of her ascending to royalty.

In Tarang 5, during the reign of Cakravarman (924 CE)

By the king who was blind with passion, Hams! was made the
premier queen, who enjoyed the privilege among the royal ladies of
being fanned with the yak-tail, 387

Rainbow of Jaatis

Kalhana seems to have thought of the usage of Rainbow to highlight the beauty of diversity!

In Tarang 2, during the reign of Tunjina (105 CE)

These two nobly sustained the delightful land with its various
castes, like the lightning and the water-bearing cloud the bow of
Indra. 13

The author provides an interesting usage of the word varna (caste is a term used by the interpreter)

In Tarang 2, from the footnotes for 2.13

13. There is a pun on the word Varna
which means both (1) caste and (2)
colour, the latter meaning applies to the
rainbow.

Using Price of Rice as Indicator of General Prosperity

OK, there is nothing more Kashmiri than using Rice as central to anything about Kashmir! Kalhana shares the price of Rice across time to indicate which kingdom was flourishing and which one was not.

But first, some definitions:

Dinnara

Throughout the time of Rajatanrangini, the currency of Kashmir was Dinnara.

Khari

Throughout the time of Rajatanrangini and as per Kalhana, Khari was the measure of quantity for rice inside of Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Wisdomlib and Ayurtimes.com both put 1 Khari equal to 196.608 kg (~200 Kg).

Price of Rice Across Time

Period Ruler Rice Price Comment
751 CE – 857 CE After Jayapida till Avantivarma 1050 Dinnaras per Khari It seems this was due to constant flooding due to the lack of maintenance of dams built by Lalitaditya.

In Tarang 5

Through the great effort of king Lalitaditya, when the waters were
drained to a certain, it had become slightly productive thereafter. 69

In course of time after the passing of Jayapida. when there were
kings of very little virility, the land was once more covered with
the surging waters. 70

Ten hundred and fifty Dinnaras had become the sale price of a Khari
of rice in husk in the famine-stricken land. 71

857 CE onwards Avantivarma 200 Dinnaras per Khari Seems like lots of work of restoration was done by him
857 CE onwards Avantivarma 36 Dinnaras per Khari In Tarang 5

The reclamation of the land from water, the bestowal of it to pious
Brahmans, the building of barrages with stones in water, and the
suppression of Kaliya, which were achieved by Visnu in four incarna-
tions of righteons acts were achieved by Suyya, who had a mass of
religious merit, in a single birth only. 114-115

1099 CE Harsa 500 Dinnaras per Khari In Tarang 7

A Khari of rice was available for five hundred Dinnaras; for one
Dnnara could be obtained two Palas of grape-wine. 1220

Shivratri

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Uccala (1101 CE)

During festivals, such as the Sivaratri, he showered largesses on
the mass of the people just as the mighty Indra floods the earth by
torrents of water at the conjunction of the planets. 70

Shivaratri finds another mention during the times of King Uccala.

When during the pageant of Sivaratri, the erudite Sivaratha recited
this verse, the king was determined to make him the chief superin-
tendent. 111

Minister for Peace and War

It seems like a post that was prevalent across the whole history. The name used was: Sandhi-Vigrahika. The earliest and latest reference:

In Tarang 4, during the reign of Lalitaditya (CE 695)

Thus in the treaty of peace with the illustrious Yasovarman, the
minister for peace and war, Mitrasarman, could not brook in the
formal document what had been written with diplomatic skill —
“This is the treaty of peace concluded between Yasovarman and
Lalitaditya” realizing that the document which did not give precedence
indicated the lack of superiority of his sovereign. 13 7-1 38

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Jayasimha (1128 CE – 1149 CE)

The minister for peace and war, Mankha, womb-brother of Alam-
kara, became prominent by the foundation of Srlkantha together
with a convent. 3354

Tulmul

The revered Kheer Bhawani temple is located in the village of Tulmul. It was obvious I will look out for any references to the holy place in Rajatarangini.

