The broad valley of Kashmir, also spelled Cashmere is almost completely surrounded by the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range. Kalhana states that the valley of Kashmir was formerly a lake. This was drained by the great rishi or sage, Kashyapa, son of Marichi, son of Brahma, by cutting the gap in the hills at Baramulla (Varaha-mula).
With a fertile soil and temperate climate, the valley is rich in rice, vegetables and fruits of all kinds, and famous for the quality of its wool. Kashmir has been inhabited since prehistoric times, sometimes independent but at times subjugated by invaders from Bactria, Tartary, Tibet and other mountainous regions to the North, and from the Indus valley and the Ganges valley to the South. At different times the dominant religion has been Animist, Buddhist, Hindu and (after the period of the history) Muslim.
Kalhana in his opening Taranga of Rajatarangini presents his views on how history ought to be written. From Stein's translation:
Despite these stated principles, and despite the value that historians have placed on Kalhana's work, it must be accepted that his history was far from accurate. In the first three books, there is little evidence of authenticity and serious inconsistencies. For example, Ranaditya is given a reign of 300 years. Toromanu is clearly the Huna king of that name, but his father Mihirakula is given a date 700 years earlier. The chronicles only start to align with other evidence by book IV,
The author of the Rajatarangini history chronicles the rulers of the valley from earliest times, from the epic period of the Mahābhārata to the the reign of Sangrama Deva (c.1006 CE), before the Muslim era. The list of kings goes back to the 19th century BCE. Some of the kings and dynasties can be identified with inscriptions and the histories of the empires that periodically included the Kashmir valley, but for long periods the Rajatarangini is the only source.
This work consists of 7826 verses, which are divided into eight books called Tarangas (waves).
Kalhaṇa’s account of Kashmir begins with the legendary reign of Gonarda, who was contemporary to Yudhisthira of the Mahābhārata, but the recorded history of Kashmir, as retold by Kalhaṇa begins from the period of the Mauryas. Kalhaṇa’s account also states that the city of Srinagar was founded by the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka, and that Buddhism reached the Kashmir valley during this period. From there, Buddhism spread to several other adjoining regions including Central Asia, Tibet and China.
The kings of Kashmir described in the Rājatarangiṇī can be roughly grouped into dynasties as in the table below.
Notes in parentheses refer to a book and verse. Thus (IV.678) is Book IV verse 678.
|Gonanda I||The Rajatarangini (I.59) lists Gonanda I as the first king of Kashmir, a relative of Jarasasamdha of Magadh.|
|Lost and Unknown kings||Skipping over "lost kings" we come to Lava of an unknown family. After his family, Godhara of another family ruled (I.95).|
|Mauryas||The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive and powerful political and military empire in ancient India, founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE. His grandson Ashoka the Great (273-232 BCE) built many stupas in Kashmir, and was succeeded by his son Jalauka.|
|Kushanas||After a Damodara ("of Asoka's kula or another"), we have Hushka, Jushka and Kanishka (127–147 CE) of the Bactrian Kushan Empire. (Note the confusion of dates in this and the following sections. Kalhana appears to made little attempt to determine the actual dates and sequence of rule of the kings and dynasties he recorded)|
|Gonandiya||After an Abhimanyu, we come to the main Gonandiya dynasty, founded by Gonanda III. He was (I.191) the first of his race. Nothing is known about his origin. His family ruled for many generations.|
|Some others||Eventually a Pratapaditya, a relative of Vikrmaditya (not the Shakari) became king (II.6). After a couple of generations a Vijaya from another family took the throne (II.62). His son Jayendra was followed by Sandhimat-Aryaraja (34 BCE-17 CE) who had the soul of Jayendra's minister Sandhimati. Kalhana says that Samdhimat Aryaraja used to spend “the most delightful Kashmir summer” in worshiping a lingam formed of snow/ice “in the regions above the forests” (II.138). This too appears to be a reference to the ice lingam at Amarnath.|
|Huna||Kalhana describes the rules of Toramana and Mihirakula (510-542 CE), but does not mention that these were Huna people: this is known from other sources.|
|Gonandiya again||After the Huna, Meghavahana of the Gonandiya family was brought back from Gandhara. His family ruled for a few generations. Meghavahana was a devout Buddhist and prohibited animal slaughter in his domain.|
|Karkota dynasty (625-1003 CE)|| Gonandiya Baladitya made his officer in charge of fodder, Durlabhavardhana (III.489) his son-in-law because he was handsome. Lalitaditya Muktapida (724-760 CE) of this dynasty created an empire based on Kashmir and covering most of Northern India and Central Asia. (With his account of the Karkota dynasty, relatively recent at the time he wrote his chronicles, Kalhana's information becomes more consistent with other sources.)|
Kalhana relates that Laliditya Muktapida invaded the tribes of the north and after defeating the Kambojas, he immediately faced the Tusharas. The Tusharas did not give a fight but fled to the mountain ranges leaving their horses in the battle field. Then Lalitaditiya meets the Bhauttas in Baltistan in western Tibet north of Kashmir, then the Dardas in Karakoram/Himalaya, the Valukambudhi and then he encounters Strirajya, the Uttarakurus and the Pragjyotisha respectively (IV.165-175).
