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Chak Sultans of Kashmir

By: Dr. Ejaz Husain Malek
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

The Chaks immigrated to Kashmir from Dardistan, during the reign of Suhadeva (r. 1301-20), under their leader Lankar Chak who was a Damara chief (landed aristocrat) and settled at the village Trehgam. Another Chak tribe under Hilmat Chak entered Kashmir from Gilgit and settled in Kupwara. Sultan Shams置-din Shah Mir, the founder of the Shah Mir Dynasty, raised them to prominence. Shah Mir in order to increase the numerical strength of his supporters and to check the ambitious chiefs, who were the main cause of confusion and disorder in the regimes preceding him, patronized the Chaks. His accommodation of Chaks in state administration is also associated with the physical strength Chaks possessed which made them the best choice for becoming commanders for safeguarding the Sultan and the kingdom against inimical forces. He made Lankar Chak his commander in chief. But it was not until the time of Sultan Muhammad Shah that they began to play an important role in the affairs of the Kashmir. They made their presence in the power corridors by entering into marriage alliances with the principal landowning families of the valley and the ruling dynasty. The Chaks had entered into matrimonial alliance with Muhammad Shah, the reigning Sultan. Shams Chak, Son of Hilmat Chak, the leader of the second Chak tribe, had served in turn Sayyid Muhammad, Malik Nauroz, and Saif Dar. He married the daughter of Pandu Chak痴 son Hussain Chak. Both Pandu Chak and Hussain Chak were scions of Lankar Chak of Trehgam. This matrimonial alliance strengthened the position of Chaks in the uncertain political atmosphere of Kashmir.

Kaji Chak: The foremost benefactor of Mir Shamsu'd-Din Iraqi
The descendants of Pandu Chak, Hussain Chak and Kaji Chak embraced Shi段sm by following Shams置-Din Iraqi. After the death of Shams Chak out of prevailing political intrigues, and to chart out a new beginning for themselves, Chaks under Kaji Chak approached Mir Iraqi for moral and material help and political advice. Since Iraqi at this point of time had enough following, coming closer to him and accepting him their spiritual master, might have strengthened their social base in the struggle for power. However, sources partial to this association of Chaks with Iraqi force credit upon Shaikh Isma段l whom Chaks respected and attempt to underline the not so larger than life image of Iraqi in the religious and political life of earlier Chak nobles. Sayyid Ali writes: That it was the practice of the high functionaries of the government that before starting any work they would first visit the Khalifa (of Shaikh Isma段l i.e., Baba Ali) and seek his blessings. One day Kaji Chak and Ghazi Khan decided to go to hunting in the Nusrat-Lake. They (first) called on the Shaikh Isma段l and sought his blessings. Later they went to the Khalifa (Baba Ali) to show their obeisance, but he asked them to kneel down before Shams al-Din Iraqi as he was a disciple of Sayyid Muhammad Nurbakhsh and had given up his official position and became a spiritual master (Sahibi-Sajjada). Since Shams al-Din Iraqi was sitting on the seat of the Baba they lowered their bodies in his reverence.
The implication here is that had Iraqi not been in the Khanqah of Baba Ali and had Baba not directed Chak nobles in his presence, and had Iraqi not been sitting at the place of Baba Ali, Kaji Chak and others would not have manifested their respect, but for the devotion towards Shaikh Isma段l and his Khalifa. Sayyid Ali ignores the preceding events which clearly mention the relationship between Iraqi and Baba and the fact that it was during debates and discussions that Chaks came closer to Iraqi, not only through his association with Baba Isma段l. They in fact visited the Khanqah to seek blessings of Iraqi for their future initiatives. Muhammad Ali Kashmiri says that nobles and grandees (of Kashmir) finding that Mir Shamsu'd-Din Iraqi was a person of high spiritual status became his devotees. They visited him often and thus benefitted from his discourses in seeking the path of the mystics. No only Chaks, but other political functionaries like Saif Dar, Musa Raina and others used to visit Iraqi quite often for spiritual benefits and religious awareness. They were impressed by Iraqi痴 arguments and rational debating attitude during his encounters with Shaikh Shihab al-Din. Iraqi痴 popularity achieved such proportions that Sayyid Ali despite being biased towards him fails to conceal his disdain that, 層hen common people noticed that the high functionaries of the government were visiting the Iraqi, they also started going to him in order to fulfill their worldly desires.