In Tarang 4, during the reign of Jayapida (751 CE)

While he was resuming the lands of Tulamulya, encamped on the
bank of the Candrabhaga, he heard of the death in its waters of a
hundred less one Brahmans. 638

He just alludes to the political and social strife and I have not found reference to the holy spring.

Then once during the time of petitions the Brahmans, residents
of Tulamulya, struck, by the hand of the chamberlain, in his
presence protested. 640

Goddess Sharada

And it was wonderful to read the reference to Ma Sharada.

Tarang 1

Where by visiting the goddess Sarada one gets in a moment to the
river Madhumatl and the Sarasvatl adored by the poets. 37

Tarang 8, during the reign of Jayasimha (this incident is a bit after 1132 CE)

On the day following having had the sight of the goddess Sarada,
the son of Garga arrived and made an addition to the population of
Indra’s city by the number of soldiers who were slain. 2556

Tarang 8, during the reign of Jayasimha (this incident is a bit after 1143 CE)

Then failing to hinder him he, during the day, pursued Bhoja,
who had a start, up to the sanctuary of the goddess Sarada with a
few of his followers. 2706

Didda

Didda is a very common home name for the eldest daughter in a Kashmiri Hindu family. So obviously Queen Didda is held in high regard. But he Didda revealed in Rajatarangini is something else!

In Tarang 6, during the reign of Abhimanyu (958 CE)

Ksemagupta’s son, the infant Abhimanyu, thereafter became king
under the guardianship of the queen Didda whose character was
devoid of mercy. 188

And that is how Didda was introduced to me.

But he does talk about her great social and religious work.

It is needless to enumerate her manifold good works in the various
localities ; she consecrated sixty-four foundations, such is the report. 306

Nearly all the temples of the gods, the encircling walls of which
had been damaged by fire, were saved from dilapidation by the
queen and provided with stone enclosures. 307

She who carried the lame queen during games and promenades — a
woman named Valga, a load carrier, had the Valga convent built. 308

And then the murders of her grandsons!

In the year forty-nine on the twelfth of Margasirsa, during the
bright half, he was put to death by her who was bent upon the crooked
path. 311

Her grandson named Tribhuvana, in the year fifty-one, on the
fifth day of bright Margasirsa, was killed in the same way by her. 312

Thus on the road to death called the throne was wantonly placed
by the cruel woman her last grandson named Bhimagupta. 313

However, there is an interesting story of how she chose her successor.

“How many fruits can each one secure in here” thus spoke she
and in this wise she caused among those princes a scramble. 357

She saw that they had few fruits and had received blows; Samgrama-
raja, however, was in possession of not a few fruits and was un-
scathed. 358

He was asked by her in her surprise how he, while securing numer-
ous fruits, had escaped injury whereupon he replied to her as
follows: — 359

“By making them engrossed in the struggle with one another
while remaining apart I secured the fruits and at the same time was
not hurt.” 360

Falconry

It was a surprise to see mention of falcons! That too for policing.

In Tarang 7, during the reign of Kalasa (incidence around 1081 CE)

The king, pleased with the devoted services of a keeper of the
falcons named Vijayasimha, made him commissioner of Srinagara
who destroyed all the burglars. 580

Daal Batt!

OK, not sure how to explain this. Daal batt is a taunt used against Kashmiri Hindus if they act too miserly. And I have a feeling, there might be a historic incident behind this.

In Tarang 7, during the reign of Utkarsa (1089 CE)

He acted where no expenditure had to be incurred, or was thinking
how not to incur it, whereby far-sighted folk were convinced of his
miserly nature. 737

This reputation of his far miserliness was aggravated by his father’s
wives, who were wantons, as he had been giving them rations with
Mudga. 758

In the footnotes, the translator adds,

758. Mudga known as Mung in Hindi
is a cheap bean in India.

Timi Fish

There are many references to this fish and many tales about it. Seems like it is the name for Whale!

