Buddhism became dominant in Kashmir during the reign of Emperor Ashoka (3 BC), although it was widespread here long before his time. There were many Buddhist viharas in Kashmir before Ashoka, some Chinese sources even claim that Buddhism had spread in Kashmir just 50 years after Mahaparinirvana of Tathagata.
In the year 530 AD, Kashmir was attacked by a Hun named Mihirakula. Mihirakula and his tribe changed the political and social landscape of the country. Kalhana describes him as:
The person knew his approach by noticing the vultures, crows and other (birds) flying ahead eager to feed on those who were being slain within their armies reach.
Kalhana also defines him as a royal Vetala (vampire) day and night surrounded by thousands of murdered human beings.
Mihirakula had no pity for children, no compassion for women and no respect for the aged. When he was on his way to Kashmir with his army, he heard the terrified cry of an elephant that had fallen over the edge of a mountain. He was so thrilled by the sound that he had a hundred other elephants rolled down by force.
He was the leader of White Huns who later conquered territories from Kabul to Central India. He was an enemy of Buddhism and destroyed hundreds, if not thousands of Buddhist shrines in Kashmir. He also spread a network of fake, deceiving and sly Sadhus and Brahmans across India who exploited simpleton Hindus in the name of religion. These fake sadhus would cause riots and sometimes even war.
This sly horde had made the lives of true Hindus miserable. – B.K Mukherji
According to Stein:
After extensive campaigns, Mihirakula was defeated by Baladitya of Maghada and Yasodharman, and forced to retire around 530AD to Kashmir and adjoining areas. Baladitya had captured Mihirakula and was about to kill him but his mother intervened and persuaded her son to spare Mihirakula’s life. Mahirakula then fled to Kashmir where he was placed in charge of a territory, but he soon rose in rebellion and killed the King, assuming power himself.
Mihirakula was a patron of Shaivism. His coins had emblems of a bull and trident and in the legends jayatu trash, jayatu vrsadhvaja, displayed a clear leaning towards Shaivism. He also founded Mihiresvara (shrine of Shiva) at Srinagari and in Holada a big city named Mihirapura. Mihirakula brought Brahmins from Gandhara who resembled him in his habits to Kashmir, he bestowed them a thousand agraharams at Bijbehara. From here on Shivaism and Vais’navi Brahmanism dominated the religious scene until Islam took over. Buddhism had literally been exterminated.
While all this was going on, religious texts like Nilamata Purana and the mahatmas were being written to create a new narrative in Kashmir.
The story of Kashmir’s origin and it’s people is given in the same Nilamata Purana and rests on the existence of the nagas. But as per Professor Gulshan Majeed Kashmir there is no evidence of their presence in Kashmir. Nilamata Purana is the only literary source to suggest their existence in Kashmir. No other Purana, mahatma or any other Brahmanic writing says the same.
According to Professor Shafi Shaun, Nilamata Purana is an ancient folktale that was given the form of a literary text in the 8th or 9th century.
As per Dr. Abdur Rashid Dar of Kashmir University, there is no evidence of Nagas in Kashmir and even the sculptures ascribed to them in the central India are completely missing in Kashmir.
The remnants of the annihilated Buddhist religion were also absorbed into Shaivism, Nilamata prescribes celebration of Buddha’s birthday. It also suggests bathing of the Buddha image in water and decorating it. This was done to earn the conversion of the remaining Buddhists to Shaivism.
The Brahmins who had Mihirakula’s patronage and were now in power and influence propagated Shaivism and built a new religious narrative through the Nilamata Purana. The Nilamata, thus became the orbit around which the history and culture of Kashmir was constructed, It became the argument and evidence of the ‘Hindu origin’ of Kashmir and its people.