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Template:Pp-semi Template:Infobox Ethnic group

Kashmiri Pandit (Template:Lang-ks) refers to a person who belongs to a sect of Hindu Brahmins originating from Kashmir, a mountainous region in South Asia.


Pre-Islamic History


A Kashmiri pandit lady, photograph by Fred Bremner, circa ~1900

Kashmir's association with Hinduism is very old. The very name Kashmir is said to be derived from Kashyapa, one of the seven Rishis in Hindu mythology (See Etymology of Kashmir.). Most Kashmiri Pandits are devout Shaivites, however many Kashmiri Pandit families who had migrated into other Indian territories have been ardent Vaishnavites as well. Kashmir is home to some of the holiest shrines in Hinduism like Amarnath, Kheer Bhawani, Shrine of Sharada, Shankaracharya Mandir, Hari Parbat, and Zeethyar.

The religious philosophy of Kashmiri Hindus is rooted in Kashmir Shaivism, a school of Shiva philosophy that originated near Kailasha in Himalayas around 400 AD. The first teacher of this school was Tryambakaditya, a disciple of sage Durvasas. Sangamaditya, the sixteenth descendent in the line of Tryambakaditya, later settled in Kashmir valley around 800 AD. His fourth descendent, Somananda, extracted the principles of monistic Shiva philosophy from the scriptures and incorporated them in his own work, Shivadrishti, which is the first philosophical treatise on Kashmiri Shaivism. Later a galaxy of illumined sages, such as Vasugupta, Kallata, Utapaladeva, and Abinavagupta further refined this philosophy. The philosophy of Kashmiri Shaivism is generally called Trika Shastra, since it is a philosophy of the Triad: Shiva, Shakti, and Nara (the bound individual self). The literature of the Trika System of Kashmir comprises three categories: the Agama Shastra, the Spanda Shastra, and the Pratyabhijna Shastra.

Kashmiri Shaivism, also known as Pratyabhijna (meaning "recognition") school of Shaivism, adopts a purely monistic metaphysical position. It considers the Supreme Lord, called Shiva or Maheshvara, as the Supreme Reality, which is innermost as well as transcendent. As a conscious and active principle, the individual self (atman) is identical with the Supreme Lord. Due to the influence of maya (illusion) the individual self forgets its divine nature, becomes liable to limitation and bondage, and thinks itself to be different from the Supreme Lord. Thus one's mukti (spiritual freedom) lies in one's clear recognition (Pratyabhijna) of one's identity with the Supreme Lord. In Kashmiri Shaivism we find a type of religious thought which synthesizes pluralism, dualism, and the Buddhist doctrine of Shunya, and develops a nondualist philosophy which is sweet, sublime and constructive. This philosophy is closer to the theism of the Bhagvad Gita than to its own nihilistic view of Buddhism.

Kashmiri Pandit scholars have made significant contributions to Indian thought and science[citation needed]. Abhinavagupta, Kalhana were stalwarts in the fields of philosophy and history respectively. Kashmir figures prominently in Sanskrit poet Kalidasa's compositions.

Persecution by Islamic Rulers

During the period of Islamic rule of the Kashmir valley hundreds of Hindu and Buddhist temples in Kashmir were destroyed.[1] As a result, Kashmiri Pandits gradually migrated to other parts of India to escape persecution. Many Kashmiri Pandits and Buddhists were converted which in time resulted in Kashmir becoming predominantly Muslim. The devastation wrought by Zulju, a Turkish general from Turkmenistan, in 1320, during his conquest of many regions of Kashmir Valley was especially noteworthy.[2]

