Kashmir: An Overview of the Seven Exoduses of Hindus (Part 2)

An extremely brutal period for Kashmiri Hindus as various Muslim ethnic groups tried to completely Islamise the land of Kashmir.

Kashmir: An Overview of the Seven Exoduses of Hindus (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

The death of Sultan Zain-ul-Abid (1470 CE) ended the short span of peace in Kashmir. He was tolerant and had made all efforts to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Hindus in the valley. Hence, this ruler was widely criticized by the orthodox Islamic authorities for leading people towards infidelity. Persian chronicles regretfully record the ascendancy of Hinduism and the decline of Islam under Zain-ul-Abidin.

The Third Exodus

The ruler, Hyder Shah (1470-1472 CE), with the help of Purni (a new convert), his barber, restarted the fanatic ways of the previous Islamic rulers. This time the Brahmins rose in revolt but were crushed heavily by the king who indulged in destroying temples, looting, and plundering. The noses and arms of many were chopped off, many were put to the sword; many preferred to drown themselves in the Vitasta (Jhelum river) to escape torture. (1)

Hyder Shah was followed by Hasan Khan, under whom a genocide of Hindus happened. He was like a puppet ruler with the real power resting in the hands of prominent Shias – Shamas Chak, Shringar Raina and Musa Raina (who was a Hindu converted to Shia sect).

During this time, Mir Shams-ud-Din Iraqi, a renowned Shia missionary from Herat, visited Kashmir and stayed there for 20 years. The Nurbakhshiya order (Shia sect) was founded by Syed Nurbaksh. Through debates with Muslim scholars or Ulemas, Syed Nurbaksh established his supremacy. Mir Shams-ud-Din Iraqi, under the influence of Syed Nurbaksh, went on a mission to eradicate idol worshippers with the sword.

According to a modern scholar, ‘the Nurbakhshiya movement was a mixture of militarism and social reform in the land of its origin, so it followed the same characteristics in Kashmir as well’. (2) Therefore, Shams-ud-Din Iraqi, being a zealous missionary, had to stop Hindu ceremonies, destroy temples and convert them.

The introduction of the Nurbakhshiya order in Kashmir had a deep impact on the socio-religious and political history of the region since the Kashmiri Muslims were now divided into two hostile sects of Islam – Shias and Sunnis. This resulted in the downfall of the Sultans, the rise of Chaks and ultimately paved the way for annexation by Mughals.

A medieval chronicle, Tohfat-ul-Ahbab, records that “on the instance of Shams-ud-Din Iraqi, Musa Raina had issued orders that everyday 1,500 to 2,000 infidels be brought to the doorstep of Mir Shamsud-Din by his followers. They would remove their sacred thread and administer kelima to them, circumcise them and make them eat beef.Tarikh-i-Hasan notes “twenty-four thousand Hindu families were converted to Iraqi’s faith by force and compulsion”.(3)

The lands belonging to the Brahmins were confiscated and men associated with temples were both harassed and arrested only to break their allegiance to the Hindu places of worship. (4) The Vishnu temple at Buniyar in the district of Baramulla was vandalized (5). Many important ancient temples were ruined.

Malik Kaji Chak became a powerful prime minister under Sultan Muhammad Shah. And ‘one of the major commands of Amir Shams-ud-Din Muhammad Iraqi carried out by him (Kaji Chak) was the massacre of the infidels and polytheists of this land,’ says Baharistan-i-Shahi. Many who were converted to Islam by force by Malik Raina, later reverted to Hinduism under the leadership of Pandit Nirmal Kanth.

Hence, Kaji Chak ‘decided upon carrying out wholesale massacre of the infidels,’ notes Baharistan-i-Shahi. Their massacre was scheduled to be carried out on the holy festival day of Ashura (Muharram, 1518 CE) and ‘about seven to eight hundred infidels were put to death. Those killed were the leading personalities of the community of infidels at that time.’ Thereupon, ‘the entire community of infidels and polytheists in Kashmir was coerced into conversion to Islam at the point of the sword. This is one of the major achievements of Malik Kaji Chak,’ records Baharistan-i-Shahi. (6)

The Shias were intolerant of Sunni Muslims also, though not as much as they were towards Hindus. Sunnis were converted forcefully, as well. Next were the Buddhists of Kargil who had to go through the same terror as Hindus did. Today, Kargil is predominantly Shia.

The Baharistan-i-Shahi states,

“All traces of infidelity and idol worship were replaced by Islamic symbols and the infidels and holy thread wearers of Kashmir were converted to Islam.”

