Part 47 KASHMIR: A KINGDOM APART Section III: The End of Hindu Rule

 

Canberra, 31 January 2016

During Harsha’s military expeditions two brothers, Uchchala and Sussala, from a collateral branch of Loharas, who were also minor commanders in the Kashmir army, attracted the king’s attention through their display of conspicuous bravery. He brought them back to the capital and installed them as privileged members of the royal court. However, when the king continued to levy heavy taxes on the people while the kingdom was in the grips of a severe draught in 1099, the brothers expressed their displeasure at the heartless manner in which the common people were being treated. Subsequently, they fled from the capital fearing that the king would do them harm. From his side, the king had already started to suspect the brothers of harbouring high ambitions to gain the throne and considered them a direct threat and rivals to his son Bhoja.

After a brief interval of being away from the capital, Uchchala and Sussala returned with an army and with the support of the Damaras attacked and burned the capital, killing Bhoja in the process. Soon after that king Harsha was himself killed in an encounter. Harsha is said to have been born under the same astrological conjunctions as that of Duryodhana, the Kaurava prince of Mahabharata, as well as other princes in history who came to be known as destroyers of their own families. After this victory, Uchchala ascended the throne and is considered the founder of the second Lohara dynasty.

The Second Lohara Dynasty

The Second Lohara Dynasty is also referred to as the Satavahana line of Uchchala in some books, although the reason for the same is not obvious in any references. The dynasty was still ruling when Kalhana wrote the Rajatarangini and perhaps because of the obvious first-hand information that was available, almost half the book deals with this later dynasty. Uchchala was a descendent of Kantiraja who was the uncle of Samgramaraja the founder of the First Lohara Dynasty and so the relationship between the two dynasties is very apparent. Uchchala was a shrewd prince and aware of the intrigues within the royal court and the factions seeking power for themselves. In order to ensure that there was no nucleus to attract dissent and establish an alternative centre of power that could mount a challenge to his hold on the throne and reigning power, he condemned to death Bikshachara, the son of Bhoja. After all the grandson of the king that had just been deposed could easily become the rallying point for loyal courtiers and also the opponents of the victor. However, Bikshachara managed to escape and took refuge in Malwa, then ruled by the Paramara king Naravarman.

The other brother in the fray, Sussala, who was also ambitious was disgruntled by his brother’s assuming power. In order to contain any untoward actions by his brother, Uchchala split the kingdom into two, placing Sussala on the throne in the Lohara half. This was once again a diplomatically astute move that effectively headed off a possible Sussala challenge for a few years. During these relatively peaceful years Sussala’s son Jayasimha managed to reconcile the brothers with each other. Uchchala was a conscientious ruler but had inherited a penurious kingdom which he attempted to stabilise. Towards this end he attempted to ally the powerful Damara chiefs and lords to himself, an effort that was only partially successful. These were the same feudal barons who had assisted Uchchala in ousting Harsha from the throne and had by this time become extremely powerful in the body politic of the kingdom. Uchchala considered them a source of danger to himself and a distinctly disruptive force that worked against the kingdom’s political stability.

Before Uchchala could put any remedial measures in place to improve the common mans’ lot, he was murdered by a city-prefect called Chudda, falling victim to inherited circumstances and not having had a chance to prove his own capabilities. A brother of Chudda, called Radda occupied the throne for a single night before being removed by the powerful Damara chief Gargachandra, who set up Salhana, Uchchala’s half-brother as the king. On hearing these developments, Sussala rushed to the Kashmiri capital and forged an alliance with Gargachandra. Together they deposed Salhana, who was taken prisoner, and Sussala was crowned king. This process of changing the kings took four months, which has been described by Kalhana as a ‘long and evil dream’, since Salhana had turned out to be a ruthlessly violent ruler, even during the short span of his reign. Uchchala’s belief that the Damaras were disruptive and exhibited tendencies to be extra-constitutional powers were proven correct.

The Reign of Sussala

By the time of Sussala’s ascension to the throne, Gargachandra had become the undisputed king-maker in Kashmir and had ensured matrimonial alliance with the dynasty, having given two of his daughters in marriage to the royal household, one to Sussala and the other to his son Jayasimha. Sussala was acutely aware of the power wielded by the Damara chief. Therefore, either by design or in actuality, he quarrelled with Gargachandra and put him and his three sons to death, removing the one person who could have mounted a credible rebellion against him. He then turned his attention to conquest, invading Rajapura and dethroning the reigning king, Somapala. He placed a princeling Nagapala on the throne although the throne was reclaimed by Somapala almost immediately on Sussala returning to Kashmir.