Sultan Sikandar Butshikan (1389–1413), the seventh Muslim ruler in Kashmir, and the second Sultan of the Kashmiri Sayyid Dynasty, is known for his oppression of non-Muslim populations, which caused many Kashmiri Pandits to leave the Kashmir valley.[3] Historians call him an iconoclast or idol-breaker and he is said to have killed several thousand Kashmiri Pandits and/or forced them to convert to Islam or flee.[4] During the reign of Butshikan, Islam was firmly established in Kashmir and the Hindu population fell drastically. Sultan Ali Shah and others followed suit.[5] There have been a few Muslim rulers who were very tolerant towards the Pandits and were able to ultimately alleviate the plight of the Pandits. From the 14th century due to the growth of Islam and massive voluntary conversions into Islam the numbers of Kashmir Pandits in the valley began to diminish and the Kashmiri Muslims by spreading Islam began to outnumber them. According to the oral history of Kashmiri Pandits, at one point, only eleven families of Pandits remained in the Valley.The Kashmiri Pandits also called Kashmiri Battas(idol) in the local Kashmiri language gained enormous privileges during the Sikh, Dogra and the present Indian(A majority Hindu country) rule so much so that at one time all government offices, banks,colleges/universities in Kashmir only had Kashmiri Battas employed in them. This set in a series of political changes in the situation on the ground eventually leading to mass exodus of the Kashmiri Battas(Kashmiri Pandits)

Migration to the Indo-Gangetic Plain (1400-1900)

A large number of persecuted Kashmiri Pandit families were forced to migrate to the plains in the early fifteenth century during the reign of Sikandar Butshikan, and in the late sixteenth century during the reign of Aurangzeb. However, Mughal emperors before and after Aurangzeb invited Kashmiri Pandit scholars, who were fluent in Persian, Sanskrit, Avestan and several other classical languages, to their courts. Several princely states in northern and central India, such as Patiala, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, and Ratlam have had Kashmir Pandit prime ministers (dewans). The largest concentrations of Kashmiri Pandits were found in medieval urban centres such as Lahore, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ajmer, Jodhpur, Gwalior, Lucknow, Hardoi, Kanpur, and Allahabad. Most Kashmiri Pandit families that migrated to the plains before the twentieth century have a strong influence of the Muslim culture of Awadh in their language, and to some extent, in their food. These Urdu or Hindustani speaking families have traditionally been more tolerant to Muslims than the recent migrants because of their close association and cordial relations with the Muslim elite of northern India. Famous Urdu poets, such as Chakbast, were Kashmiri Pandits. A very large number of lawyers and administrators in British India belonged to Kashmiri Pandit families of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The same families gained political importance through the Indian National Congress in Independent India. The first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and the third prime minister, Indira Gandhi, belonged to a Kashmiri Pandit family of Allahabad. Rajiv Gandhi, the seventh prime minister of India, was also half-Kashmiri Pandit. Therefore, the Government of India has been headed by persons belonging to Kashmiri Pandit families for 37 years, i.e. for more than half of the political life of the country after independence.

Exodus (1985-1995)

In late 1989 and early 1990, an uprising against Indian occupation of Kashmir led to the pandits leaving the Valley. These families intended to return to the Valley after restoration of normalcy. However, the socio-political situation in Kashmir continues to be volatile, with the displaced Kashmiri Pandits beginning to lose their cultural identity. The US Department of State reports that, according to the Indian National Human Rights Commission, the Kashmiri Pandit population in Jammu and Kashmir dropped from 15 percent in 1941 to 1 percent as of 2001.[6][7]. In 2009 Oregon Legislative Assembly passed a resolution to recognize 14 September 2007, as Martyrs Day to acknowledge ethnic cleansing and campaigns of terror inflicted on non-Muslim minorities of Jammu and Kashmir by terrorists seeking to establish an Islamic state.[8] According to the CIA about 300,000 Kashmir Hindus (Pandits) from the Indian Administered Kashmir Valley are residing in the Jammu region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (particularly in the refugee camps at Udhampur and Jammu), and another 100,000 in Delhi, in refugee camps established by the Indian Government and the UN.[9]

Currently, the National Capital Region of Delhi, including Delhi, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, NOIDA, and Gurgaon, is the settlement with the largest population of Kashmiri Pandits in the world.

Kashmiri Pandit Culture


The religious festivals of the Brahmins of Kashmir have Vedic roots. The Kashmiri Pandits share most of their festivals with other Hindu communities and some with the Zoroastrians and other Persian and Central Asian peoples, the pre-Islamic elements of whose cultures are similar to the Vedic culture.

