Kalhana’s Rajatarangini – A Chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir
Translated by Marc Aurel Stein
Published by Archibald Constable& Co., London – 1900 ; Volume 2
Rajatarangini (Rājataraṃgiṇī, “The River of Kings”) is a metrical legendary and historical chronicle of the north-western Indian subcontinent, particularly the kings of Kashmir. It was written in Sanskrit by Kashmiri historian Kalhana in the 12th century CE. The work consists of 7826 verses, which are divided into eight books called Tarangas (“waves”).
The Rajataringini provides the earliest source on Kashmir that can be labeled as a “historical” text on this region. Although inaccurate in its chronology, the book still provides an invaluable source of information about early Kashmir and its neighbors in the north western parts of the Indian subcontinent, and has been widely referenced by later historians and ethnographers.
Little is known about the author Kalhana (c. 12th century CE), apart from what is written in the book. His father Champaka was the minister (Lord of the Gate) in the court of Harsha of Kashmir. In the first Taranga (book) of Rajatarangini, Kalhana expresses his dissatisfaction with the earlier historical books, and presents his own views on how history ought to be written:
Verse 7. Fairness: That noble-minded author is alone worthy of praise whose word, like that of a judge, keeps free from love or hatred in relating the facts of the past.
Verse 11. Cite earlier authors: The oldest extensive works containing the royal chronicles [of Kashmir] have become fragmentary in consequence of [the appearance of] Suvrata’s composition, who condensed them in order that (their substance) might be easily remembered.
Verse 12. Suvrata’s poem, though it has obtained celebrity, does not show dexterity in the exposition of the subject-matter, as it is rendered troublesome [reading] by misplaced learning.
Verse 13. Owing to a certain want of care, there is not a single part in Ksemendra’s “List of Kings” (Nrpavali) free from mistakes, though it is the work of a poet.
Verse 14. Eleven works of former scholars containing the chronicles of the kings, I have inspected, as well as the [Purana containing the] opinions of the sage Nila.
Verse 15. By looking at the inscriptions recording the consecrations of temples and grants by former kings, at laudatory inscriptions and at written works, the trouble arising from many errors has been overcome.