The Ancient Geography of India/Kingdom of Kashmir

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The Ancient Geography of India: I.
The Buddhist Period, Including the Campaigns of Alexander, and the Travels of Hwen-Thsang
Sir Alexander Cunningham
Trübner and Company, 1871 - India

II. Kingdom of Kashmir

[p.89]: In the seventh century, according to the Chinese pilgrim, the kingdom of Kashmir comprised not only the valley of Kashmir itself, but also the whole of the hilly country between the Indus and the Chenab to the foot of the Salt range in the south. The different states visited by Hwen Thsang were Urasa, to the west of Kashmir ; Taxila and Sinhapura, to the south-

[p.90]: west; and Punach and Rajaori to the south. The other hill-states to the east and south-east are not mentioned; but there is good reason for believing that they also were tributary, and that the dominions of Kashmir in the seventh century extended from the Indus to the Ravi. The petty independent state of Kullu, in the upper valley of the Bias river, was saved by its remoteness and inaccessibility ; and the rich state of Jalandhar, on the lower Bias, was then subject to Harsha Vardhana, the great king of Kanoj. But towards the end of the ninth century the Kangra valley was conquered by Sankara Varmma, and the sovereign power of Kashmir was extended over the whole of the Alpine Panjab from the Indus to the Satlej.[1]

Hwen Thsang describes Kashmir as surrounded on all sides by lofty mountains, which is a correct description of the valley itself ; but when he goes on to say that its circuit is 7000 li, or 1166 miles, he must refer to the extended kingdom of Kashmir, and not to the valley, which is only 300 miles in circuit. But the extent of its political boundary, from the Indus on the north to the Salt range on the south, and from the Indus on the west to the Ravi on the east, cannot be estimated at less than 900 miles, and may very probably have reached the amount stated by the pilgrim.

1. Kashmir

Hwen Thsang entered the valley of Kashmir from the west in September, A.D. 631. At the entrance there was a stone gate, where he was met by the younger brother of the king's mother ; and after

  1. ' Raja Tarangini,' v. 144.

[p.91]: paying his devotions at the sacred monuments, he went to lodge for the night in the monastery of Hu-se-kia-lo, or Hushkara.[1] This place is mentioned by Abu Rihan,[2] who makes Ushkara the same as Baramula, which occupied both sides of the river. In the ' Raja Tarangini[3] also Hushkapura is said to be near Varaha, or Varahamula, which is the Sanskrit form of Baramula. Hushkara or Uskar still exists as a village on the left or eastern bank of the Behat, two miles to the south-east of Baramula. The Kashmiri Brahmans say that this is the Hushkapura of the ' Raja Tarangini,' which was founded by the Turushka king Hushka, about the beginning of the Christian era.

According to the chronology of the ' Raja Tarangini,' the king of Kashmir in A.D. 631 was Pratapaditya ; but the mention of his maternal uncle[4] shows that there must be some error in the native history, as that king's father came to the throne in right of his wife, who had no brother. Pratapaditya's accession must, therefore, have taken place after Hwen Thsang's departure from Kashmir in A.D. 633, which makes an error of three years in the received chronology. But a much greater difference is shown in the reigns of his sons Chandrapida and Muktapida, who applied to the Chinese emperor for aid against the Arabs. [5] The date of the first application is A.D. 713, while, according to the native chronology, Chandrapida reigned from A.D. 680 to 688, which shows an error of not less than twenty-five years. But as the Chinese annals also record that about A.D. 720 the emperor granted the title of king to Chandrapida, he must

  1. ' Hiouen Thsang,' i. 90.
  2. Reinaud, ' Fragments Arabes,' p. 116.
  3. B. vii. 1310 and 1313.
  4. 'Hiouen Thsang,' ii. 90.
  5. Remusat, ' Nouveaux Melanges Asiatiques,' i. 197.

