Chinar in Kashmir: Part II | Bouin: Planting a Myth

Introduction of chinar in Kashmir:  There are two views about introduction of chinar in the valley. One view is that it was introduced during early days of the Shahmiri Sultans. Second opinion is that it was introduced by the Mughals. Both the views are discussed below:

The kingly, the noblest, tree in the valley seen everywhere is called Bouin in local Kashmiri language & chinar by the natives. As Kashmiris call it ‘Boiun’ in local Kashmiri dialect, some Kashmiri Pandits, like PNK Bamzai, seizing the opportunity for “insidious” revisionism, as called in George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty Four; have attempted to connect origin of chinar in Kashmir with Hindu mythical deity of Bhawani, avtar of Parvati, life consort of Shiva. So, in their opinion, chinar is indigenous tree of Kashmir that was found in the valley from times immemorial & ‘ Bouin’ is just corruption of that Sanskrit word ‘Bhawani’. It is further written thatin olden days it was tradition to plant chinar near temples as a protective mother, Goddess Bhawani & that old chinars are still found in temples of Tulamula, Zeethiyar, Vichar Nag, Shardaji (Keran), Nagbal (Anantnag), & Martand Temple (Mattan) & others.

In Akbarnama there is a story that in 1592 AD when Emperor Akbar visited Kashmir, on his orders 34 soldiers “entered into the trunk of a chinar tree which had been hollow for ages. If they sat closer some more might have been accommodated”, writes his chronicle & prime minister, Abu al Fazl (1551-1602 AD). PNK Bamzaihas used this story to buttress his claim that chinar existed in Kashmir since times immemorial. Mu’tamad Khān, author of the Iqbalnama-i-Jahangiri & personal secretary of Emperor Jahangir, who completed memoirs of Jahangir under his orders when Jahangir was on deathbed, has made a real fun of this whole myth by commenting that the tree must have exceeded the age of crows as 34 men found room in it, 200 horsemen also could have been sheltered under it.  It may be noted that Mu’tamad Khān’s Iqbalnama is relatively short “based largely on the memoirs” of Jahangir. Amazing story indeed? That said, the job of [later] historians or revisionists is to isolate facts from the myths, while [re]writing history. Such stories are apparentlyabsurd to believe in purely from historiographical viewpoint. The relativism, subjective perspectives, long cherished beliefs & subjective investigation dictated by lusty goals of “palengenetic nationalism”, “cultural myths” & “political affiliations” render revisionism mere attempting at concocting & fabricating the already received & admitted authentic historical facts.Some journalists, academicians & writers have fallen in the trap of these revisionists, by uncritically reproducing their stories, as coteries of hangers-on always do.

It is a far-fetched argument that lacks historical credence.As has been the problem with some writers, wherever they found a chance, for their “political & sectarian affiliations”, they have attempted to invent & peddle lies, historicize myths & rumours, blowing trivialities beyond proportions, only for acceptance & recognition. Simply because it is locally called Bouin does not make chinar symbol of Hindu Goddess Bhawani.  Had it been so, then how could it miss the greatest Brahman chronicler on Kashmir, Pandit Kalhana? Nowhere we find even a cursory mention of plane tree or chinar or so called Bhawani tree or Bouin in his Rajatarangini [1148-49 AD], existing anywhere in Kashmir during Brahman kings’ era. How could it have missed Pandit Kalhana‘s great chronicle if, at all, it had existed in Kashmir from earlier times of Brahman kings of Kashmir to his own time [12th century AD]?  If, at all, it had such a religious connotation & connection of Hindu deity, Parvati, more so when we know Rajatarangini has encompassed within it huge chunk of Brahminical myths? How could it miss, such a giant tree in the vicinity of temples or elsewhere in Kashmir? R K Parmu, a Pandit historian, writes that Bamzai’s book on history of Kashmir lacks historical probity & research; it does not sift historical from mythical or un-historical material. It may be noted that reference to chinar as Bhawani was found in all previous editions of PNK Bamzai’s book, Culture & Political History of Kashmir, in 1962, 1973 & 1994 but surprisingly this reference along-with many other references on important matters like Mughal Gardens, etc, of Kashmir is totally missing from 2016-reprint of the book. To note, PNK Bamzai died in 2007. Some [non-Muslim] writers in newspapers & their personal blogs admit that Bhawani tree or Bouin does not find any clear mention in Kalhana’s Chronicle but they assume that  some “Vata tree” mentioned in the Chronicle corresponds to plane tree or chinar. It is just a surmise for the reasons given above. No such thing is mentioned in any acclaimed English translation of Rajatarangini. “Vata means something in Budhism” & in Sanskrit dictionaries it means many things including vegetation, or banyan or pawn tree or wind or gas or celestial star but not plane-tree.

