By Umar Shah:
Not many would perhaps be aware of the fact that Kashmir banned Sati 440 years before the British did the same in 1829.
Sati, a custom where a widow was expected to immolate herself on her husband’s pyre, or commit suicide essentially, shortly after her husband’s death, was strictly banned by one of the famous Sultans of Kashmir, Sultan Sikandar Butshikan during his rule that commenced in the year 1389.
Sikandar, the father of Zain-ul-Abideen Budshah, was the second Sultan of the Shah Miri dynasty of Kashmir and his reign started in 1389 and ended in 1413 CE. As per historical records, he was generous to his followers and took measures to promote their welfares. He abolished taxes like Baj and Tamgha which were levied on domestic animals such as horses, cows, goats and silken cloth.
Khwaja Sanaullah Bhat in his book Ahad Nama Kashmir records that Sikandar was the most generous ruler who was fond of architecture and took major reforms that brought prosperity to the Kingdom of Kashmir. One of the important decisions that he took was imposing a complete ban on Sati. While imposing a ban on Sati, Sikandar also made drinking liquor a forbidden entity. He even founded several free hospitals for the poor and endowed some villages for the benefit of travelers and deserving people.
Historians like A.K Majumdar and Srikanth Koul mention that Sikandar had not received much education, but he patronized literary men in his kingdom. He opened many schools and his court attracted scholars from Khorasan, Transoxiana, and Mesopotamia. Great literary men as Sayed Ahmad, a great writer from Isfahan, Syed Hassan Shirazi, a jurist, Syed Jalal-ud-din, a saint from Bokhara and Syed Mohammad Hamadani were in his court.
Being fond of architecture, Sikandar built Khankahi Moula, Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid and several other structures which even at present dazzle the eye of an observer.
“Sultan Sikandar was the ablest administrator who defeated his opponents with his able command. Though there are several allegations being leveled on him even today including being called the destroyer of idols, the truth is that his kingdom witnessed the communal harmony and just rule,” says Khwaja Sanaullah Bhat in his book Ahad Nama Kashmir.
Noted columnist Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain eulogized the measures taken by Sikandar during his rule, saying Kashmir has witnessed in him the most generous king and the able ruler. “His image was maligned out of the proportion. He is being termed as a destroyer of idols, but the fact is that during his rule, there were not temples present in Kashmir as they were destroyed by the kings who ruled the region before Sikandar. The fact is that he took major reforms like banning Sati, gambling, and drinking, “ said Dr. Showkat.
Surprisingly, the Bengal Sati Regulation, or Regulation XVII, A. D. 1829 of the Bengal Code is being taught and eulogized everywhere in the educational institutions while the contributions of this great king from Kashmir are being ignored and undermined.