[p.92]: have been living as late as the previous year A.D. 719, which makes the error in the Kashmirian chronology amount to exactly thirty-one years. By applying this correction to the dates of his predecessors, the reign of his grandfather, Durlabha, will extend from A.D. 625 to 661. He, therefore, must have been the king who was reigning at the time of Hwen Thsang's arrival in Kashmir in A.D. 631. Durlabha, who was the son-in-law of his predecessor, is said to have been the son of a Naga, or Dragon ; and the dynasty which he founded is called the Naga or Karkota dynasty.

By this appellation I understand that his family was given to ophiolatry, or serpent-worship, which had been the prevailing religion of Kashmir from time immemorial. Hwen Thsang designates this race as Ki-li-to, which Professor Lassen and M. Stanislas Julien render by Kritya and Kritiya. They were extremely hostile to the Buddhists, who had frequently deprived them of power, and abolished their rights ; on which account, says the pilgrim, the king, who was then reigning, had but little faith in Buddha, and cared only for heretics and temples of the Brahmanical gods. This statement is confirmed by the native chronicle, which records that the queen, Ananga-Lekha, built a Vihara, or Buddhist monastery, named after herself, Anangabhavana ; while the king built a temple to Vishnu, called after himself, Durlabha-swamina[1] I infer from this that the queen still adhered to the Buddhist faith of her family, and that the king was, in reality, a Brahmanist, although he may have professed a lukewarm attachment to Buddhism.

The people of Kashmir are described as good looking,

  1. ' Raja Tarangini,' iv. 3 aud 5.

[p.93]: easy and fickle in manner, effeminate and cowardly in disposition, and naturally prone to artifice and deceit. This character they still bear; and to it I may add that they are the dirtiest and most immoral race in India. Hwen Thsang states that the neighbouring kings held the base Kashmiris in such scorn that they refused all alliance with them, and gave them the name of Ki-li-to or Krityas, which would appear to be a term of contempt applied to evil-minded and mischievous persons, as enemies, traitors, assassins, etc. The term which I have heard used is Kir-Mlechchhas, or the " Barbarian Kiras," and "Wilson gives Kira as a name of the valley of Kashmir, and Kirah as the name of the people.

In the seventh century the capital of the country was on the eastern bank of the river, and about 10 li, or less than 2 miles, to the north-west of the ancient capital. Abu Rihan[1] calls the capital Adishtan, which is the Sanskrit Adhisthana, or "chief town." This is the present city of Srinagar, which was built by Raja Pravarasena about the beginning of the sixth century, and was, therefore, a new place at the time of Hwen Thsang's visit. The "old capital" I have already identified with an old site, 2 miles to the south-east of the Takht-i-Suliman, called Pundrethan, which is the corrupt Kashmirian form of Puranadhisthana, or "the old chief city." Pan is the usual Kashmiri term for " old," as in Pan Dras, or "old Dras," to distinguish it from the new village of Dras, which is lower down the river, [2] Near the old capital there

  1. Reinaud, ' Fragments Arabes, etc.,' p. 116.
  2. Wilson altered this spelling to Payin Dras, which in Persian signifies " Lower Dras," in spite of the fact that Pan Dras is higher up the river.

[p.94]: was a famous stupa, which, in A.D. 631 enshrined a tooth of Buddha; but before Hwen Thsang's return to the Panjab in A.D. 643 the sacred tooth had been given up by the Raja to Harsha Varddhana, the powerful king of Kanoj, who made his demand at the head of an army on the frontier of Kashmir.[1] As Raja Durlabha was a Brahmanist, the sacrifice of the Buddhist tooth was a real gain to his religion.

