For the following brief outline of the history of Jammu-Kashmir the authors have drawn largely from two of the more recently published works on the subject“The Valley of Kashmir,” by Walter Lawrence I.C.S., C.I.E., (Frowde, 1895); and “Kashmir” by Francis Younghusband, K.C.S.I., K.C.I.E., (Black, 1909). Both of these works pay similar acknowledgment, for the sources of their information, to the researches of the famous Sanskrit scholar, Dr. Stein.
For over two thousand years prior to 1846 A.D., when the Kashmiris came under British influence, they were ruled with the greatest severity by a succession of alien despots. All over the Kashmir valley are remains of old temples of almost Egyptian simplicity and durability, and of great beauty, the most notable being at Martand, which is on the most sublime site of any building in the worldfar finer than those of the Parthenon, Taj or Escurial.
Kashmir owns the distinction of being the only region of India to possess a series of uninterrupted written records of its history. These claim to establish facts dating from before 2000 B.C., but Dr. Stein suggested the advisability of omitting, as untrustworthy, all dates before the seventh century after Christ.
One of the earliest authentic facts is that the power of Asokaa Buddhist ruler of India and a contemporary of Hannibalextended to Kashmir. Ruins of his temples, statues and cities, erected 250 years before Christ, still remain. A second great landmark occurred in about 40 A.D., when a wave of Scythian immigration commenced to pour down from Central Asia, and an Indo-Scythian King ruled in Upper India. At this period Buddhism was at its zenith in Kashmir.
Six hundred years later came the reign of the most famous of all Kashmir monarchsthat of King Lalitaditya (699-736 A.D.)a contemporary of Charlemagnewho exercised his authority over the Northern Punjab, and who conquered Tibet. For a considerable time thereafter, the conquering tendency was from Kashmir, outwards, into the Punjab: but in 1015 A.D. the famous Mahmud of Ghazni, who forced Mohamedanism on upper India, attempted to invade Kashmir. The attempt, though unsuccessful, marks the first sign of the returning flood of invasion, from the Punjab inwards into Kashmir.
The next 500 years was a period of intrigue and treachery, and of the decay of Hindu rule. Prior to the 14th century the native of Kashmir was entirely Hindu until convertedlargely by forceto Mohamedanism. The first Mohamedan dynasty was founded in 1339 A.D.
In 1586 A.D., the Moghal emperors eventually conquered Kashmir, which remained a Moghal dependency for nearly two centuries, until, in 1750, it came under the cruellest and worst rule of allthat of the Afghans.
Finally, the Kashmiris turned in desperation to the powerful Sikh ruler of the Punjab, Ranjit Singh, who, accompanied by Gulab Singh, Raja of Jammu, drove out the Afghans and annexed Kashmir which, again, came under Hindu rule. The Sikh, though an improvement on the Afghan, was a hard master. For the Kashmiri who murdered the Sikh, the penalty was death; but for a Sikh who murdered a Kashmiri, a fine of 20 rupees; but when, in 1841, while the British were still behind the Sutlej, the Sikhs murdered the Governor of Kashmir, Gulab Singh sent an expedition to restore authority and, from that time virtually ruled Kashmir from Jammu, and became the founder of the present dynasty.
Gulab Singh, who had previously added to Jammu, the neighbouring principality of Ladakh (Leh), was again attacked by the Sikhs, who carried him to Lahore and placed on the throne, Dhulip Singh, at that time a child of five and who, at a later period, became so well known as an exile in England.
In November, 1845, sixty thousand Sikhs, with 150 guns, crossed the Sutlej river, which was the British frontier, and on January 28, 1846, after some months of desperate fighting against some ten-thousand British and British-Indian troops, a decisive battle was fought at Aliwal, following which Gulab Singh immediately made overtures to the British government. The British, after a final victory at the battle of Sobraon on February 10, occupied Lahore and, in March, concluded the Treaty of Lahore with the Sikhs.
By this Treaty the British may be said, as far as the philatelist is concerned, to have annexed Jammu-Kashmir, and it has often been a matter of surprise that so wonderful a country should have been restored to its rightful owners in return for a paltry three-quarters of a million sterling. The true reason, however, appears in a letter sent from Sir Henry Hardinge, the Governor-General, to Queen Victoria, nearly three weeks before the Treaty was even signed, in which he urged that it should be made perfectly clear to the rest of Asia that, though the British government had found it necessary to punish the Sikhs for their treachery, it had not been influenced by any consideration of gain consequent on annexation.
Gulab Singh, therefore, became the nominal ruler of Jammu-Kashmir and, in 1846, his rule was firmly established by British troops who repelled a last Sikh attack. From that year until his death in 1857, Gulab Singh did little to improve the deplorable conditions of his subjects, but his failure is largely traceable to the corruptness of his officials. He was succeeded, in 1857, by his son Ranbir Singh, who rendered valuable aid during the Indian Mutiny, and who slowly effected a number of improvements which included the introduction of the Native Postal system in 1866. On his death in 1885, he was succeeded by his son, Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh, G.C.S.I., a major-general in the British Army, who became greatly respected in India and beloved by his people. Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh was succeeded, in 1925, by Colonel Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, K.C.I.E., K.C.V.O., who, at the present day, stands at the head of an administrative system controlling the...
...destinies of some three million subjects of whom about two-thirds belong to the Jammu Province. He is advised by a chief, and three subordinate Ministers of whom all but one are drawn from the British service, and none of whom are Kashmiris. These are lent to the Maharaja for a specified number of years.
Immediately responsible, also, to the Ruler, is a further group of Indian officials, mostly born, bred and trained in the Punjab. Local executive is chiefly presided over by Government of India officials, with European and American specialists in charge of the technical Department. Only very few Kashmiris are employed except in the lowest grades of the State Services, the Maharaja fully realising the necessity of allowing a considerable period for the thorough education and training of his subjects for the higher positions of State.
Kashmir has, in the past, been principally famous for the manufacture of its wonderful “Cashmere” shawls. Carpets have now superseded shawls, while Srinagar has the largest silk factory inb the world. In many other directions, also, vast schemes under the most modern conditions are in progress, and the enlightened wisdom of its new rulers is, at last, bringing to Jammu-Kashmir health, prosperity and happiness in place of the grinding misery inflicted on it by the cruelties of the Sikh and Afghan.