Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Land of Sufi Saints

Iqbal describes some of heritage rich sites in Kashmir

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numismatics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. He is employed by the Jammu and Kashmir State Government. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Preserving the Relics

It is hard to locate a village in the whole of Kashmir valley where there is not a Sufi shrine or any relic associated with any of the Sufi saints who lived in this glorious valley. The relics here can be a spring (nag), tree, cave or any other. I have seen a few stone slabs which bear foot impressions of Sufi saints. One such stone slab can be seen at village Parigam. It is a massive oval shaped stone which carries foot impressions pressed over its surface. These impressions are associated with the local Sufi, Haji Shamas-ud-Din. Locals believe that the saint performed Hajj seven times while traveling to Mecca by foot. He lived in the later Mughal period. A wonderful wooden shrine at the site houses the mortal remains of this saint.

At a distance of 3 kilometers, there is another village called Sheganpora. It is located over a plateau as the village houses a similar stone slab over which foot impressions are drawn clearly. Known to locals as “Qadmi Rasool” (Prophets feet), there is however no clear documentation regarding the saint whose foot impressions seen clearly over the slab. Several other magnificent slabs can be seen in a village at Tral in south Kashmir alongside with numerous such slabs in north, west and east Kashmir.

In Noorabad area, at Reshipora, I could see an olden shrine of some Sufi. When I enquired about this shrine I was told that the shrine belonged to a Mureed of Nundreshi (The founder saint of Kashmir) called “Chhuph Baba Sahib”. He is said to have lived during the period of Nundreshi (15th Century AD). He has not spoken for about twelve years and observed complete silence for such a long period on the advice of his patron saint (Nundreshi). I could also see the underground cave of Nundreshi at Gufabal, Qaimoh in Kulgam district. It is that cave where Nundreshi meditated for about twelve years. The cave is still well intact. It is very suffocating inside the cave, perhaps due to lack of oxygen. I could manage to sit there only for a few moments as I struggled to breath and came out in the open.

Another cave is seen at a plateau at Ashmuqam, which has been cut into a massive rock of local granite. It is known as the cave of Zain-ud-Din Reshi. The Reshi is learnt to have meditated here. The saint's mortal remains are also buried inside the cave. How old this cave is? There is no proper record of it. However, there are few traditions preserved in the folklore regarding the site. Legend has it that this was basically the cave of some holy prophet, some identify it with Prophet Moses. They believe that the holy man had arrived here and sat inside the cave. One holy relic, called “Aasa Sharief” (Hand stick) of Zain-ud-Din Reshi, is also housed in the shrine at the site. A tradition however attributes this relic to some holy man.

I have never seen it, it is hardly shown to anybody, but one of the local residents told me that he has seen it about thirty years back. He says it is like a magic rod and when you hold it, it would pull you upwards. According to him it is exhibited at rare occasions, and not even on Urs (yearly) days of the saint. He says that once when it was exhibited while the area was experiencing a major draught, a huge congregation was held at the shrine and during special prayers, this holy rod was exhibited to get rid of that natural calamity.

Those are mostly the curious legends, which also speaks of the shrines. They have been identifying Rozabal Shrine of Khanyar Srinagar as the shrine of some prophet (although the shrine is of Yuzu Asif) Similarly a mysterious grave found at Mount Booth in Bandipora area of Kashmir is also identified with some holy man.

The Ashmuqam shrine not only houses the wonderful rod, it also houses several other holy relics of Zain-ud-Din Rishi preserved in a relic gallery of the shrine and comprise of bow and arrow, wooden bread, coffin and skull of the lamb.

It is not only at Ashmuqam that there is a Sufi shrine and relics associated with shrine saint or some other holy man. Almost in all Sufi shrines of this land there are relics. Kashmiris call them Tabruka’at (sacred things) they respect these relics as such as they love these saints. Besides, caves, there are many springs and trees associated with local Sufis. Elm which is known to locals as Brin, is a tree associated with Sufis. Actually as per traditions these Sufis had been planting burnt branches of elms, which later on grew very tall and thick trees. I have seen many such trees of this group measuring 5 to 8 feet in girth. Many Kashmir Sufis used to meditate under this tree.

It is very soft and strong tree. At many Sufi sites such trees are still standing. Many a Sufi sites carried fresh water springs, called in Kashmir as Nag and Nagin. Curious legends are also associated with several such springs. I have myself seen one such small spring at Khifogipore (Kulgam). It is called Alamdar Nag it is this spring which predicted the arrival of great Sufi, Nundreshi. Legend has it that once this spring grew a bunch of jasmine flowers called Higund, the mother of the Sufi after smelling this branch, gave birth to this noble child, who later came to be known as Nund Rishi, popularly known as Alamdar, the flag holder.

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