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Kalhana – Sanskrit Poet Historian Of Kashmir

Kalhana, Kashmiri poet, was the author of Rajatarangini (river of the royal lineage) of the 12th century AD. The poem consists of 3500 verses divided into eight tarangas (waves). It is perhaps the earliest formal textbook on the history of India in Sanskrit. The work chronicles the reigns of the kings of Kashmir from 2448 BC to 1148 AD and contains political, social, and other valuable information relating to Kashmir from ancient times.

Kalhana was born at Parihasapura in Kashmir as the son of Campaka, a minister in the court of King Harsha of Kashmir. As the son of an influential minister, Kalhana got opportunities to gather intimate knowledge about the niceties of the royal court and to develop personal contacts with political bigwigs on whom the destiny of the country very much depended. He also acquired sufficient knowledge about the topography of the entirety of Kashmir. In this way, Kalhana became well-equipped for writing a faithful history of Kashmir and its people.

Kalhana had a clear conception of writing history. He says that a historian has to be strictly impartial and, at the time of recording facts, free from love for and hatred against anyone (Rajatarangini 1 – 7). Kalhana himself did not hold any office under any of the rulers of Kashmir.

In the beginning, Kalhana refers to the first group of 52 rulers of Kashmir. The first available name of the King of Kashmir, according to Kalhana is Gonanda I.

The accounts of the kings belonging to the Gonandiya dynasty in the first three tarangas of Rajatarangini are based on legendary and unchecked data.

From the fourth Taranga onwards, Kalhana gives details about the historical figures belonging to the Karkota, Utpala, Lohara and the second Lohara dynasties.

The royal names he mentions are attested by contemporary numismatic evidence and foreign notices. Such kings include Durlabh Vardhana, Lalitaditya Muktapida, Jayapida, Avantivarman, Kalasha, Harsha, Sussala and Jayasimha, whose activities have been dealt with a length by Kalhana.

Kalhana gives information about food prices, taxation and sufferings of people because of flood and famine. He exposes the defects of Kashmir politics, sometimes dominated by greedy soldiers, intriguing priests, rapacious queens, rival ministers and so on. He shows that the petty politics of Kashmir included treachery, intrigues, murder, suicide and strife.

Kalhana informs us of the different faiths that attained glory in Kashmir. In early Kashmir, Buddhism reached its zenith, but later it was totally overshadowed by Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Shavisim, however, flourished in the valley even before the introduction of Buddhism. Numerous Hindu temples were erected and icons of Vishnu and Shiva installed. A good number of minor religious sets found safe existence in Kashmir.
Kalhana concludes his work with the accounts of his contemporary, King Jayasimha 91126- 49 AD).

Rajatarangini may be regarded as a historical text in the true sense; its importance has been admitted by all in the context of discussions on the political upheavals and socio-religious condition of not only Kashmir, but of India also, before the Muslim period.

The narrative of Kalhana has been continued by three more scholars viz, Jonaraja, Srivara and Suka, in succession. Their accounts take the history of Kashmir up to 1586 AD, when the Mughals conquered Kashmir.

Source - 

  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume V page 400 - 401 - IHRF
  • Rajatarangini of Janaraja Vol (2) 1963, 1965 Edited by Visha Bandhu - VVR Institute Hoshiarpur
  • Rajatarangini of Srivara and Suka Vol (2) 1966 Edited by Srikanth Kaul - VVR Institute Hoshiarpur
  • Rajatarangini of Janaraja 1966 - VVR Institute Hoshiarpur
  • Rajatarangini or The River of Kings 1935 translated by R S Pandit - Sahitya Akademi New Delhi
  • Kalhana's Rajatarangini 1958 MA Stain - Motilal Banarsidass New Delhi