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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXII (1998-1999)

FROM THE PRESIDENT'S DESK

Dr. B. K. Moza

It is a pleasure and privilege to present the XXXIInd Annual Number of the Vitasta on the theme, "CULTURAL HERITAGE OF INDIA - KASHMIRI PANDIT CONTRIBUTION". Kashmir Sabha, Calcutta was established on February the 19th in 1956 and in 1959 its News Letter was started. On the 15th August 1960 the 1st Annual Number of this monthly was brought out; very thoughtfully christened as the VITASTA. Since then it is in circulation, like the overflowing Vitasta river in Kashmir, as the official organ of our Sabha. With some hiccups of course! the Annual Numbers of this publication have been brought out almost regularly. I have had the privilege of being associated with this publication right from the beginning except for some years when I was abroad. All through efforts have been made so that each Annual Number conveys some meaningful message concerning Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits. For about last two and half decades I have been very closely and emotionally involved with it. The Vitasta Annual Numbers have taken a direction, which have imbued it with some personality, poise and purpose; a built in thematic design and dimension. The themes and thematic contents have kept pace with the exigencies as deemed necessary for us as Kashmiri Pandits, with roots in our homeland, Kashmir. Vitasta Numbers are representing a socio-cultural movement about ourselves. Cultures get developed with the conditions and circumstances of a particular time; evolving some flexibility, devolving some rigidity and balancing at an equilibrium that becomes the requirement of the prevailing pressures of time to sustain and preserve the integrity of the concerned social community or a society. The Vitasta has followed this pattern. It is gratifying to note that the Vitasta has kept up its forward march in space and time. It has had its own constraints, failures and shortcomings. Yet it has not been without outstanding achievements; the major one being that it has maintained a consistent momentum.

Kashmir and Kashmiris have received a great set back in last one decade. This set back and its concern are equally reflected in the themes and contents of earlier Vitasta Numbers. Way back in 1981, Kashmir Sabha, brought out a thoughtful Vitasta Number on the theme, "Kashmir in 2000 A.D.", which to keep pace with the momentum of that period delved on a futuristic proposition. The purpose was to give a perspective of the developments which were obtained at that time and to take some lead, from these, to express concern and caution on some developments, encourage what was appropriate for a fast moving society and draw conclusions on these prevailing assumptions, for the millennium that was to set in. At that time, therefore, future of our fast developing community was the concern. In 1989-90 Kashmir had an unexpected and consequential turmoil which led to a great distress. This, for all intents and purposes, completely changed the course of these developments of fast growth and prosperity in the then Kashmir to massacre and misfortune which followed thereafter, reducing us to the status of refugees in our own country. With this back to zero situation, the priorities demanded attention to this distress, internal displacement, diaspora, disintegration, Kashmir Bhawan refuges, rehabilitation and preservation of our identity under changed circumstances. There has been complete somersault which got duly reflected from the themes and contents of our respective Vitasta Numbers.

This year there has been a purpose in bringing out this publication on the above stated theme. In some quarters Kashmir is still misquoted as a disputed territory which is consequential for Kashmiri Pandits - the original inhabitants of that place. Kashmiri Pandits continue to be displaced and have still no assurance, feeling of security and respectful prospects of rehabilitation in their own homeland. There is so much disinformation and dilution of facts. There is a need of awareness for the members of this community as also more critically for others, who matter in polity of decision making, to know what Kashmir was historically, that ashmiri Pandits were its original inhabitants and that it was the cradle from where Indian thought, culture and civilization received not only nourishment but also a great impetus. Factualisation of this, therefore, establishes, beyond any dispute, the integrality of Kashmir with India not only as a geographic reality but also as a fountain-head of philosophy, religion, culture and all that constitutes this civilization. Awareness of this becomes a strength if taken in right perspective and not with a feeling of over-complacency which is a danger point. With our global dissipation and being deprived of natural cultural fountain-head, homeland, it was considered necessary to evolve this knowledge about our roots in a handy manner for preserving our cultural identity.