|Utpala||In the Karkota family, Lalitapida had a concubine, a daughter of a Kalyapala (IV.678). Her son was Chippatajayapida. The young Chippatajayapida was advised by his maternal uncle Utpalaka or Utpala (IV.679). Eventually the Karkota dynasty ended and a grandson of Utpala became king.|
|Kutumbi||After the Utpala dynasty, a Yashaskara became king (V.469). He was a great-grandson of a Viradeva, a Kutumbi (V.469). Here maybe Kutumbi = kunabi (as in kurmis of UP and Kunbi of Gujarat/Maharastra). He was the son of a treasurer of Karkota Shamkaravarman. Kalhana describes Shamkaravarman (883–902) thus (Stein's trans.): "This [king], who did not speak the language of the gods but used vulgar speech fit for drunkards, showed that he was descended from a family of spirit-distillers". This refers to the fact that the power had passed to the brothers of a queen, who was born in a family of spirit-distillers.|
|Divira||After a young son of Yashaskara, Pravaragupta, a Divira (clerk), became king. His son Kshemagupta married Didda, daughter of Simharaja of Lohara. After ruling indirectly and directly, Didda (980-1003 CE) placed Samgramaraja, son of her brother on the throne, starting the Lohara dynasty.|
|Lohara||The Lohara family was founded by a Nara of Darvabhisara (IV.712). He was a vyavahari (perhaps merchant) who along with others who owned villages like him had set up little kingdoms during the last days of Karkotas. The Loharas ruled for many generations. The author Kalhana was a son of a minister of Harsha of this family.|
|Damar and others||After Loharas, a Damara family ruled. Then a general Ramchandra became king. His daughter Kota Rani married Tibetan Rinchan, who became Muslim.|
Kalhana's work is immensely valuable as a source of information on early legends, customs and history of Kashmir. But it would be naive to take his masterwork at face value. For a sensitive evaluation of the author, see Professor K. N. Dhar
Kalhana lived in a time of political turmoil in Kashmir, at that time a brilliant center of civilization in a sea of barbarism. Kahlana was an educated and sophisticated Brahmin, well-connected in the highest political circles. His writing is full of literary devices and allusions, concealed by his unique and elegant style. Kalhana was a poet.
Kahlana borrowed from authors such as Ksemendra, Padmamiriha and Chavillakara, and tells us that he used many other sources to confirm his information including engravings, literary manuscripts, other histories and local verbal traditions. Certainly, some of his descriptions show evidence of such research. However, he clearly used his imagination to fill in the gaps. The Gonandiya dynasty, taking its name from the legendary first king of Kashmir, is revived twice in the Rājatarangiṇī, but with little historical evidence. Perhaps Kahlana used it as a literary device, where the ancient and legitimate dynasty was periodically displaced by invaders and usurpers, but always re-emerged.
Kahlana's chronology, particularly in the first three books, is highly inaccurate. For a man of his time, exact dates may have been more a way to add realism and emphasis to the account. What mattered was the story. And in this, Kahlana can be relied on to provide an accurate view of the way in which his contemporary Kashmiris understood the tradition and history of their past. Where great events occurred, as in the stories of the Mauryas and the Karkotas, Kahlana probably gave a reasonably accurate summary. In the quieter times that intervened, he may well have invented details to fill the gaps.
But the "color", the casual mentions of customs and anecdotes, perhaps have the greatest value in giving an understanding of the past as perceived through the haze of tradition in Kashmir in the 12th century CE. And in this there are many clues to the ethnographer, if not to the historian.
There are four English translations of Rājatarangiṇī, by:
An edition of Jogesh Chandra Dutt's translation edited by S.L. Sadhu is also available. Parts of the Rajatarangini were translated into Persian, and included in the Ain-i-Akbari in the 16th century.