At this stage, Bikshachara the grandson of Harsha who was in exile in Malwa returned to Kashmir and allied with the disgruntled Damaras to mount a quest for the throne. In the ensuing conflict, Sussala was defeated and fled to his original territorial holdings in Lohara. Bikshachara followed in pursuit and attacked the Lohara stronghold. However, he suffered a crushing defeat and retreated to a small village in Rajapura, from where he proclaimed that he had retired. Sussala claimed his throne back but continued to struggle to keep the Damara power in check. On the death of his queen, Sussala abdicated the throne and crowned his son Jayasimha as king. Soon after, Sussala fell victim to a conspiracy and was murdered in 1128.

Sussala’s reign was one long period of brutal oppression. He treated not only the state’s wealth, but also personal wealth of the people as his own, confiscating all that he wanted to possess. He had no qualms regarding imprisoning, torturing and killing troublesome members of the royal family itself, let alone other nobles and chiefs. However, even with the institution of brutal measures, he was unable to control the feudal power of the Damaras who continued to wield extremely potent political influence and consolidated their power base, growing form strength to strength. The result was a state of anarchy with the king being under siege by the Damaras, who treated him as a puppet.

Jayasimha

At the death of Sussala, Jayasimha was already king although not a very effective or forceful one. He did have well-developed diplomatic skills and managed to placate the Damaras, gradually bringing some semblance of economic and social stability to the beleaguered kingdom. However, this relative peace was short-lived with Bikshachara starting to carryout regular incursions into the kingdom from his small holding in Rajapura. He entertained continuing ambition to regain the Kashmir throne, which he considered to be his ancestral right. During one of his raids into Kashmir, he was captured and Jayasimha had him put to death, formally ending the First Lohara Dynasty that had effectively ceased to exist with the murder of Harsha much earlier.

Almost simultaneously the Lohara region erupted in tumult, with Lothana, Sussala’s half-brother taking over the throne. Although Jayasimha’s army, send to retrieve control of Lohara was soundly beaten, Lothana himself was deposed by some Lohara partisans who placed Mallarjuna, a half-brother of Jayasimha on the throne as king. However, it is reported that he voluntarily moved aside, but more likely was forced to leave the throne, facilitating Jayasimha to take over the kingdom. There followed a period of turmoil—of coups and counter-coups; of alliances made and broken; of blatant displays of opportunism by all participants; of capture, death sentences and escapes. At the end of the confusion, Jayasimha emerged triumphant—having put down all refractory feudal lords through the use of force and Kautilyan plotting to his advantage, for the greater good of the kingdom as he perceived it. Relative peace was established and Jayasimha ruled the combined kingdom that now encompassed Kashmir and Lohara territories.

Jayasimha maintained cordial relations with some of the other dynasties ruling in the sub-continent and it is reliably reported that the Gahadvalas send an embassy to Srinagara and that the Konkana king Aparaditya send an ambassador to the Kashmir court. Jayasimha came to be known for his piety and for the efforts he put into rebuilding a number of temples that had fallen into decay during the reign of his more callous predecessors. These activities encouraged Kalhana to name Jayasimha the ‘last great Hindu ruler of Kashmir’.

The End of the Loharas

Jayasimha was followed on the throne by his son Paramanuka and then grandson Vantideva, both of whom turned out to be ineffective kings. Vantideva was the last of the Lohara line and he was replaced by one Vuppadeva who had been ‘elected’ by the people. The reason for the replacement is not clear and could have been because of ineffectual rule, the rise of the Damaras once again, or because Vantideva did not have any off-springs. This was followed by a number of indifferent kings drawn from the extended family and relations of Vuppadeva. The kings now ruling in Lohara revolted again and at some stage is supposed to have occupied Srinagara, although there was no sanctity to their rule and this episode is not fully authenticated.

By the late-1200s territorial encroachment by the Turks was intense and incessant, while internal feuding for power was continuous and often violent. The military had by this time been gradually infiltrated by Muslim commanders who became very influential and stoked the prevailing disunity. The times were anarchic in Kashmir and Lohara. King Karmasena of Kandahar send an army of Tajiks, Turushkas and Mlechchhas under his General Dulucha to invade Kashmir. This army overran Kashmir and established their rule for a period of time. Further, Kashmir has always suffered from invasions by armies coming out of Tibet, which continued. Unfortunately at this critical juncture in the history of Kashmir, there was no king of sufficient calibre to fight back, most of the incumbents displaying extreme cowardice and even running away to safe havens at the time of external invasions.