After the intensive religious mission, Iraqi left, and a Mughal general Mirza Hyder Dhughlat (1540-1551 CE) rose to power. He ruled in the name of Humayun. He was an orthodox Sunni and contemporary, as well as modern historians, agree that he was intolerant of those who did not conform to the Sunni sect of Islam. According to him, the Nurbakshiya sect was a corrupt form of religion. He even destroyed the tomb of Shams-ud-Din Iraqi at Zadibal. (7) Shia leaders were persecuted, exiled, and their houses destroyed. (8) The son of Iraqi was executed too.

The 15th century witnessed the third exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir.

The Fourth Exodus

During the Chak rule (1553-1586 CE), Akbar conquered Kashmir in 1586 CE. The Mughal period was between 1586 CE and 1752 CE. Following the trend of Zain-ul-Abidin, Akbar was tolerant, abolished jaziya and granted rent-free villages to Hindus. Pandits were also given important positions in the middle level of the government.

Jahangir’s rule followed that of Akbar. He and then, Shahjahan, both disrespected Hindus. They destroyed temples like other Islamic rulers. Francois Bernier, a French historian and traveller wrote,

“The doors and pillars were found in some of the idol temples demolished by Shah-Jehan and it is impossible to estimate their value.” (9)

Aurangzeb (1658-1707 CE) succeeded Shahjahan and once again Hindu suppression and efforts to Islamize began. He would not even tolerate women in their traditional Kashmiri clothing, that is, without salwars, and directed Inayat Ullah Khan, the governor, to compel them to cover their naked legs. (10) Hindus could not wear tilak or the sacred thread. Jaziya tax was imposed and forced conversions began. This work was done by the governors of Aurangzeb – Iftikar Khan, Muzzaffar Khan, Nissar Khan and Ibrahim Khan. Even the unorthodox rishis were not spared.

This period saw the fourth exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley.

The Fifth Exodus

In 1720 CE, Muhat Khan was appointed as Sheikh-ul-Islam or the superior authority of Islam. He instructed the governor to persecute the non-Muslims or kafirs with six commandments –

  1. No Hindu should ride a horse; not should he wear shoes.
  2. They should not wear Jama (Mughal style clothing).
  3. Should not move out with their arms covered.
  4. They shall not visit any garden.
  5. Are not permitted to have a tilak mark on their foreheads.
  6. Their children should not be educated.

The governor, Ahmed Khan, refused to follow the above instructions. Hence, the Mullah Muhat Khan instigated his followers against Pandits and came to power under the title of Dindar Khan. Under his orders, Hindus were killed, maimed, and tortured. Several survivors hid in mountain areas. (11) He pursued the anti-Hindu policies of Aurangzeb. His ‘transformation campaign(12) against the Hindu dress, language and culture destroyed social harmony.

He persecuted and tortured both the Hindus and the Shia-Muslims. The Mullah’s son who became the superior authority after him, continued the same.

This oppression resulted in the fifth exodus of Pandits from Kashmir.

The Mughal period was followed by Afghan rule. Prominent Muslim leaders invited Ahmad Shah Abdali to bring Afghan rule to the region. This was done under the leadership of the brutal Afghan, Abdullah Khan Ishqe Aqasi. Kashmir entered into an even darker phase of violence and poverty. The Afghan rule was between 1753 to 1819 CE.

The Sixth Exodus

The Afghans also sent their governors and deputy governors to rule over Kashmir. During the period Kashmir was ruled by twenty-eight governors as Heavy taxes were levied on the Kashmiris and a big amount of revenue was drained away to Kabul. (13)

According to Sir Walter Lawrence (14), Afghan rule in Kashmir was a period of brutal tyranny.

Below is a list of what all the Hindus were subjected to, under Afghan rule-

  1. New methods to humiliate the Pandits were devised.
  2. Hindu granthas were confiscated and used to construct a bund along a tributary of Jhelum, now called Suth.
  3. When killing with sword got monotonous, the Hindus were put in pairs, tied in grass sacks and drowned in the Dal Lake. To make it worse, Mir Hazar, the Afghan governor, introduced the use of leather sacks instead of grass sacks.
  4. In those days, any Muslim was free to jump on the back of Hindus to take rides. This practice was called Khos.
  5. Tilaks, turbans, and wearing of shoes were banned for Pandits.
  6. To save their daughters from the lust of Afghans, many had to shave their heads or cut off their noses.
  7. Thousands were killed or converted.
  8. Many Pandits were appointed as Kardars or agricultural tax collectors. If the crops failed and ample tax was not brought – these Kardars were tortured in any way as the governor pleased.
  9. There was a concentration camp near Nishat garden where Hindus were tortured.

