By M J Aslam
Srinagar is the capital city of the Kashmir vale; since times immemorial it is named and pronounced as Sri-(sun)-Nagar-(city) which (city of sun or sun-city) is its real meaning. But, in the recent past, a trend has been set by the Indian media, its showbiz industry, politicians, and Hindu nationalists to name and pronounce it as Shri-Nagar which (name) has Hindu religious devious and dubious undertones as the word “Shri” or “Siri” represents Shri Lakhsmi (Hindu Goddess of wealth), and conjoined with the word “Nagar”, it means City of Shri Lakhmi Devi. The protagonists of this distortion, as we shall expound it below, are pan-Hindu religionists, who invent new traditions to connect the present with “mythical” past. This theory of “invention of traditions” has been given by two English historians, E J Hobsbawm and T O Ranger of the 20th-21st century. According to this theory, a tradition which is “invented” may claim to be old but, in reality, it is always recent and is designed to espouse a cultural, national, political, religious or some other cause. In the present context, pan-Hindu nationalists also called RSS-ideologues have an agenda of connecting everything in present day India and Muslim dominated Kashmir, be they places, people, their names, their traditions, values, and so on to a mythical past of Brahmans.
For example, Narender Sehgel says that Srinagar is new name of original name of the city which according to him was Shri-nagri. (Converted Kashmir, 5.5). This self-styled historian is totally ignorant of the history and it seems that he has not read Kalhana’s Rajtarangni even, the book he has referred to buttress his claim. The truth of the matter is that Kalhana has nowhere used the words “Shri-nagri” or “Shri-nagar” for the capital city of Kashmir. Everywhere, he has used the name “Srinagara” for the city which was founded by Ashoka, (Sir M A Stein’s translation of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, a chronicle of the kings of Kashmir, volume Two, page 289; Vincent A Smith’s Early history India (1914) 3rd edition, Oxford Press), page 161-162), after he had conquered Kashmir sometime in 250 BD.
Srinagara is by far the most common name used in all texts for the city and Srinagri is also by no means unknown. It shows that Srinagara and Srinagri were interchangeably used for the city of Srinagar. (Ibid, volume 1, page 20). Kalhana has spelt it as Sri-Nagur meaning city of sun, (Ibid, Vol two, page 350), not Sun-God, Sun-Goddess, or any other Goddess like Lakshmi, to be noted.
The annals of Tang Dynasty of China (618-907) also record name of the city as Srinagar. Puranadhishthan or Pravarapura, which was capital city founded by King Pravarasena II who ruled Kashmir between 79-139 AD is identified with the present day Pandrethen where he resided too. However, the topographical details of Pravarapura or Puranadhishthana make it clear beyond all doubt that its site was that of the present Srinagar which was capital city of Kashmir during Kalhana’s time and continues to be the same till date. (Ibid, page 357). So, on strong evidence, the capital of Kashmir which was Pravarapura is identified with Srinagar. (Ibid). Pravarapura or Pandrethen is just 3 Kilometers away from main city to which “old name” of Srinagar (of Ashoka’s time) has been transferred. (Vincent A Smith’s Early History India, (1914) page 161-162). Pravarapura was the old and official name of “Srinagar” during King Pravarasena II who ruled from 79 to 139 AD, (Ancient Monuments of Kashmir, R C Kak,(1933) 2-1), so, the Capital of Kashmir is “Srinagar” (Travels in the Himalayan provinces of Hindustan and the Panjab; Journey to Kashmir, (1837) Part III, by William Moorcroft, page 114) founded by Pravarasena I1 during his time. (Pandit Anand Koul’ s Geography of the Jammu and Kashmir State (1925) 2nd edition, page 145; The Valley of Kashmir (2014) by Sir W P Lawrence, page 189).
Hence, the historical record clearly shows that right from the time of Ashoka, who was the Buddhist Emperor of India, down to Hindu Rajas rule followed by Muslim Sultans of Kashmir including Mughal rule, then Afghans followed by Sikh and Dogra rules, the name of the capital of Kashmir has had been only Srinagar. However, as noticed, during King Pravarasena II’s time which is almost 2000 years ago it was also called Pravarapura which is, however, identified with village Pandrethen which is a part of Srinagar. After Pravarasena II’s reign, it retained its original name Srinagar during all periods of history and continues to be the same till present day. But, it seems that it is being deliberately misnamed and mispronounced by Indian [Hindus] media, movies, politicians, actors and others for the reason of sanskritising and saffronising the pre-dominant Muslim Kashmir & its places.
Pronouncing Srinagar as Shrinagar is a spelling pronouncing, it may be said, but that is not correct as being contrary to widespread & traditional pronouncing of the word since very ancient times. The widespread & fast Saffronisation of Indian culture & society genuinely raises doubts behind spelling pronouncing. Hindus pronounce the word “Sri” very correctly as, for example, Sr Sri Ravi Shanker, a modern Hindu Guru, or for that matter, Sri Krishan Ji, Hindu God. So, why not t pronounce Srinagar correctly as per its centuries old pronunciation If spelling pronouncing is followed and continued, time will come when original word and its pronunciation will no more exist anywhere.
There appears to be an element of fashion or style also involved in its mispronunciation which has invidious and pernicious connotations as described above. It may be some kind of stylish way of pronouncing it as Shri-Nagar not only by non-locals but good number of local Kashmiris especially young boys & girls too call & pronounce it Shri-Nagar. It seems that these Kashmiris do it to show some sort of English style of pronouncing the name of their city. Ignoring that pronouncing Srinagar as Shrinagar has undertone of saffronisation, it is quite disgusting on the part of local Kashmiri Muslims to be swayed by cultural influences. In the end, I can only say to Kashmiris: mind the correct pronunciation of names of your places and even yourselves.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org