Kashmir was a major center of Buddhism. Buddhism was an important part of the classical Kashmiri culture, as is reflected in the Nilamata Purana and the Kalhana’s Rajatarangini.
In Kalhana’s time, and before that, there was no apparently no distinction between “Hindus” and Buddhists in Kashmir. Kalhana himself used Buddhist terms and expressions as a Buddhist would.
Nilamata Purana was the text of the worshippers of Nila Naga, the Naga worship was common in Kashmir. It mentions the prevalence of Buddhist worship as a common practice in Kashmir.
Here are some quotes from Nilamat Purana from Kashmir (trans. by Dr. VedKumari) (see external link below). It correctly represents the religious spirit of ancient India.
709-710a. O Brahman, the god Visnu, the lord of the world, shall be(born as) the preceptor of the world, Buddha by name, at the timewhen the Pusya is joined with the moon, in the month of Vaisaksha,in twenty eighth Kali Age.
710b-12. Listen from as to how his worship should be performed inthe bright-half, from that period onwards, in uture. The image ofBuddha should be bathed (with water renderd holy) with all medicinalherbs, all jewels and all scents, in accordance with the sayings ofthe Sakyas. The dwellings of the Sakyas (i.e. Viharas) should bewhitewashed with care.
713. Here and there, the Caityas – the abodes of the god – should beprovided with paintings. The festival, swarming with the actors andthe dancers, should be celebrated.
714. The Sakyas should be honoured with Civara (the dress of aBuddhist mendicant ), food and books. All this should be done tillthe advent of Magha.
715. O twice-born, eatable offerings should be made for three days.Worship with flowers, clothes etc. and charity for the poor (shouldcontinue for three days).
Kalhana’s Rajatarangini mentions that a monumental metallic image of Buddha once stood in Srinagar, which was eventually destroyed by Sikandar Butshikan. A singificant number of beautifully crafted Buddhist bronzes have survived.
In Kashmir valley, a Buddhist Bhikshu was present in Baramula in 13th century. The Kashmiri Pandits still worship the triratna symbol.
- Harsha of Kashmir is said to have been anti-Buddhist. However he was simply mentally unbalanced as portrayed in Rajatarangini, a near contemporary text.
- Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, A Chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir, M.A. Stein, 2 vols. London, 1900.
- (c. 644 – 654), inscribed in the reign of king Narasurendea