After formal expressions of blessing, Iraqi says Baharistan, 田alled Kaji Chak to his presence and told him that the Omnipotent would give unto his command the government of that (Tibet) country; and that he should adopt the path of justice and keep in mind the welfare of his people. He was also told to give his full attention to the propagation of Islam. Kaji Chak replied in affirmative and told Iraqi, 的 take an oath upon my honour that I shall strictly abide by your dictates. Should God Almighty choose me to wield authority, I shall neither deviate from your directives nor disregard your wishes. Later when Kaji Chak held the administrative authority of Kashmir during Muhammad Shah痴 fourth term as Sultan in 1517 AD, he extended full support to Iraqi. During the whole period for which he held the reigns of the government, Iraqi always guided him. It was during this r馮ime that Iraqi ordered Malik Kaji Chak to reconstruct the khanqah of Amir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, which was destroyed by fire. Sayyid Ali and other sources however, see into this reconstruction Iraqi痴 ploy to dismantle the Khanqah and turn the flow of followers of Sayyid Ali Hamadani towards his own Khanqah at Zadibal. It was with the political support of Kaji Chak, now vizir of Muhammad Shah, that Iraqi took upon the re-conversion of apostates. During the times of Musa Raina, Iraqi had converted many people to Islam. But with the persuasion and help of some chiefs, some of them had reverted to their old customs and traditions. Some of them while offering prayers and worshipping of their idols would place a copy of the Quran under their haunches to make seat to sit upon. Thus idol-worshipping proceeded even while they sat on the divine book. When the news and details of these doings reached Iraqi, he summoned Kaji Chak in his presence and declared to him that 奏his community of idolaters has, after embracing Islamic faith, now gone back to defiance and apostasy if you find yourself unable to inflict punishment upon them in accordance with the provisions of Sharia and take disciplinary action against them, it will become necessary and incumbent upon me to proceed on a self-imposed exile and in that case you shall not stand in my way at the time of my departure. Since Malik Kaji Chak prior to his assumption of power and authority had promised Iraqi that he would never deviate from or disregard his wishes and injunctions, therefore, in deference to his wishes, he held consultations with his counselors and administrative officers, and decided upon carrying out a wholesale massacre of the apostates. Their massacre was scheduled for the days of the approaching Ashura. Those killed were leading personalities of the community of these apostates. It was with the support of Kaji Chak that Iraqi was able to suppress the reconversion movement initiated by Shri Nirmalakantha. Lamenting the death of this movement, Sanskrit chronicler Suka writes in Rajatarangini: Now in times gone by Shriyya (Shri Bhatt) a twice born (Brahman) had planted as it were the creeper of his karma. On the approach of winter, the good Brahmana Shri Nirmalakantha watered it. Then at the time of the Mleccha oppression, Kanthabhatta and others had a council and was able to avert the disgrace which such oppression beget. Khujjamerahmada (Iraqi), on the other hand, by devoting his life to the service of Kacha Chakra (Kaji Chak) and by giving him wealth, induced him, who was alarmed at the work of Nirmalakantha and others, to give permission to act against them; and actuated by the Mlecchas, caused them to be murdered. O Brahmanas where in this Kaliyuga are your Brahmanical spirit and practice? It was for want of these that the sorrowful and affrighted Nirmalakantha and others were killed. The oppression of the Mausulas (Muslims), which began in the time of Sayyids, was made prominent by Somachandra (Musa Raina) and was perfected by Kacha Chakra (Kaji Chak).