With this in view this XXXIInd Vitasta Number is brought out with this self explaining and presently appropriate theme. National Library, Culcutta and the library of Asiatic Society over here have been my inspirations in providing me some education on my heritage as a Kashmiri Pandit and in conceptualizing this theme. It is undoubtedly, as will be revealed through the contents of this publication, a great heritage, of which we can be proud and feel concerned to deserve the same. As soon as this theme was discussed in our Sabha's meeting, it became a commitment to bring out this thematic Number. Having done so and taken responsibility for the same, the real problems started surfacing, This is a theme which is highly research oriented; a topic for historians and scholars to collate facts as required for this subject. Initially and as usual, we approached for articles but the response was not upto our expectations for one or the other reason or upto those that our Sabha was given to. However, thanks to our own Kashmir Bhawan library, that we have been able to attempt bringing out this publication. Surprisingly, having taken this self-reliant approach, the problem took another shape. Now it was regarding what we should publish and what not because there is so much material available on this subject from different authorities giving us detailed and vivid descriptions of Kashmiri Pandit contribution to Indian cultural heritage. In some cases we observed diverse opinion having been recorded in some details and we are not the experts to judge these finer aspects. Often some prejudices provoke inaccuracies and result in misinformation. We tried to build in the most essential transparency in highlighting the facts and attempted to so design our publication as not to allow any prejudices to creep in and yet restricted ourselves to the theme as far as possible. As such, we made certain determining assumptions which guided us in our selection of the matter that was in abundance available. We had as well as received few scholarly articles on this subject from the veteran scholars of our community. We decided to refer to original contributions of researchers who had almost lifelong worked on such topics. We also considered it purposeful and necessary to have contributions from non-Kashmiri sources because that provides a wider cross section of view points, supposedly an unbiased presentation and definitely a professional and comparative appraisal. Besides, this knowledge from non-Kashmiri experts ascertains as to how the contributions of Kashmiri Pandits have been recognized, recorded and evaluated in the annals of cultural history of India and related literature. We also considered necessary to refer to recognized works on this subject so that our younger generation in particular have some knowledge on these valuable reference texts. Is was a revelation that some scholars in Calcutta have written volumes on this subject. Considerations of a limited volume of this publication, the extent of cost that could be imposed on Kashmir Sabha, Calcutta in bringing out this publication and the desirability to provide a handy material to our readers, made us to pick only few and reserve the rest for future publications. We had no expertise and time to bring out quintessential knowledge from different available literature on selected topics from various authors. So, we have referred to original works of concerned authorities on the subject and reproduced the selected topics as such or taken relevant excerpts from these. Having selected the best works and retained their originality in reproduction, the merit and authenticity of the viewpoints stands out and the responsibility for the same rests with the authors themselves. We are thankful to these great authors of these works and their publishers for having taken this indulgence in reproducing these topics which have enriched our subject matter and its authenticity.

India is recognized as an ancient civilization. Rich in its natural resources, mountain ranges, forests, deserts, network of rivers, fertile plains and vast seas, rare fauna, flora; animal, plant, and mineral wealths, it has been country of great human resource. Given these diverse resources it has produced great people; seers, sages, thinkers, astronomers, mathematicians, physicians, philosophers and litterateurs who have reacted to every aspect of nature and natural stimulii available to them from thousands of years back. This has evolved into a way of life, a thought process, philosophy, different faiths and religions, Upanishads, Vedas, diversity of tribes, languages and dialects; yet, maintained unity of philosophical thinking based on Sanskrit contributions. So it developed its own culture and civilization which may be called Sanskrit Civilization. This received wide acceptance in neighbouring countries also. In fact Sanskrit is recognized as the mother of Euro-Asian languages. Kashmir being surrounded by vast mountain ranges, seized by inclement weathers and hazardous communication routes in ancient times, it had reasons to be cut off for most of the time; therefore it remained isolated. But, it had a miniature replica of many facets that were available in the total subcontinent, the Bharat Mata. Though isolated, the Kashmiri seers named some rivers as Kishen Ganga or Dudh Ganga, after the Ganges, the confluence of rivers like Vitasta and Sindhu as Prayaga for religious rite performances to be in tune with the observances followed in rest of India; created Sharda-Peeth to contribute to Indian thought process as was the case in Taxilla, Gandhara, Patliputra, Kashi, Sarnath and so on and so forth. Earlier territorial integration by some brave kings from outside like Ashoka and Kanishka and ambitious conquests, with the same purpose, by local kings like Lalita Ditya, Avanti Verman, Jayapida etc. not only extended the territorial alliances but also enabled exchanges of people, matrimonial alliances, knowledge, religions, literature, art, architecture and all essential ingredients which go in developing a culture. Though circumstantially isolated most of the time, there were frequent exchanges and influences. These provided windows for isolated intellectual minds to see through and evolve more elaborate intellectual exercises, which resulted in revolutionary thoughts, philosophies and literature extending horizons of our languages, religions, art, architecture and chronicalization and documentation of observations and events from ancient to recent times. This pattern continued from ancient through medieval to recent times making their impact felt on all aspects of cultural activity; from Nilmata Purana to Kalhan's Rajtarangni days, which represents the glorious period when Kashmir made its profound impact on the Sanskrit culture, Shaivism, Ayurveda and other aspects of knowledge. Since I am a casual learner of this subject I would not like to go into details and bring inaccuracies about the Kashmiri Pandit contributions. I would like to share with you all the wealth of knowledge on this subject which is presented in this Annual Number.

Whilst providing this Foreword to the XXXIInd Annual Number of the Vitasta, I express my appreciation of the sincere hard work and love of labour which Shri Rajiv Sapru has put in to make this dream come true. I have no words to express my feelings of appreciation and gratitude to him and to Smt. Jyoti Sapru for their editing English section and to Smt. Niva Kaul for editing Hindi section. I am grateful to Jt. Conveners, Shri M. K. Ogra and Shri U. Kaul for leadership role in organizing financial resources for this publication, to those members who have contributed to actual securing financial donations through advertisement bookings; to advertisers for their helpful contributions, particularly this year being worst affected by recession and to Kashmir Sabha Calcutta for encouragement & financial support. I acknowledge gratitude to Shri A. Sengupta of Jyoti for prompt action and assistance in printing this publication. I repeat my indebtedness to authors and the publishers of original works from where some articles have been reproduced or excerpted. I crave indulgence of your time and patience for going through this publication to achieve the objective for which this has been brought out. Shubham Astho!
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