In one of the Tibetan raids, Suhadeva the nominal king was killed and Rinchana the Tibetan military leader was briefly in charge. He in turn was killed in a conspiracy and his young son Haidara was deposed by a Muslim officer Shah Amir, also mentioned in some books as Shahamera, who established Muslim rule for the first time in the Kashmir valley. He later assumed the name Shams-ud-din, by which he is generally known in historical records. This was the beginning of a lengthy Islamic rule in Kashmir.

Even during the Muslim rule, the Brahmins continued to be employed in their traditional role as administrators and learned educators, retaining their power base in an almost intact state. It was only much later, after the Mughal Emperor Akbar finally conquered Kashmir and annexed it, reducing it to the status of a Mughal Province, that Sanskrit was removed from being the official language of the kingdom. This also meant that the ascendant power of the Brahmins also started to decline.

Conclusion

The history of Kashmir and Lohara, after the collapse of the Second Lohara dynasty and the entrenched anarchy that came to depict the misrule of a number of kings, is one of a petty Hindu kingdom being mauled by external invasions and internal dissentions. At the same time, the entire North India was gradually coming under increasing influence of the Islamic invasions with Muslim rule being accepted in a number of areas. The older and established Hindu kingdoms and dynasties were being swept aside because of the ineptness of the incumbent kings and their inability to unite to face the greatest threat that the sub-continent had ever faced in a cohesive manner. The wheels of history depict many instances of lost chances and human failures that changed the course of a nation. This was one such moment in the history of India.

Throughout history Kashmir has remained practically cut-off from the rest of the sub-continent because of geography and therefore the intimate history of the kingdom and the region does not have any salutary impact on the broader narrative of Indian history. However, it influenced the rest of the sub-continent through its own religious developments that were transmitted to the wider region, at times reaching all the way to the peninsular South India. Kashmir also remained the abode of higher Sanskrit and religious learning for centuries, establishing its credentials as a centre of Hindu and Buddhist religious developments. In addition, it was also the intermediary for the spread of Indian art and culture to the north and west, spreading cultural and aesthetic influence to Khotan and the adjoining territories of China and Turkestan.

The study of Kashmir during its long Hindu rule is important for another reason—it depicts, in a smaller and more understandable scale, the progression of dynastic rule that can be considered a template for most other kingdoms of the sub-continent.

It demonstrates how a dynasty starts to establish itself through the exhibition of justice and valour for a period of time and then how the degeneration to despotic rule and abuse of power takes place. It shows how debaucherously inclined kings succeed highly vigorous and conscientious kings within the same dynastic rule and how kingly power, borne with an inborne dignity and weighed down by conscience by some rulers are used by others as instruments of oppression and considered an opportunity for licentious behaviour. It reveals how able and loyal ministers achieve greatness and thrust the kingdom forward through the progressive policies that they institute and implement with strict but fair administration while the unscrupulous ones terrorise the country through bribery and corruption that become endemic, leading to the downfall of the dynasty itself. It establishes the fact that a powerful army under an incapable king tends to become the de facto rulers, instead of being the protectors of the nation securing its borders, bringing to the throne puppet after puppet to perpetuate ineffectual rule and entrench the military’s control. It exposes the love of power that sets father against son and son against father.

The dynastic tendencies that were exhibited by the medieval kings in the history of Kashmir rhymes with what had happened previously and what was yet to happen in the great and small dynasties that ruled and came to rule Rome, Delhi, Baghdad and Cairo. Human frailties and human magnanimity have no limits and transcends the mere mortality of an individual. If there is one single lesson to carry forward from an unbiased analysis of Kashmir’s medieval history it is that the capacity for kindness as well as the rapacious nature inherent in powerful human beings—kings of the regime in this case—does not depend on a particular family or dynasty but is spread evenly across the entire list of kings who span centuries of rule.

 

© [Sanu Kainikara] [2016]
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No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author. You may quote extracts from the website or forward the link to the website with attribution to http://www.sanukay.com/. For any other mode of sharing, please contact the author @ (sanukay@hotmail.com)

 

About Sanu Kainikara

Sainik School Kazhakuttam (Kerala), National Defence Academy 39/A, 108 Pilot's Course IAF, fighter pilot, QFI, FCL, psc, HACC, Voluntary Retirement as Wing Commander. Canberra-based Defence Analyst specialising in air power and national security. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Executive Masters in Public Adminsitration (ANZSOG) Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS) Distinguished Fellow Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

One Response to “Part 47 KASHMIR: A KINGDOM APART Section III: The End of Hindu Rule”

  1. Thank you Sanu. I have read all three sections on Kashmir and am better informed on its glorious history under Hindu rulers.
    Gp Capt RS Raghav

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