There is this story of King Japapida sending his minister to Lanka to get “five Raksasas from the ruler of Lanka” for help with construction. He falls into sea to be eaten by a whale. He then kills it from inside and saves himself.

In Tarang 4, during the reign of Jayapida (751 CE)

On one occasion an envoy who was in attendance upon him was
told, “Bring five Raksasas from the ruler of Lanka” and he bowed
before the order which on its merits was excessive. 503

He was the minister for peace and war and on his way having fallen
from the ship into the sea he became the morsel of a Timi; cutting
up the Timi he came out and reached the shore. 504

Being a friend of the mortals on account of his devotion to Rama,
Vibhlsana guided him, who had presented the credentials of the king,
to his own land accompanied by the Raksasas. 505

The other thing that gets mentioned about Timi is its feeds on its own species. When Sambhuvardhana overthrew his brother Cakravarman, the poet invokes Timi fish to showcase treachery.

In Tarang 4, during the brief reign of Sambhuvardhana (935 CE)

Living in a sanctuary the Timi fish eats up its own species, the
stork observing the vow of silence approaches and swallows the
Timi; the hunter, too, dwelling in the depth of the forest kills the
stork; each prevails over the victim by higher and higher skill in
out-witting. 305

Yet again Kalhana uses Tmi fish to remind that looks are deceptive.

In Tarang 6, during the reign of Nandigupta (972 CE)

Although residing in the sacred pool and observing the vow of
silence, the Timi fish is addicted to eating up its kind; the peacock
while living solely on drops from the cloud daily swallows the snakes;
the stork ostensibly given to meditation makes a meal of the
unsuspecting fishes which approach the edge; even while acting
piously there can be no certitude about a relapse into evil in the case of
sinners.

Clothes Made from Hemp

Well, seems clothes made from hemp were common. But they were reserved for those in jail! Maybe because they were not very comfortable!

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Uccala (1101 CE)

Having deprived of office, the Mahattma Sahela and many others,
he compelled them to wear hempen clothing in prison. 93

“Magical Fire Weapon”

Explosives? Gun powder? Petroleum? Wonder what these magical fire weapons were!

In Tarang 7, during the reign of Utkarsa (1089 CE)

Thereupon he showered, during the struggle, those arrows smeared
in medicated oil which penetrated and set ablaze the directions. 983

“He has knowledge of the magical fire-weapon” — thus the ignorant
grew suspicious and terrified they fled far away while blaming them-
selves for having come again. 984

Pheren

Did I just find a reference to Pherens?

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Bhiksacara (1121 CE)

During the levy, the king did not look brilliant surrounded, as
he was, by village yokels whose gala attire consisted mainly of long
woollen blankets. 857

The footnotes refer to the use of the word kambala!

857. Kambala=coarse woollen blanket.

Dams

Given the rivers in the region, it is no surprise that there were many dams and bridges built.

In Tarang 1, during the reign of Damodra II (Before 1184 BCE)

Like Kubera this formost among kings held under his own sway
the Guhyakas; by ordering them he built the extensive dam at
Gudda. 156

On the Damodara Suda he had himself constructed a town; with
this dam he had planned to divert the water into it. 157

There is a mention of the inauguration of a dam followed by an extensive explanation of the canal system it fed.

In Tarang 5, during the reign of Avantivarman (587 CE)

Having cleared the bed of the stream and after constructing stone
embankments, as a counter-measure against rolling boulders, he
opened the dam. 92

Bridges

There are direct and situational references to bridges all over Rajatarangini.