Some Kashmiri Pandit festivals are Herath (Shivaratri), Navreh (Navreh, pre-dates Islam in Kashmir by several millennia and is very close to the New Year, namely, Navroz of the Zoroastrians) , Zarmae-Satam (Janmashtami), Dussehra, Diwali, Pan (Roth Puza / Ganesha Chaturthi), Jyeshtha Ashtami, Khetsimavas (Yakshamavasya, Khichry Amavas), Kava Punim, Mitra Punim (Mehregan), Tiki Tsoram, Ganga Atham, Tila Atham, Vyatha Truvah, and Anta Tsodah.


The food of the Kashmiri Pandits is elaborate, and forms an important part of their ethnic identity. It usually uses a lot of yogurt, oil, and spices as such turmeric, but avoids onion, garlic, tomatoes, and chicken. An equal emphasis is laid on vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, although a bias for non-vegetarian dishes certainly exists.

Typical vegetarian dishes include:

  • Ladyar Tsaman (Cottage cheese in turmeric)
  • Veth Tsaman (Cottage cheese, cooked in oil and Kashmiri spices)
  • Dam oluv (Roasted potatoes)
  • Nadeir yakhean (Lotus stem in a yogurt gravy)
  • Haak (Kashmiri spinach(Knol-kohl, Brassica olerceae-Botanical name of Cruciferae family), often cooked with aubergines or lotus stem)
  • Nadier palak (Spinach and lotus stem)
  • Tsoek vangan (Sour aubergines)
  • Razmah (Kidney beans, often cooked with turnips)

Typical non-vegetarian are similar to Muslim dishes, but vary in taste.

  • Rogan josh
  • Syun Qaliya
  • Matshgand
  • Syun Oluv
  • Yakhein
  • Kabargah
  • Tsoek Tsarvan
  • Gaad (Fish, cooked with radish, apple, turnip, or lotus stem)

There are also some other mutton dishes, cooked by the Kashmiri Pandits who migrated to the Indo-Gangetic Plain before the twentieth century. These dishes also do not traditionally use any onions, garlic, chicken, or egg. Yogurt (zamud dod / dahi), asafoetida (angedan / hing), dried ginger (sonth), cinnamon (dalchini), cardamoms (elaichi), and cloves (laung) form the base of any gravy. The meat is roasted in the fat of the yogurt. The major difference between these dishes and those of the other Kashmiri Pandit families is that these dishes are drier, use less fennel (saunf), and in some cases, less yogurt. Besides, the meat is roasted for a longer duration, and there seems to be a fairly strong influence of the cooking style of the Muslims of Awadh.

  • Raughan Josh (Rogan josh), commonly referred to as 'Sabut Salan' or 'unminced meat' (common to both groups of Kashmiri Pandit families)
  • Kofta, plural Koftey - mutton sausages (similar to Mats)
  • Pasanda, plural Pasandey - flattened mutton chunks
  • Kabargah - batter fried rib chops (also called Kamargah, and common to both groups of Kashmiri Pandit families)
  • Shabdegh - mutton with turnips (Shalgham / Gogjy Salan), kohlrabi (Munji / Karam Qamri / Ganthgobi Salan), pumpkin (Kadu Salan), zucchini (Ala / Lauki Salan), ridge gourd (Turai Salan), spinach (Palak Salan), cabbage (Karam Kallah Salan), lotus stem (Nadru Salan), bauhinia buds (Kachnar Salan), mulberry (Shahtoot Salan), or peaches (Aru Salan)
  • Jigar, or Kalejy - mutton liver, mainly a breakfast dish
  • Methi Qeema, minced mutton with fenugreek
  • Methi Goli, meat balls with fenugreek

Rice is the prime cereal. However, sweet wheat breads are also eaten. These include Roath, Sheermal, and Khameeri Puri. Bazbatta is a vegetable pilaf, commonly eaten at home, often with Koftey / Mats. Sarvari is a chickpea pilaf prepared on special occasions, including Navreh (Navroz / Nowruz) and birthdays.