From the earliest times Kashmir has been divided into the two large districts of Kamraj and Meraj, the former being the northern half of the valley, below the junction of the Sindh river with the Behat, and the latter the southern half above that junction. The smaller divisions it is unnecessary to mention. But I may note the curious anomaly which a change of religious belief has produced in the use of two of the most distinctive Hindu terms. By the Hindu who worships the sun, the cardinal points are named with reference to the east, as para, the " front," or the " east," to which he turns in his daily morning worship ; apara, "behind," or the "west;" vama, the "left" hand, or the "north;" and dakshim, the "right" hand, or the "south." By the Muhammadan, who turns his face to the west, towards Mecca, these terms are exactly reversed, and dachin, which still means the " right " hand in Kashmiri, is now used to denote the "north," and kawar, or the "left" hand to denote the "south." Thus, on the Lidar river there is the subdivision of Dachinpara to the north of the stream, and Kawarpara to the south of it. On the Behat river also, below Barahmula, the subdivision of Dachin lies to the north, and that of

  1. Compare 'Hiouen Thsang,' ii. 180 with i. 251.

[p.95]: Kawar to the south of the stream. This change in the meaning of Dachin from " south " to " north " must have taken place before the time of Akbar, as Abul Fazl[1] describes Dachinpara as " situated at the foot of a mountain, on the side of Great Tibet," that is to the north of the river Lidar.

Principal ancient cities of Kashmir

The principal ancient cities of Kashmir are the old capital of Srinagari, the new capital called Pravarasenapura ; Khagendra-pura and Khunamusha, built before the time of Asoka; Vijipara and Pantasok, which are referred to Asoka himself ; Surapura, a restoration of the ancient Kambuva ; Kanishkapura, Hushkapura, and Jushkapura, named after the three Indo-Scythian Princes by whom they were founded ; Parihasapura, built by Lalitaditya ; Padmapura, named after Padma, the minister of Raja Vrihaspati ; and Avantipura, named after Raja Avanti Varmma.

Srinagari, the old capital of Kashmir prior to the erection of Pravarasenapura, is stated to have been founded by the great Asoka, [2] who reigned from B.C. 263 to 226. It stood on the site of the present Pandrethan, and is said to have extended along the bank of the river from the foot of the Takht-i-Suliman to Pantasok, a distance of more than three miles. The oldest temple in Kashmir, on the top of the Takht-i-Suliman, is identified by the unanimous consent of all the Brahmans of the valley with the temple of Jyeshta Rudra, which was built by Jaloka, the son of Asoka, in Srinagari.[3] This identification is based on the fact that the hill was originally called Jyeshteswara. The old bridge abutments at the village of Pantasok are

  1. 'Ayin Akbari,' ii. 130.
  2. 'Kaja Tarangini,' i. 104.
  3. ' Raja Tarangini,' i. 124.

[p.96]: also attributed to Asoka ; and the other ruins at the same place are said to be the remains of the two Asokeswara temples which are noted in the native chronicle of Kashmir. Srinagari was still the capital of the valley in the reign of Pravarasena I., towards the end of the fifth century, when the King erected a famous symbol of the god Siva, named after himself Pravareswara. This city still existed in A.D. 631, when the Chinese pilgrim arrived in Kashmir, although it was no longer the capital of the valley. He speaks of the capital of his time as the " new city," and states that the " old city " was situated to the south-east of it, at a distance of ten li, or nearly two miles, and to the south of a high mountain. This account describes the relative positions of Pandrethan and the present capital with the lofty hill of Takht-i-Suliman so exactly, that there can be no hesitation in accepting them as the representatives of the ancient places. The old city was still inhabited between A.D. 913 and 921, when Meru, the minister of Raja Partha, erected in Puranadhisthana, that is in the " old capital," a temple named after himself Meru-Varddhana-swami. This building I have identified with the existing temple of Pandrethan, as Kalhan Pandit relates[1] that, when Raja Abhimanyu set fire to his capital, all the noble buildings "from the temple of Varddhana Swami, as far as Bhikshukiparaka, (or the asylum of mendicants) were destroyed. I attribute the escape of the limestone temple to its fortunate situation in the midst of a tank of water. To this catastrophe I would assign the final desertion of the old capital, as the humble dwellings of the people could not possibly have escaped the destructive

  1. See my ' Temples of Kashmir,' p. 41; and ' Raja Tarangini.'.vi. 191.

[p.97]: fire which consumed all the " noble edifices " of the city.

