A Trip to Shahadra, Rajouri

Life is full of adventures and it is the innate human nature to visit and explore new places.  It was 6th July 2019, I along with my cousin brother, Bilal Ahmad Sofi, his daughter Nadiya (10) and my two aunts travelled from my maternal home Shopian to Shahadra, in district Rajouri. We started our journey at 9 AM through the historic Mughal road. The road passes through Hurpora Wildlife Sanctuary, where the Markhor goats can be seen. On way to Rajouri the first historic place of attraction we saw is Ali Abad Sarai. It is a historical rest house in the Pir Panjal Range and is said to have been constructed by the Emperor Jahangir in the sixteenth century. It was one of the 14 halting stations constructed between Lahore and Srinagar along the Mughal Road. An Iranian engineer, Ali Mardan Khan was in charge of the construction of this Sarai aided by local chieftains. The Mughal Sarai is still intact where Royal Mughal caravan after crossing Pir Panjal Range would halt for few days. But the Sarai is now in a dilapidated condition and no attention is being paid to protect this historic monument for future generations.

Then after we moved ahead and reached the famous place Pir Ki Gali. The place is named after the famous saint, Baba Abdul Karim. Pir ki Gali is the highest spot on Mughal road at an altitude of 3490 m (11,450 ft) above the sea level. It is a mountain pass and a tourist destination. It connects the Kashmir valley with Rajouri and Poonch districts While crossing over the Pir Ki Gali, at various places we saw the foothills are still covered under glaciers.

There are many Galis and Passes along this 129 Kilometers road from the town of Shopian. On the way one can see the nomad communities at different places who stay there for grazing cattle. By 2:00 PMwe had lunch at Younis Memorial park named after the Engineer Mohammad Younis Mughal who lost his life on 21st June 2010 while on duty at this place. Here a memorial has been installed in the memory of the deceased engineer and this entire stretch of the road has been named after him as Engineer Younis Sector.

During the journey on Mughal road we saw a number of bridges on the way. The notable among them are Dubjan Bridge, Lal Ghulam Bridge, Ratta Chamb Bridge, Chatta Pani Bridge, Panar Bridge and Bafliaz Bridge. We reached Bafliaz by 2:15 PM. It falls in the Poonch district and it connects the Poonch and Rajouri districts to Kashmir. A little ahead of Bafliaz on this route is the Noori Chamb, named after Noor Jahan. It is located near the hill village of Bahramgala in the Poonch district. There is a waterfall and is a popular tourist spot. The stretch of Noori Chamb is of lush green pastures.

Due to the absence of mobile telecommunication, the vital road, which is prone to accidents and inclement weather, may sometimes prove very dangerous for the tourists as the information about any untoward incident is always being received late by the authorities. Despite all these odds we enjoyed the journey and finally we reached the shrine of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah at Shahdara by 4:00 PM. We instantly went to the Baitul Zaireen (A house built for the devotees by the Auqaaf committee of the shrine) and booked a room for night stay. Then we also went to the shrine and paid obeisance at the shrine of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah. The forefathers of Syed Ghulam Shah Badshah belonged to Mashad (Iran) that is why he was called Mashadi. His grandfather Peer Yar Ali Shah migrated from Mashad (Iran) during mid fifties of 16th century to disseminate the message of Islam and settled in the village Sayedan Kasrawan in today’s Chakwal district of Punjab, Pakistan. His grandfather had three sons; one among them was Syed Idrees. On the instructions of his Spiritual guide Syed Hazrat Lateef Hussain (Imam Barry), Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah was told to march towards the north of Rajouri, near Thana Mandi where he would find a place called Sein Dara and subsequently Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah along with his well off followers came to Shahdara and remained here for 41 years. He left for his heavenly abode at the age of 73 in January 1806 AD/1226 Hijri. A shrine was constructed over his grave. It is also said that shrine was constructed by a Multani craftsman in 1804 AD/1224 on the instructions of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah before his death.

The shrine is 34 kilometers away from Rajouri district headquarter in the lap of hills surrounded by beautiful mountains of district Rajouri and is located at 33.30 degree latitude and 74.26 degree East longitude. The altitude of the shrine is 5807 feet above the sea level.

Shahdara is popularly known by the name Sein Dara. Sein means lion and Dara means the Maskan or abode. Before the arrival of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah, this place was named as Sein Dara which later changed into Shahdara. The architecture of the shrine is little bit different from the shrines of Kashmir valley. The court yard of the shrine is open and accessible to everyone. In the compound of the shrine is an orange tree that bears fruit round the year. People collect leaves of the orange tree with reverence. The devotees believe that the orange falls from the tree only to those whose wish is granted. The devotees are mostly the seekers of an offspring; they sit on the floor of the shrine under the orange tree with the hope that the orange will fall on them to get their wishes fulfilled. The shrine at Shahdara is a symbol of communal harmony as people from different religions and regions come here. I have seen a number of Hindu couples in the shrine. Here the Auqaaf committee is running a free community kitchen where we also had tea. One thing that I saw special in the Shahdara is that unlike the shrines of valley, there are no beggars in or outside the shrine. There is a beautiful park in the shrine built on the pattern of Nishat and Shalimar gardens and the park and adjoining areas of the shrine are neat and clean. The management of the shrine is administered well and is a doing tremendous job for the devotees. They look after the accommodation facilities and are managing a free community kitchen for the devotees throughout the year. People from all walks of life are giving charity to the shrine. By The Maghrib time we offered prayers in the Masjid located in the compound of the shrine. After the prayers the devotees used to assemble in the shrine and recite the manqabats in chorus. After Maghrib, the devotees offer sweets and other eatables to each other. By 9:00 PM we offered Isha prayers, then we had dinner in the community kitchen and after dinner we stayed in the shrine for almost one hour then we moved to the room for rest. Most of the people in Shahadra speak in Kashmiri language. Shahbaz Razveeri and Fida Razveeri are the famous Kashmiri poets of this district. Here we stayed for a night.

Next day morning we get up early, we offered predawn prayers. Then we went to a nearby hotel and had breakfast. Soon after we boarded the car and started our journey back home.

Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie has done PhD from Pondicherry Central University

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