April 2, 2010


[Vedaih sadangaih padakramayutair vedåntasiddhåntakais
tarkavyåkaranaih purånapathanair mantraih sadangågamaih ...

paurånaśrutitarkaśåstranicayaih kim cågnihotråakitair

viprair dhyånatapojapådinirataih snånårcanådyutsukaih

... kåśmīrabhūr uttamå ||        (Råjataranginī of Jonaråja, B 747)
With the Vedas, the six appendices, with the Pada and Krama (texts), with Vedånta and Siddhånta, logic and grammar, Purå[1]a recitation, with (Tantric) Mantras and the six traditional sects ... with its masses of Purå[1]ic, Vedic (śruti) and logic disciplines (tarkaśåstra), and, moreover, marked by Agnihotrins, with Brahmins devoted to meditation, asceticism, recitation and so on, and zealeaously engaged with ablutions, worship, and the like, ... the land of Kashmir is the best.]

Harvard University


The Kashmiri Brahmins, usually called Pands, constitute one single group, the Kåśmīra Bråhmanas, without any real subdivisions. They form, according to Bühler, the first Indologist to visit the Valley, one unified community: they 'interdine' (annavyavahåra) and they also teach each other (vidyåvyavahåra, vidyåsambandha). But not all of them intermarry (kanyåvyavahåra, yonisambandha), which is the real test of belonging or not belonging to a single community. This is confirmed by Lawrence, who distinguishes "the astrologer class (Jotish), the priest class (Guru or Båchabat) and the working class (Kårkun). The priest class does not intermarry with either of the other classes. But the Jotish and Kårkun intermarry. The Jotish Pundits are learned in the Shastras and expound them to the Hindus, and they draw up the calendars in which prophecies are made about the events of the coming year. The priest class performs the rites and ceremonies of the Hindu religion. The vast majority of the Pandits belong to the Kårkun class and have usually made their livelihood in the employment of the state." This division is believed to have taken place after the country turned to Islam in the fourteenth century, and especially after the initial persecution of Brahmins at around 1400 A.D. As the Pandits then had to earn their living as scribes and other government officials.

There was no longer any need, and actually, no possibility, for the majority of them to do priestly work. Therefore, at an unknown time during Muslim rule, they resorted to a "division of labor": only very few Pandits would continue to perform the rituals for their more affluent Brahmin brothers.

A Short History of the Kashmiri Pandits:

The Pandits now are the only Hindus of the Valley, apart from a few fairly recent newcomers. All other Hindu castes embraced Islam during the Muslim period, which lasted for nearly 500 years, from 1339 to 1819 A.D. Muslim rule brought frequently varying political situations for the Pandits, and also intermittent periods of hardships, especially under King Sikandar and his Brahmin minister Saif ud Din (Sūha Bhatta), during the period from 1389 until c. 1416 A.D. and, again, during the Afghani period (1752-1812). Local tradition has it that during Sikandar's reign only eleven Brahmin families remained in the Valley while all the others were forced to become Muslim, fled or were killed. Under more enlightened successors, however, Brahmins were able to retain their comparatively high social status as government officials, and in fact so many of them worked for the early Sultans that Sanskrit remained the language of administration until the middle of the 15th century, - a fact illustrated by the current interpolated versions of Ksemendra's Lokaprakåśa with its many Persian and Arabic loanwords.

A comparatively calm and prosperous period under some of the later Kashmiri Muslim kings, notably Zain ul Abidin, Hassan, and the earlier Moghuls was interlaced by more or less severe harassment or actual persecution under some later (Cak) Sultåns and under Aurangzeb. It was followed by yet another severe persecution during the Afghani occupation, which caused many Pandits to emigrate to Northern India, so that even until today many Kashmiri Brahmins colonies are to be found at Jammu, Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Allahabad and other North Indian towns. A strong colony also existed at Lahore before the partition.(Read more)