The massacre of apostates Baharistan talks about, was what emerges from Suka痴 description the reply of Iraqi to Nirmalakantha痴 reconversion movement, which was reducing the numbers of Iraqi痴 followers drastically. Those people who had been converted to Shi段sm by Iraqi on his first visit were persuaded to revert to their old faith by Nirmalakantha. It is these people who while worshipping idols kept a copy of Quran under their seats. To correct this situation, Iraqi took recourse to political support. The use of force was meant to enforce Islam in its essence into those who oscillated between old and new traditions, who were not ready to part with their previous held beliefs and practices and at the same time continued with their newly adopted religion. For Iraqi, such a situation was reproachful and demanded action, and as a shrewd Sufi, he instead of appealing their religious sense, employed political support, which contained power and authority. Thus, a combination of spiritual and political power was put to effect for confronting a scenario of a particular nature. The same strategy was of no use in influencing the beliefs and practices of Muslims associated with other schools of thought. It was persuasion through logical arguments, discussion and debates, generosity in times of miseries and calamities, and accommodation in the state administration, that Iraqi gained large following, which in the long run helped Chaks to cement their place in the political space of Kashmir.
The growth Shi段sm witnessed with the ascendance of a Shi段, Kaji Chak to the position of wazir and kingmaker, and the resultant encouragement Shi段s felt in the expression and propagation of their rituals and practices, belief and outlook is demonstrated by the way they took to debate and discussion openly with Sufis, Rishis and learned men of other schools of Islam. Sayyid Ali provides references of such sort where Shi段s put to test the spiritual worth of Sunni Sufis and Rishis of Kashmir in a manner not witnessed during previous regimes to impress their followers with the superiority of their own faith and thereby conversion to Shi段sm. Tarikh-i Kashmir mentions that Baba Lusti one of the disciples of Baba Hanifu壇-Din was the head of the Rishis during the reign of Malik Kaji Chak. Because of the religious discord (fitna) he was harassed for his religious beliefs (by Shi段s). Some of the Rishis like Shungli Rishi and Beni Kaka, because of their weak faith had given up their (Sunni) beliefs. Baba Lusti, being the head of the Rishis at that time, was approached by a group of people (from amongst the Shi段s) who told him that he along with Shi段 (leaders) should retire to seclusion for forty days. During this period, they should break the fast, only with tar (juice of the pine-raughan-i chub), which in Kashmiri is called lush (inflammable wood). Thus whosoever survives this trial, they said, his religious beliefs would be considered by one and all. Baba Lusti Rishi accepted this challenge, but none of the Shi段s had courage to accept it. The Baba retired alone to seclusion for forty days and did not eat anything except the tar at the time of breaking the fast. The Shi段s had thought that he would not survive the trial and that he would die. But his inner soul was clear and pure; therefore he passed the test successfully. They Shi段s were shocked to see him alive and they begged for his pardon.
Sayyid Ali feels disgusted with the adoption of Shi段 belief by Shungli Rishi and Beni Kaka, which highlights the actual importance of this incident. The Rishis were an important part of religious life of Kashmiri society. They were popular for their austerity and had huge mass following. The acceptance of Shi段sm by Shungli Rishi and Beni Kaka had won Shi段sm all their followers and devotees. The Shi段s might have thought that if the Rishis would accept their beliefs, their faith would flourish across the length and breadth of Kashmir, since the Rishis were popular among the masses. Therefore, says Pir Hassan, they called all the Rishis and asked them to accept the Shi段 belief. Lusti Rishi however, suggested to them that he and their preachers should retire to a cell for forty days and that during this time they should break the fast with only tar. Sayyid Ali by emphasizing the spiritual superiority of the Sunni Rishis above the Shi段 Rishis clearly exhibits his partial attitude and biasness. The Shi段s were not harassing the Rishis, their discussion with the Rishis was a clever ploy to win that group of the Kashmiri Muslim society which had complete sway over majority of its population at that point of time and who were responsible to a greater measure for their conversion to Islam. This brave step was taken in an atmosphere of political security when Chaks were beginning to dominate the administration of Kashmiri for the next fifty years.

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