Pravarasenapura, or the new capital, was built by Raja Pravarasena II. in the beginning of the sixth century. Its site, as already noted, was that of the present capital of Srinagar. This is determined beyond all possibility of doubt by the very clear and distinct data furnished by the Chinese pilgrim Hwen Thsang, and by the Hindu historian Kalhan Pandit. The statements of the first have already been quoted in my account of the old capital ; but I may add that Hwen Thsang resided for two whole years in Kashmir, in the Jayendra Vihara[1] or Buddhist monastery, built by Jayendra, the maternal uncle of Pravarasena. The Hindu author describes the city as situated at the confluence of two rivers, and with a hill in the midst of it. This is an exact description of the present Srinagar, in the midst of which stands the hill of Hari Parbat, and through which flows the river Hara, or Ara, to join the Behat at the northern end of the city.[2]

The question now arises, how did the new city of Pravarasenapura lose its own name, and assume that of the old city of Srinagari ? I think that this difficulty may perhaps be explained by the simple fact that the two cities were actually contiguous, and, as they existed together side by side for upwards of five centuries, the old name, as in the case of Delhi, would naturally have remained in common use with the people, in preference to the new name, as the

  1. ' Hiouen Thsang,' i. 96.
  2. 'Moorcroft's Travels,' ii. 276. I speak also from personal knowledge, as I have twice visited Kashmir.

[p.98]: customary designation of the capital. The old name of Delhi is exactly a case in point. There, new city after new city was built by successive kings, each with the distinctive name of its founder ; but as they were all in the immediate vicinity of Delhi itself, the old familiar name still clung to the capital, and each new appellation eventually became absorbed in the one general name of "Delhi." In the same way I believe that the old familiar name of Srinagar eventually swamped the name of the new city of Pravarasenapura.

The names of Khagipura and Khunamusha are referred by Kalhan Pandit[1] to Raja Khagendra, who, as the sixth predecessor of Asoka, must have reigned about 400 B.C. Wilson and Troyer have identified these two places with the Kakapur and Gaumoha of Muhammadan writers. The first is certain, as Kakapur still exists on the left bank of the Behat, at 10 miles to the south of the Takht-i-Suliman, and 5 miles to the south of Pampur. But the identification of Gaumoha, wherever that may be, is undoubtedly wrong, as Khunamusha is now represented by the large village of Khunamoh, which is situated under the hills at 4 miles to the north-east of Pampur.

The old town of Bij Biara, or Vijipara, is situated on both banks of the Behat, at 25 miles to the south-east of the capital. The original name was Vijayapara, so called after the ancient temple of Vijayesa, which still exists, although its floor is 14 feet below the present level of the surrounding ground. This difference of level shows the accumulation of ruins since the date of its foundation. The people refer its erection to Asoka, B.C. 250, who is stated by Kalhan

  1. 'Raja Tarangini,' i. 90.

[p.99]: Pandit[1] to have pulled down the old brick temple of Vijayesa, and to have rebuilt it of stone. This is apparently the same temple that is mentioned in the reign of Arya Raja, some centuries after Christ.[2]

Surapura, the modern Supur or Sopur, is situated on both banks of the Behat, immediately to the west of the Great Wular Lake. It was originally called Kumbuva, and under this name it is mentioned in the chronicles of Kashmir as early as the beginning of the fifth century.[3] It was rebuilt by Sura, the minister of Avanti Varmma, between A.D. 854 and 883, after whom it was called Surapura. From its favourable position at the outlet of the Wular Lake, I think it probable that it is one of the oldest places in Kashmir.