Popular desserts include Phirni, Shufta, Panjeeri, Shakar Pareh, Gulab Jamun, Laddoo, Barfi, Kasaar, and Sevaiyyan.

Kashmiri Pandit Surnames

Surnames of Kashmiri Brahmins include Agha or Aga, Atal, Bakhshi, Bamroo or Bamru, Bamzai, Baqaya or Bakaya, Bazaz, Bhan, Bhatt or Bhat, Chak, Chaku, Chakoo, Dhar or Dar, Dulloo,Ganhar, Ganjoo or Ganju, Ghamkhar, Gurtoo or Gurtu, Haksar, Handoo, Hangal, Haq, Harkauli, Hazari, Hoon, Hukku or Hukkoo, Jailkhani,Jalali, Kabu or Kaboo, Kacher, Kachroo or Kachru, Kak, Kalla, Karawal, Karihaloo, Karwayun or Karvayun, Kaul, Koul, or Kaula, Kaw or Kao, Khar or Kher, Langer or Langar, Lango, Markande,Marchwagnoo, Mawa, Masaldan, Mattoo, Misri, Moza, Mubayi, Munshi, Mushran, Nagu, Pandit or Pandita, Raina, Razdan, Reu, Safaya, Sukhia, Sapru, Shungloo or Shunglu, Sopori or Shivpuri, Suthoo, Takru, Taku, Tankha, Tikkoo or Tikku or Tickoo or Tikoo or Ticku, Thalchur, Thusoo, Trakroo, Ugra, Vatal or Wattal, Wali, Wanchoo or Wanchu, Warikoo, Zalpuri, Zaroo, and Zutshi.

Bhat,Kaul,Raina are the most common Kashmiri Pandit surname.

It is also suggested that among these 'Hangals' and 'Mawas'(earlier Raina) belong to the Royal Pandit Clan of Kashmir, but some argue that it was only the 'Mawas' who controlled the trade activities in the early 17th to the late 19th century. They also developed immensely in the field of art and philosophy.

Most of the surnames of Kashmiri Pundits tell nothing of their origins and are mainly nicknames. Pandit Anand Kaul, a Kashmiri historian, has quoted a classic example of resistance shown against a nickname by a poor Kashmiri Pandit whose name was 'Vasadev'. He had a mulberry tree in his courtyard, and was, therefore, called Vasadev Tul, Tul being the Kashmiri name of mulberry. In order to get rid of this nickname he cut down the mulberry tree. But a mond (trunk) remained and he was called, ' Vasadev Mond'. Irritated, the Pandit immediately removed the trunk; and a hollow (khud) remained and henceforth he was known as 'Vasadev Khud'. Continuing his battle against nickname givers, he got the hollow space filled up and the ground became 'teng' (a little elevated). Thus he was re-nicknamed as 'Vasadev Teng'. At last, he had to give in gracefully and accepted his final nickname, which then became a family name for his progeny. Surnames like Tul, Khud, and Teng are still in use with certain changes in the spellings. The only genuine origin of a Kashmiri Brahmin is from his or her Gotra, based on their origin from a respective Aryan Sage.

Apart from nicknames that later became surnames, most of the present day Kashmiri surnames are linked to the profession or occupation of their forefathers. Aram (vegetable grower), Kral (potter), Gooru (milkman), Hakim (physician), Waza (cook), Bazaz (merchant) are some of the surnames that tell about the profession of older generation of Kashmiris.

There are even surnames originating in animal names. For example, Hangloo or Hangal (stag), Khar (ass), Braroo (cat), Kantroo (male sparrow), Kakroo (cock), Kaw (crow), Bambroo (black bee), Kotru (pigeon), Kaw (crow), Shargha (parrot), Dand (bull), Hoon (dog, related to German 'Hund'), Yechh (Yeti), Kukiloo (cuckoo), etc. These surnames have been attached to Kashmiris' names because of the resemblance of some of their ancestors with that particular animal or a bird. Some surnames are derived even from names of vegetables, e.g. Mujoo (radish), Bamchoot (quince) Hakh (a green leafy vegetable).

