On the Life, Times and Persona of Sultan Zain–ul–Abdin (Budshah)

On the Life, Times and Persona of Sultan Zain–ul–Abdin (Budshah)
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By Syed Rooh Fatima

The oft quoted phrases, “the king is dead long live the king” which seem contradictory have deeper meanings. Essentially, the reference is to the fact that when a king dies the next one becomes the king, it is but natural that no country can remain without the king; therefore, as soon as a king dies, people pray for longevity of the next king.
This has a searing resonance in terms of Kashmir’s history and one of the most splendid rulers that reigned over and governed it: Sultan Zain al Abdin, popularly known as Budshah.
Sahai Khan called himself Zain –ul –Abdin on ascending the throne. After wearing the crown, Zain al Abdin made his younger brother Mohammad Khan his deputy and entrusted him with total powers. Malmat Raina and Ahmed Raina were made commanders in –chief. Malik Masood Thakor was made the Prime Minister. But, the great king retained the departments of justice and assessment with himself
The king was just, learned and benevolent, Bigotry, cruelty, falsehood and other foibles had not touched him. On the day of his coronation, Budshah set all prisoners free ,who had been put in the jails by previous the dispensation .Then , he abolished all the bad laws and regulations issued by previous short sighted kings . Budshah banned fines and other charges (such as price sheet charges) extracted by Shakdars from the poor people; he amended and up dated all the rules and regulations and inscribed these on copper plaques, which were fixed at various places for the information of the people so that the public servants did not exploit them.
Budshah also promulgated regulations for traders and merchants enjoining upon them not to deceive consumers and run their business on fair practices. He ordered them to sell their wares on very small margins of profit. He got all the measures and weights inspected and issued them of correct value. The coins minted from gold and silver looted from the temples during the times of Ali shah, were banned and new coins issued of pure metal as these caused inflation and price rise. The old coins called “Faloosa” are still found. The country underwent revolutionary changes with the ascension of Budshah to the throne. He put down all rebellion and mischief mongers with shrewdness so that the country was free from their mischief.
Budshah was fond of construction and travel; therefore, he spent his leisure time in travel and entertainment. He would go to almost every village and sub divisions; he preferred mountains, ponds and springs. The great king built rest houses, and stayed there. He had put a boat, made of sandalwood, in Kausar Nag and would enjoy a ride on it. Budshah had kept boats in Gangabal (or Harmukut Ganga) on the foot hills of Harmukh Mountains and would fish on it and also enjoy boat rides.
The sultan founded a new Mohalla towards the west of the city with grand buildings and called it Nowshehra; he built his palaces and the court in this Mohallah for public audience. He built a twelve –storied building; there were fifty chambers in every storey and each chamber could accommodate 500 people. This building was vast and spacious and embellished with floral patterns of great art. These palaces were called “Zaine Zeb” in government parlance. But people called these “Razdan” -the king’s residence.
These buildings were witness to the grandeur and greatness of sultan Budshah for a long time. However, during the rebellion of Chaks, the rebels set these buildings on fire and destroyed them (It is said that the fire smoldered for one year). Budshah was popular both among Hindus and Muslims of Kashmir. However, Budshah’s history remained confined to Kashmir and is not available publicly Everything has been transmitted from generation to generation by the word of mouth.
Budshah died in 880(AH).
There was no printing press in Budshah’s time; therefore, the histories of those times were hand written and not published. It is a fact that hand written books are rare. This is the reason why Budshah’s history remained in the dark. Although, there was no printing press in Akbar’s time either but the Portuguese, the French and English often visited his court and they have written about him and preserved it in their publications. The Akbar Nama and Ayeene Akbari were taught in the Madrasas and Pathshalas. While these are widely available but the histories of Kashmir, written in Sanskrit and Persian are still in obscurity.