In Tarang 3, during the reign of Pravarasena II (123 CE)

Over the Vitasta this king had the Great Bridge constructed and
only since that time has the design of such boat bridges become
well known. 354

In Tarang 5, during the reign of Avantivarman (857 CE)

After granting the village of Suyya Kundala to the Brahmans in
memory of Suyya, he constructed the Suyya bridge also in her
name. 120

On the land reclaimed by him from the water, villages such as
Jayasthala were founded in thousands by Avantivarman and
others. 121

In Tarang 7, during the reign of Harsa (incident around 1100 CE)

The royal retainers mounted on well-bred horses rapidly covered
the distance and slaughtered the hostile force which had already
reached Bharata Bridge

Sacred Thread, Ash Tika and Rudraksa

In Tarang 7, during the reign of Harsa (incident around 1100 CE)

Wearing the sacred thread, with the rosary of Rudraksa in the
palm of his hand, the fingers aglow with the sacred Darbha and the
forehead gleaming white with the mark of ashes, he appeared like
another ParaSurama. 1476

Saffron

I was curious about what references will the book have about saffron. It comes up petty early as the author sets up the book! In the second stanza.

In Tarang 1

To Siva charming with the collective iridescence of jewels on the
heads of snakes which adorn him — a salutation; in him who is like
the wishing tree of paradise are absorbed those who have been
liberated. I

Her forehead is marked with saffron, pendant from the ear she
wears sportively a cluster of earrings for display, the beauty of her
white throat has the semblance of the ocean-bom conch, the bosom is
garbed in a faultless brassiere; his forehead is marked with the fiery
flame, close to the ear he carries a collection of snakes who playfully
open their mouths, the lustre of his throat gleams white despite the
nuance of the ocean-bom poison, the chest has for armour the lord of
the snakes ; may the part of Siva, half of whom is united with his wife,
be for your glory whether it is the left or the right. 2

In Tarang 4, during the reign of Lalitaditya (695 CE)

The north wind, which had caressed the musk-deer and fanned
the filaments of saffron flowers, added grace to the army like a
woman. 170

Sale Deeds and Financial Ledgers

I always wondered how the paperwork, accounting and ownership worked. What format it was in and how systematically was it done.

There is an interesting story about a person who gets cheated by a merchant. He goes before various judges, but every judge sided with the other party. He then sat on a hunger strike to get justice. Till not we already know that hunger strikes were taken very seriously and there was an official to manage hunger strikes.

At this point, it was fascinating to know that before one approached the king, there seemed to be a hierarchy of judges one could approach. 

The kind uses a very interesting accounting forensics method to find out if he was cheated or not.

In Tarang 6, during the reign of Yashaskara (940 CE)

The judges submitted to the king, “On several occasions this man’s
claim has been considered and dismissed; being fraudulent he has no
respect for the law; he should be punished as a forger of document
in writing.” 29

“The house is sold together with the well with the steps.” Such
were the words as they stood in the sale-deed -which the king himself
now read. 30

The king then posed as someone else (using someone else’s ring) and visit the house of the merchant and asks for the old ledger. He then checks against the recorded transaction if a fair price was paid. Once he finds that a fair price was not given, he gives a judgment against the merchant.

The man with the ring demanded from the chief accountant of
the merchant the ledger of the year in which the sale-deed was exe-
cuted. 36

“It is required by the merchant for the judicial decision to-day.”
On hearing this the chief accountant delivered it and retained the
ring. 37

In it the king read in the item of expenditure that ten hundred
Dinnaras had been paid to the writer of the instrument. 38

The Mother-in-law & Daughter-in-law Strife

In the Tarang 7, during the reign of Kalasa (1063 CE)

Full of jealousy she, who was hard-minded, could not tolerate
in her daughters-in-law the display of costumes and jewelry and
the like worthy of the young wives of the king. 249

She compelled the son’s wives to do the task of serving maids at
all times to such an extent that they did not avert their faces from
the polishing of their apartments. 250

Touching Feet

The practice of touching an elder’s feet is not common among modern Kashmir Hindus. However, it is very common in the rest of the region. I found an instructive reference.

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Jayasimha (1128 CE)

Having touched the king’s feet by stretching his hand, he sat himself
down in front and placed before the throne a dagger which he held
in the hand. 3214

Names with -hana Suffix

I thought Kalhana was a unique and rare name. But as per the book, it was not so. Other names with -hana siffix are:

  1. Bilhana
  2. Gulhana
  3. Rilhana
  4. Salhana
  5. Silhana
  6. Ulhana

Modern Surnames

I kept an eye on family names that I could recognise as existing today. The ones I was able to spot were:

  1. Kak
  2. Malla
  3. Razdan (mentioned as original Rajanaka)

Game of Thrones Style Assassination

This reminded me of Tyrion killing his father Tywin Lannister.