There is another group of Kashmiri family names associated with ancestral villages, e.g. Sopori, Nehru, Lidhoo,, Hangloo, Ishbari and Kadalbujoo

Kashmiri surnames are also derived from names of traditional stone and metal pots, e.g. Wakhulu (flat bottomed stone mortar), Grata (wheat grinder) , Lej (earthen pot) or Gadwa (metallic pot)

If any Kashmiri had a deformity, its name had to be carried forward by his descendents. Karihaloo (person with a bend in the neck), Kaboo (hunchback), Kissu (person appearing like a little finger), Kharoo (bald man), Zaroo (deaf man), Tut (a man with a long chin) , Kaloo (dumb man) Mushraan (person with an extraordinary physique) are some typical surnames still in use.

Pir, Sadhu, Rishi, Kachroo, Wali, Sahib, and Bahadur are surnames that were originally religious or social titles. Pir Pandit Padshah was a famous Kashmiri saint during the reign of Shah Jahan. His miracles and spiritual attainments attracted people from different walks of life. His disciples, both Hindus and Muslims, are still known as Pir .

It is interesting to note that among Kashmiris, a Rishi or a Pandit by surname can be a Muslim, while a Peer or Khan can be a Hindu. Similarly, Dhar or Dar, Bhat, Kaul, Akhoon, Chakoo, Durrani, Draboo, Kaloo, Kanna, Kaw, Khar, Khuda, Kitchloo, Munshi, Machama,Mirza, Padar, Parimoo, Pandit, Peer, Raina and, Rishi are surnames shared by the Hindus and Muslims of Kashmir.

See also


  1. Muhammad Qãsim Hindû Shãh Firishta : Tãrîkh-i-Firishta, translated by John Briggs under the title "History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India." First published in 1829, New Delhi Reprint 1981.
  2. Ronald M. Davidson, Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 70.
    - "Our records indicate that Brahmans crisscrossed northern India during most of the period in question, emigrating from Madhyadesa, Bengal, Magadha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Kashmir, and other locales at various times to seek employment in regions such as Madhya Pradesh, the Deccan, and preeminently, Orissa."
  3. Ronald M. Davidson, Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 70.
    - "Our records indicate that Brahmans crisscrossed northern India during most of the period in question, emigrating from Madhyadesa, Bengal, Magadha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Kashmir, and other locales at various times to seek employment in regions such as Madhya Pradesh, the Deccan, and preeminently, Orissa."
  4. Mohibbul Hasan, Kashmir Under the Sultans (Srinagar: Ali Mohammad & Sons, 1974), 28-95. - In case a Muslim bias is suspected, Mohibbul Hasan was a Professor and Head of the Department of History, Kashmir University, Srinagar.
  5. Kashmiri Pandits still in camps after 20 years
  6. The valley of Kashmir
  7. ISBN 0691116881. page 37.
  8. Senate Joint Resolution 23, 75th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY--2009 Regular Session
  9. [1]


  1. US Department of State Country Report: India (2006)
  2. The valley of Kashmir
  3. Kashmir's contribution to Indian Culture
  4. Template:IAST, Template:IAST, Eng. trans. M. A. Stein. 2 vols. London, 1900.
  5. Ronald M. Davidson, Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 70.
    Our records indicate that Brahmans crisscrossed northern India during most of the period in question, emigrating from Madhyadesa, Bengal, Magadha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Kashmir, and other locales at various times to seek employment in regions such as Madhya Pradesh, the Deccan, and preeminently, Orissa.
  6. Mohibbul Hasan, Kashmir Under the Sultans (Srinagar: Ali Mohammad & Sons, 1974), 28-95. (Mohibbul Hasan was a Professor and Head of the Department of History, Kashmir University, Srinagar.
  7. Spread of Islam in Kashmir, Kashmir Pandits: Problem Prospects And Future by Dr. Ajay Chungroo, Gairoo Kaa Akeyla Shiv Dr. Rajiv Kumar
  8. Frank Pallone
  9. Statement by US Congressman Joe Wilson
  10. Kashmiri Pandits still in camps after 15 years
  11. Muhammad Qãsim: Tãrîkh-i-Firishta

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