Only a few have been published and these deal with the Muslim saints and pious people. The histories of Kashmiri Kings are still not available. This is why the history of such a great king as Budshah has remained obscure from the public. The fact is that Budshah was superior to Akbar in many ways. The Sultan was a learned man and knew several languages. He was a poet and would write verses extempore. He did for Hindus what Hindu kings had not been able to do by granting so many privileges to them. Budshah also abolished all types of exploitation and payments of gifts and fines that the Tehsildars and agents would receive from the public; he imposed harsh punishments for corruption and bribery. The great king rarely ordered death sentences as he hated corporal punishment. He acted with characteristic leniency and shrewdness. He did not impose harsh punishments even on thieves and criminals. By his orders, prisoners were engaged in building works.
Budshah’s justice and sincere nature is evident from the fact that he used the public money for public works. He did not full fill his coffers. He met his personal expenses from the income of his estates and personal sources. Budshah treated Kashmiri Hindus without any prejudice and in the right spirit of public welfare both Hindus and Muslims remembers him with utmost respect to this day. People lived in peace. Neither were the Muslims restless nor did the Hindus live in fear anymore. The fame of Kashmir had reached Balakh, Bukhara, Arabia, Khurasan and Iran. The learned ones, the scholars and proficient men were attracted to Budshah and the nature of his personality and rule.
In the Sultan’s court, there were experts of various arts and accomplished people. Those who have heard the full story of his court consider the court of Akbar inferior to Budshah’s. The Sultan would bring religious books from Mecca and other Arab countries and study these. He also got various other books pertaining to higher learning and arts and got of these translated into Persian and some in Sanskrit and some others in Kashmiri.
Many saints, scholars, poets and pious men lived during his reign. One of these was Syed Hussain Mantaqi(R.A) who was a native of Maheeq city of Khurasan . As he was proficient in logic, he was called Mantaqi. He had migrated during the plunder of Amir Taimur along with fifty of his companions and had come to Kashmir during the rule of Sultan Sikander, the iconoclast. Accused of a conspiracy against the king, he went to Delhi from Kashmir voluntarily. When Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin ascended the throne, Mantaqi returned to Kashmir on hearing of fame of the sultan for patronizing letters and arts. The Sultan took an oath of allegiance from Syed Hussain.
About the piety of the Sultan, Islamic historians described many of his miracles and supernatural powers:
One day, the Sultan was sitting alone in Zaina Lank. His son, Haji Khan, came there with the evil intention of killing his father. On seeing him, the Sultan told him that he had left his rosary in the Mosque and that should bring it to him. Haji Khan could say nothing due to awe; when he came to the Mosque, he found his father there repeating incantations. Surprised, Haji came back to Zaina Lank and saw the sultan was still there sitting at his place. When Budshah asked for the rosary, Haji was ashamed of his intentions and fell on the feet of his father.
Another time, the Sultan asked for a gift from his mentor who promised to do it the next day. On the promised day, the mentor came to the Sultan hiding something under his sleeve. When the king spread his hands, the man gave him a newly born baby and told Budshah that he was offering his own son to him as the gift. The Sultan was happy and surprised and entrusted the child to one of the ladies, who belonged to Syed Behaqi dynasty and was childless.
Syed Muhammad Amin Mantaqi (RA) who was the son of Syed Hussain (RA) also had miracles attributed to him:
The Sultan organized a thanks giving festival on the completion of Zaina Lanka. Syed Mantaqi (RA) took part in it .When he saw some actions being performed which were against the tenets of the Sharia such as dancing and singing, he threw himself into Wular lake. The sultan and his courtiers were distressed. Divers were ordered to search the body but all in vain. In the end, the sultan returned to the city with a heavy heart. Upon his return when the Sultan reached the village Asham, he was surprised to see the Hazrat sitting under a tree. The e Sultan fell at his feet and begged for pardon.
Budshah was also a poet. A few couplets, that reflect his ethos, and which are attributed to him are presented here:
“There is no discrimination between a mosque and a temple for an enlightened saint
The discerning people treat both good and bad on par
If u ask what was his religion
It was truth and love with truth for the pious”
Budshah died at the age of 69 years after reigning for 51 years two months and three days. In recorded history, these are held to be the most prosperous years in the history of Kashmir. The great Sultan was buried in front of the tomb of his father at Mazare-e Salatin. Every one wept at the passing away of such a popular king and every heart grieved and mourned.

—The author holds a Master’s in Mass communication and journalism and can be reached at a surrogate email address: saleemqadrie@gmail.com