In Tarang 5, during the reign of Chakravarman (CE 924)

To kill him by stratagem, some Damara rogues whom he trusted
had remained by his side awaiting an opportune loop-hole for
treason. 406

In the latrine near the bed-chamber of the Svapaka woman, they
found him at night, on one occasion, in the act of relieving himself. 407

The gory description continues

Being unarmed, streaming cascades of blood, he ran searching for
a weapon, chased by the enemies and entered that bed-chamber. 410

Before he could get a weapon they, entering after him, slew him
whose limbs were enfolded by the wailing Svapaka woman and
whose body was in the embrace of her breasts and lap. 411

Hints of Modern Kashmiri Language

I was looking for hints of Kashmiri as we speak today. I found this interesting phrase that felt familiar.

In Tarang 5, during the reign of Chakravarman (924 CE)

When the king gave to Ranga the village of Helu like an Agrahara
and the recorder in charge of grants did not write out the deed of
gift, Ranga, having gone to the Aksapatala, then addressed him thus
in anger, “Son of a wench! thou art not going to write Rangassa
Helu dinnai 397-398

The translator has provided the following footnotes that give me a chill to read the earliest example of the Kashmiri language

398. ‘Helu has been granted to Raiiga’ ;
this is perhaps the earliest extant speci-
men of the Kasmiri language.

Et Tu Bhogasena!

The assassination of King Uccala in which a trusted Bhogasena played a part reminded me of Greek Drama style betrayal.

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Uccala (924 CE)

At this time the king saw Bhogasena who standing near the door
with his face turned the other way was painting the wall with a
wooden brush. 320

The king, as he ran past, exclaimed, “Oh Bhogasena ! why do you
merely look on? ’ to which he, shamefast, mumbled something
indistinctly. 321

Finally, a bureaucrat Sadda steps in.

“Perhaps this rogue though not dead is feigning death”-— so saying
the villainous Sadda himself cut off his neck. 328

And he exclaimed, “I am the same person who was deprived of
office”, and further cutting off the fingers he extracted the rows of
bejewelled rings. 329

Mahimana Festival

I came across this festival which I do not know much about. Will try to find more about it.

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Jayasimha (1128 CE)

Sujji, in a bellicose mood, in order to insult the adherents of his
opponent including the king, caused a disturbance during the court
held on the festival of the Mahimana. -2072

Damaras

Nothing is more intriguing than the presence of Damaras in Rajatarangini. It is not very clear who they are, but throughout they have created miseries for the kings and people of Srinagar. In fact, the Great Srinagar Fire in 1121 CE that destroyed the whole city and caused great famine is also attributed to them.

And were often victims of killings by the kings too.

In Tarang 5, during the reign of Cakravarman (936 CE)

Forgetting their former obligations this king, the lover of the
Svapaka woman, slew innocent Damaras, who trusted him, by
treachery. 405

In Tarang 5, during the reign of Unmattavani (938 CE)

The country which had been plundered by the Damaras at the
death of Cakravarman was, by the raising to power of the villainous
government officials, further punished by him. 439

In Tanrang 7, during the reign of Ananta (1028 CE)

The commander-in-chief, the powerful Tribhuvana, who had.
mustered the Damaras at this time, marched to take the crown away
from the king. 154

King Ananta faced continued hostilities from them.

During the reign of king Ananta, which was disturbed by hostilities
and campaigns, all kinds of troubles arose from time to time. 222

The illustrious Rajesvara, the warden of the frontier, son of
Bhadresvara and many others were slain by the Damaras of Krama-
rajya. 223

Sometimes they were used to aid palace intrigues.

