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Kalhan’s Rajatarangini as a reliable source of the political History of Kashmir

Kalhan's Rajatarangini as a reliable source of the political History of Kashmir

Kalhana was a Kashmiri historian in 1200 AD. He wrote a famous historical work with the title “Rajtarangini”. Rajtarangini, literally meaning the “River of Kings”, gives a chronological account of Kings of Kashmir from the earliest times. As a source, Rajatarangini gives a reliable history of India’s background, beginning from the Mahabharata age to the middle of the 12th century AD.

About Kalhan’s Rajatarangini

  • Kalhan’s Rajatarangini, written in the Sanskrit language in the 12th century CE, is a mythical and historical metrical depiction of the Kashmir kings of the north-western Indian subcontinent.
  • It is comprised of 7826 verses, split into eight books titled Tarangas (“waves”).
  • In this book, Kalhan expressed attributes of true historians and true historical work.
  • According to Kalhana, a true historian shall examine various works of previous writers critically so that a truthful picture of the past could be reconstructed.

Rajtarangini was composed without any royal patronage and with thorough research, which brings it more historical authenticity. But Kalhana Rajatarangini often fails to distinguish facts from fiction. Hence, it should be studied as per modern historical standards.

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When Kalhan wrote Rajatarangini, his family had dropped out of royal favor. Kalhan extensively studied local traditions, manuscripts, chronicles, inscriptions, coins, monuments, etc. Hence, Kalhan Rajatarangini is well written.

Chronicles of Kings more recent to Kalhana are more credible while earliest accounts are purely fictional which he took from the popular legends uncritically. Kalhana often explains political events as destiny. Kalhana calls himself primarily a poet.

Therefore, Rajtarangini, a work on the political history of Kashmir by a 12th-century historian, should be studied with modern standards of objectivity. 

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