Encyclopedia of Kashmiri Language based on 19th century notes of Pandit Sanskrit authorities contains that Bouin is the name of a famous chinar or oriental plane-tree, under which pilgrims rested on the way to Jawallahmukhi temple [in present Himachal Pradesh State of India] & that traditionally it was said to have been founded in Kashmir by some merciful person for the benefit of the weary or the work-shy. Another linguist of 19th century holds that chinar was introduced in Kashmir by Muslims & under the fostering royalty of the Muslim rulers, this splendid tree reached its greatest age & attention in Kashmir.

Above we noticed chinar-shade was used by “work-shy” also. Tyndale Biscoe has written an interesting story of a Pandit work-shy. He writes how once a Brahman had approached him for grant of scholarship to his son in mission school by using the name of meditation under a chinar tree. “I am holy man like you, as I only meditate under the shade of a chinar tree all days”, he said. He had renounced the world & his family. Tyndale admonishingly told him: “if you are a holy man and worship God, your first duty would be to take care of your wife and family.” This reply of Tyndale Biscoe is in complete consonance with Islamic principle of greater Jihad is to look after one’s family.

Bouin is found in temple precincts is another limb of the argument advanced above.  Bouin is found in the compounds of some Brahman temples of Kashmir is as much true as it is found in the precincts of many Muslim shrines, mosques & graveyards of Kashmir. But that does not prove that it existed during the days of Brahman kings of Kashmir: pre-n-post-Kalhana. A latest research conducted on chinars in Kashmir [M S Wadoo] has revealed that the oldest chinar in Kashmir that exists in the mosque-precincts of Chattergam Chadoora, district Budgam of Kashmir is 650 odd years old which was planted by Kashmiri saint Syed Abdul Qasim Shah Hamdani in 1374 AD, who accompanied Mir Syed Ali Hamadani from Hamadan, Iran, to Kashmir. This claim made by an expert in his 2007 book has to be accepted correct as there has come no contrary research work to disprove this claim till date.  Furthermore, before discovery of oldest chinar in Chattergam Chadoora in 2011, the oldest & largest chinar of Kashmir was the one at Bijbehara, Dara Shiku Bagh, district Anantnag (Islamabad) of Kashmir built during Mughal period, as claimed by the experts. Tarikhi Hassan writes that the campaign for building landscape gardening & plantation of trees everywhere in the valley began formally, & only, during the reign of Muslim Rulers of Kashmir & not before that.

The shade of one thousand porous thatches cannot match the cool shade of just one affectionate chinar. There is a mention of plane-tree in a poem, called Vakh, of Laleshwari or Paramashama Sanyasi or Lal Ded (1320-1392 AD), Brahman mystic poetess of ancient Kashmir, which indicates that chinar, had travelled to Kashmir right at the time of dawn of Islam in the valley. It will be interesting to extract related part of the poem below:

Ken’schin Ren Chi Shehij Buin, Nerav Nebar Shehol Karav

Ken’schin Ren Chi Bar Peth Huin , Nerav Nebar Te Zang Kheyivo,……….

Some have wives like a shady plane-tree, let us go out under it and cool ourselves.

Some have wives like the bitch at the door, let us go out and get our legs bitten.

In some books, these lines of Vakh of Lal Ded are mentioned differently as under:

Ak zanih chhai hat lanjih buin, bjyuk chhai bar tal huni hish.

One woman is (like) a hundred-branch plane-tree to you, another is like a bitch at the door.

To be continued