Kanishkapura was built by the Indo-Scythian prince Kanishka,[4] just before the beginning of the Christian era. In the spoken dialects of India it is called Kanikhpur, which in Kashmir has been still further corrupted to Kampur. It is situated 10 miles to the south of Srinagar, on the high-road leading to the Pir Panchal Pass. It is a small village with a sarai for travellers, and is now generally known as Kampur Sarai. In the large map of Kashmir by Captain Montgomerie the name is erroneously given as Khanpoor.

Hushkapura, which was founded by the Indo-Scythian prince Hushka, or Huvishka, the brother of Kanishka, would appear to have been the same place as the well-known Varahamula, or Barahmula, on the Behat. Abu Rihan[5] calls it " Ushkar, which is the

  1. 'Raja Tarangini,' i. 105.
  2. Ibid., ii. 123.
  3. Ibid., iii. 227.
  4. Ibid., i. 168.
  5. Reinaud, 'Fragments Arabes, etc.,' p. 116.

[p.100]: town of Baramula, built on both banks of the river." It is noted under the same name by the Chinese pilgrim Hwen Thsang, who entered the valley from the west by a stone gate, and halted at the monastery of, or Hushkara. The name of Barahmula has now eclipsed the more ancient appellation, which, however, still exists in the village of Uskara, 2 miles to the south-east of the present town, and immediately under the hills. The place has been visited, at my request, by the Rev. G. W. Cowie, who found there a Buddhist stupa still intact. This is probably the same monument that is recorded to have been erected by Raja Lalitaditya[1] between A.D. 723 and 760. It is again mentioned in the native chronicle[2] as the residence of the Queen Sugandha in A.D. 913. From all these notices, it is certain that the town still bore its original name down to the beginning of the eleventh century, when Abu Rihan mentions both names. But after this time the name of Varahamula alone is found in the native chronicles, in which it is mentioned during the reigns of Harsha and Sussala, early in the twelfth century. I think it probable that the main portion of the town of Hushkapura was on the left, or south bank of the river, and that Varahamula was originally a small suburb on the right bank. On the decline of Buddhism, when the monastic establishment at Hushkapura was abandoned, the old town also must have been partially deserted, and most probably it continued to decrease until it was supplanted by the Brahmanical suburb of Varahamula.

Jushkapura was founded by the Indo-Scythian prince

  1. ' Raja Tarangini,' iv. 188.
  2. Ibid., v. 258.

[p.101]: Jushka, a brother of Kanishka and Hushka. The Brahmans of Kashmir identify the place with Zukru, or Zukur, which is still a considerable village, 4 miles to the north of the capital. This is evidently the "Schecroh ville assez considerable," which Troyer and "Wilson[1] have identified with Hushkapura. I visited the place in November, 1847, but the only traces of antiquity that I could discover were a considerable number of stone pillars and mouldings of the style of architecture peculiar to Kashmir, all of which had been trimmed and adapted to Muhammadan tombs and Masjids.

Parihasapura was built by the great Raja Lalitaditya,[2] who reigned from A.D. 723 to 760. It was situated on the right, or eastern bank of the Behat, near the present village of Sumbal. There are still many traces of walls and broken stones on the neighbouring mounds, which show that a city must once have existed on this spot ; but the only considerable remains are a bridge which spans the Behat, and a canal which leads direct towards Supur, to avoid the tedious passage by the river through the Wular Lake. As Parihasapura is not mentioned again in the native chronicle, it must have been neglected very soon after its founder's death. His own grandson, Jayapida, built a new capital named Jayapura, in the midst of a lake, with a citadel, which he named Sri-dwaravati, but which the people always called the " Inner Fort."[3] The position of this place is not known, but I believe that it stood on the left bank of the Behat, immediately opposite to Parihasapura, where a village named Antar-kot, or the " Inner Fort,"

  1. 'Raja Tarangini,' i. 370; Asiat. Res. xv. 23.
  2. ' Raja Tarangini,' iv. 194
  3. Ibid., iv. 505, 510.