Most historians agree that this was the darkest period witnessed by Kashmir. When the Shias were in power, the Sunnis suffered and vice versa. There was a short rise of power of the Bombas (or Bambas) who mainly lived in the Jhelum gorge, below Baramulla. They had converted to Islam. The Bombas were just as brutal towards the Hindus, as per the historian Hasan. (15) It was the Hindus who faced the worst atrocities consistently during the rule of various Islamic sects.

The above resulted in the sixth exodus of the Kashmiri Hindus.

Kashmir was under Sikh rule between 1819 CE and 1846 CE. This was followed by Dogra rule that started in 1946 and ended when India gained independence from the British in 1947 CE. However, Hindus only got a temporary respite from Islamic persecution. The seventh exodus was yet to come.



  1. Satish Ganjoo, ‘Satanic Holocaust of Kashmiri Pandits; KP Network @yahoogroups.com
  2. Islam in India. Vol, II, “The Nurbakhshiyas of Kashmir”, A.M. Mattoo, p. 105
  3. Darakhshan Abdullah, Supervisor – Dr. Abul Majid Mattoo, “Religious Policy of the Sultans of Kashmir (1320-1586 A.D.), Thesis submitted to The University of Kashmir for the Award of Doctorate Degree in History, Post Graduate Department of History, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, November 1991, Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh Muslim University, T5239.
  4. Shuka, Rajtarangini, P339.
  5. Pundit KN, Baharistan-i-Shahi: an account of Medieval history of Kashmir, written anonymously. It has been translated by Prof. KN Pundit under the title, A Chronicle of Medieval Kashmir.
  6. Pundit, p 117
  7. Baharistani-Shahi, Anonymous, p. 116, Tarikhi-Kashmir. Sayyld Ali, f., 22b; Tarikhi-Hasan. Sayyid Ali and Hasan, Hasan Vol, II, p. 221, Sayyid Ali and Hasan say, that Shams Iraqi’s bones were taken out and burnt and his tomb was turned into a public latrine. But Baharistani-Shahi does not mention this.
  8. Tarikhi-Hasan, Hasan, Vol, II, p, 222. Tarikhi-Kashmir. Haidar Malik p.120
  9. Francois Bernier (1625-1688) was a French physician and traveller. He was the personal physician of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, who visited Kashmir in 1665. His ‘Travels in India’ contains a series of letters about his journey to Kashmir in Aurangzeb’s suite (edited by Archibald Constable in 1891). The second edition was revised by Vincent Smith: Oxford University Press, London, 1914)
  10. Sarveer Ahmad, Muzafar Ahmad Mir, Arif Ahmad Dar, “Socio-cultural impact of Mughal rule on Kashmir”, May 2017, International Journal of Scientific Development and Research, Volume 2, Issue 5, ISSN:24552631
  11. Fauq, Tarikh-i-Kashmir.
  1. Parimu (Dr.) R.K., Muslim Rule in Kashmir
  2. Syed Damsaz Ali Andrabi, “Afghans an Social Unrest in Kashmir Society 1753-1819 A.D.”, 2017, American Research Journal of History and Culture, Volume3, Issue 1, 5 Pages, ISSN-2379-2914,  www.arjonline.org
  3. Sir Walter Lawrence was an able and objective scholar who visited Kashmir in the late 19thcentury and wrote about Kashmir and its people.
  4. Narender Sehgal, “Converted Kashmir, A Bitter Saga of Religious Conversion,” Utpal Publications, Printed at Kiran Mudran Kendra, New Delhi, 1994, ISBN-81-85217-06-8
  5. Colonel Tej K. Tikoo (Ph.D.) –Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus (Revised Edition), Lancer Publishers & Distributors, Printed at Thomas Press, New Delhi, 2020, ISBN-10: 1-935501-34-8
  6. Syed Damsaz Ali Andrabi, “Afghans an Social Unrest in Kashmir Society 1753-1819 A.D.”, 2017, American Research Journal of History and Culture, Volume3, Issue 1, 5 Pages, ISSN-2379-2914, www.arjonline.org

About Author: Mudita Parameswaran

Mudita is a housewife and a perpetual student. She is in awe of ancient temples, loves to be in nature, and explore Indian arts and crafts.

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