In Tanrang 7, during the reign of Uccala (incident around 1100 CE)

Ananda, the maternal uncle of Uccala, having rallied the Damaras,
thereupon, caused a revolutionary uprising in Madavarajya. 1317

In that rebellion, massed bands of the Damaras came swarming
in thousands from all directions like wasps emerging from earth-
holes upon the melting of snow. 1318

Kidnapping and torture by Damaras are also common.

In Tarang 7, during the reign of Harsa (incident around 1100 CE)

Comparable to fairies, in noble attire, the beautiful royal ladies
were seen being kidnapped by the fierce Damaras at every step. 1578

In the footnotes and other places, they are identified as landlords who lived outside the city. Anyone who could prosper to own lands became one. But their numbers are intriguing. Where did their numbers come from?

In fact, there is a reference to their associations implying close coordination.

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Vijayasimha (incident around 1143 CE)

The Damaras, whose associations had been broken up, thereafter
again began to close-knit a fabric of intrigue excelling their past
record and once more became bold. 2934

I do not recall any reference to them in any modern conversations in Kashmir.

Some Rivers Mentioned

Jehlum / Vistasta

The name used for Jehlum is Vitasta and gets mentioned a lot.

In Tarang 1

It is the territory which is under the protection of Nila, supreme
lord of all the Nagas, whose parasol is the swelling Nila Kunda with
the flowing waters of the Vitasta for its staff. 28

Madhumati

In the modern-day Bandopora, this river is now not in good condition.

In Tarang 1, from the prologue

Where by visiting the goddess Sarada one gets in a moment to the
river Madhumatl and the Sarasvatl adored by the poets. 37

Bakavati

The king diverted a river to feed a lake to help settle a new city.

Tarang 1, during the reign of Baka (637 BCE)

This king of inestimable glory having constructed Bakesa in Bakas-
vabhra and the Bakavati canal, founded the city called Lavanotsa. 329

Chandrakulya

I could not find any other reference or modern name for this river.

Tarang 1, during the reign of Mihirakula (707 CE)

While he was diverting the river Candrakulya, a rock in midstream
which was found impossible to remove, caused obstruction. Then
to the king, who had practised penance, the gods spoke in a dream:
“a mighty Yaksa who is a Brahmacari resides here in the rock; were
a chaste woman to touch the rock the Yaksa would not be able to
obstruct.” The following day he caused to be done what he was
told in the dream. 318-320

Sindhu

Its confluence with Vitasta gets mentioned very often. This confluence is in modern-day Pakistan.

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Vajayasimha (incidence around 1143 CE)

As is the case in Srinagara during the pilgrimage to the confluence
of the Vitasta and the Sindhu, the people remained on the move
tirelessly during the night. 3149

Godavari

In fact, gets mentioned in the last stanza of Rajatanrangini.

In Tarang 8, during the reign of Vijayasimha (1129 CE)

As the impetuous Godavari with the seven mouths falls into the
broad expanse of the ocean for final repose, so is gathered to rest after
the swift progress of the seven resonant waves in the amplitude of
the bosom of the illustrious Kantiraja’s dynasty this River of Kings.
3449

Kaveri

Under the section Karanataka, I have covered a few references to River Kaveri.

Other Historians

Early in the book he mentions and notes the work of historians before him. Though he seems to be a bit critical of them.

Tarang 1

The voluminous works in fragments containing the early history
of the kings were epitomized in Suvrata’ s composition so that they
may be remembered. 11

The style of Suvrata being irksome, owing to the fault of pedantry,
his composition, although it has acquired celebrity, is lacking in the
apt of the exposition of the theme. 12

While owing to an incomprehensible lack of care in the work of
Ksemendra, known as the List of Kings, even a portion is not free
from error, although it is the composition of a poet. 13

Blowing His Own Trumpet

The story of Kings starts with Gonanda I. It seems the historians were aware of 52 kings who preceded him. But the names and stories of those kinds are lost, and Kalhana has an opinion on why it is so!