[p.102]: exists to this day. The final destruction of this city is attributed by the people to Sangkara Varmma, who reigned from A.D. 883 to 901. He is said to have removed the stones to his own new city of Sangharapura, which still exists as Pathan, 7 miles to the south-west of the Sumbal bridge. The great temple at Parihasa was destroyed by the bigoted Sikandar, who reigned from 1389 to 1413, A.D. Of this temple a curious story is told by the Muhammadan historians. Speaking of Parispur, Abul Fazl[1] says, "here stood a lofty idolatrous temple which was destroyed by Sikandar. In the ruins was found a plate of copper with an inscription in the Indian language purporting that after the expiration of 1100 years the temple would be destroyed by a person named Sikandar." The same story is told by Ferishta,[2] with the addition of the name of the Raja, whom the translator calls Balnat, which is probably a mistake for Laldit, the usual contracted form of Lalitaditya among the Kashmiris. As the difference of time between this prince and Sikandar is barely 700 years, it is strange that the tradition should preserve a date which is so much at variance with the chronology of their own native chronicles.

Padmapura, now called Pampur, was founded by Padma, the minister of Raja Vrihaspati, who reigned from A.D. 832 to 844[3]. It is situated on the right bank of the Behat, 8 miles to the south-east of the capital, and about midway on the road to Avantipura. The place is still well inhabited, and its fields of saffron are the most productive in the whole valley.

  1. ' Ayin Akbari," ii. 135.
  2. Briggs's ' Ferishta,' iv. 465.
  3. ' Raja Tarangini,' iv. 69-1.


Avantipura was founded by Raja Avanti-Varmma[1] who reigned from A.D. 854 to 883. It is situated on the right bank of the Behat, 17 miles to the south- east of the present capital. There is now only a small village called Wantipur ; but the remains of two magnificent temples, and the traces of walls on all sides, show that it must have been once an extensive city. The name of No-nagar, or the " New Town," which is now attached to the high tract of alluvial table-land on the opposite side of the river, is universally allowed by the people to refer to Avantipura itself, which is said to have occupied both banks of the river originally.


Between Taxila and Kashmir Hwen Thsang places the district of U-la-shi, or Urasa, which, from its position, may at once be identified with the Varsa Regio of Ptolemy, and with the modern district Rash, in Dhantawar, to the west of Muzafarabad. It is mentioned in the native chronicle of Kashmir[2] as a mountainous district in the vicinity of the valley, where Raja Sangkara Varmma received his death wound in A.D. 901. It corresponds exactly with the Pakhali of Abul Fazl, which included all the hilly country between the Indus and Kashmir, as far south as the boundary of Attak. At the present day the principal towns of the district are Mansera, in the north-east; Noshahra, in the middle ; and Kishangarh, or Haripur, in the south- west. In Hwen Thsang's time the capital is said to have been either 300 or 500 li, that is, 50 or 83 miles, distant from Taxila. This difference in the distance

  1. 'Raja Tarangini,' v. 44.
  2. 'Raja Tarangini,' v. 216.

[p.104]: makes it impossible to identify the actual position of the capital in the seventh century ; but it seems probable that it must have been at Mangali, which is said by the people to have been the ancient capital of the district. This place stands midway between Noshahra and Mansera, and about 50 miles to the north-east of Taxila.

According to Hwen Thsang, Urasa was 2000 li, or 333 miles, in circuit, which is probably correct, as its length from the source of the Kunihar river to the Gandgarh mountain is not less than 100 miles, and its breadth from the Indus to the Behat, or Jhelam, is 55 miles in its narrowest part. Its distance from Kashmir is stated at 1000 li, or 167 miles, which would place the capital somewhere in the neighbourhood of Noshahra, and within a few miles of Mangala, which was the ancient capital according to the traditions of the people.

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