In Kasmir, the contemporaries of the Kauravas and the Pandavas —
in the Kali era — up to Gonanda, fifty-two kings have passed into
oblivion. 44

In that age, owing to the former misdeeds of those kings, surely no
creative poets existed who could have embodied them in glory. 45

This is an interesting thought. A king needs to do good to deserve creative poets to sing of their glory.

Things I Learned from the Footnotes and Other Sections Written by the Translator

Laukika Era

I learned about Laukika Era (L. E.) from the footnotes for 1.50-52

50-52. The Saka era begins 78 years
after the Christian era. K. commenced
his work in the Saka year 1070 which,
according to him, corresponded with
the year 4224 of the Laukika or Kas-
mirq era which is still current in Kasmir
and the neighbouring hills.

Persian Well or Kashmiri Well?

Kalhana used the reference to a rope in a well and ends up describing what is often called a Persian Well. The translator calls the name Persian Well a modern misnomer.

In Tarang 1, during the reign of Siddha (955 CE), from the footnotes for 1.384

384. Yantra “apparatus or machine. The to in ancient Samskjrta literature and
reference is to the Araghafta or the well its name as the —Persian wheel is a
with the wheel and pots to raise water modern misnomer.

Gautam Buddha’s Mother Wore a Dejhoor!

The translator mentions that there is a statue of the mother of Gautam Buddha wearing a Dejhoor. Dejhoor is an ornament worn by Kashmiri Hindu brides, from the day before they are wed in holy matrimony (Dejhoor on Wikipedia).

In Tarang 1, from the footnotes for 1.301


It is interesting to note that the
girdle (Tagr) is still worn among
Kafinlrl Brahman women. For the
picture of ear-ornament peculiar to
married women among Kasmiri Brah-
mans see the illustration of sculpture
discovered in Pandrethan (Puranadhis-
thana), believed to be Asoka’s capital,
which shows the mother of Buddha
wearing the ‘Dijahr.’

Biryani Recipe

Seems the cooking of rice and meat together is a food preparation recommended in Charaka Samhita!

In Tarang 8, from footnotes for 8.1641

The Vaidyaraj a was also good enough
to supply several references to verses
recommending the cooking of rice and
meat together— an ancient Aryan dish
better known in the west by its Turkish
name Pilaf. See e.g. Caraka, Sutra
portion, chapter VI. verse 32.

 

Timeline of Rajatarangini

Battle at Mathura Gonanda I ? BCE
Darbar move mention Abhianyu I ? BCE
Dam built Damodra II ? BCE
First dated king Gonanda III 1184 BCE Trojan War
Amarnath pilgrimage mention Nara I 994 BCE
998 BCE
King David establishes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
Diversion of a river to create a lake Baka 637 BCE
A “Great Bridge” built Pravarasena II 123 CE
King Gautamiputra Satakarni defeats and kills Nahapana, ruler of the Scythians
Kaveri mention Lalitaditya 695 CE
Tulmul mention Jayapida 751 CE
Rice sold at 36 Dinaras / Khari Avantivarma 857 CE
First Kashmiri phrase used in the book Cakravarman 924 CE
Falconry mention Kalasa 1081 CE
Magical Fire Weapons used Utkarsa 1089 CE
Rice sold at 500 Dinaras / Khari Harsa 1099 CE
Shivratri mention, Usage of Hemp clothes Uccala 1101 CE
Pheren mention Bhiksacra 1121 CE
Great Srinagar Fire followed by a famine Sussala 1123 CE


 


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Dinker Charak

Dinker has over a decade of experience in building products across diverse domains such as Industrial Automation, Home Automation, Operating Systems, High Energy Particle Physics, Embedded Systems, Online Video Advertising, Messaging, K-12 education and Private Banking. He also founded Gungroo Software. He books '#ProMa: Product Management Tools, Methods & Some Off-the-wall Ideas' and 'The Neutrinos Are Coming and Other Stories' are available globally. He also manages adbhut.in, an Indian Sci-fi portal.