The Forgotten Roots

The sight of the holy relic at the Hazratbal in Srinagar is a much revered and desired wish of the entire community. The holy relic, the Sufis, the saints, the pious noble men and women of Kashmir have a unique and distinct story of their own. The routes of their origin and the destination of their travel reflect the intent of the journey and the divine purpose at play, only if one ponders. They were global citizens not chained by the love of their region or land. The seeds of globalisation were first sown when these holy men moved to and fro, to bring home the religion of a far land. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism or name any faith spread not by swords or arms but with the wholehearted acceptance of the natives of the land. The Europeans set out to conquer lands and colonize the world with their trading posts. The middle East had already conquered the hearts of people in unknown foreign lands a thousand years earlier. The British rule ended and the colonial masters vanished from the sub-continent. But the Sufis who had ventured to conquer the world with love and humanity still rule the hearts of people all over the world. After all Kingdoms are born in the hearts of people.

Along with the different sects came their respective holy books, relics, symbols. The holy relic of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is the object of remembrance. The world acknowledges the existence of the most powerful, influential and pious personality of the Middle East. But this relic was brought to Kashmir from a place called Bijapur in Karnataka. One story as narrated by the south Indians being that a Kashmiri businessman bought it to the valley from a descendent of the Prophet from Medina. But he was stopped by the Mughal king Aurangzeb in Delhi on the way to Kashmir. By the time Aurangzeb realised that the holy relic was destined to reach where it is today, the Kashmiri businessman had passed away. Aurangzeb had then very respectfully sent the holy relic to its divinely destined place of the valley. The family of the businessman took over the charge of its inheritance and have been its caretakers since then. The journey of religious and pious relics has been full of sacrifices and never without purpose. The great Sufi Shah Hamdan Ali gave Kashmir the powerful prayer or Dua of aurad-e- fatiha. When one reads the prayer with purity of heart and mind, he or she is left with tears. The journey from Hamdan to Srinagar must have not been without obstacles nor a bed of roses. But the grace of Sufism is felt even to this day. The enlightenment and spiritual fragrance of the Sufi era is still fresh because of the influence of the great auras of the revered men and women of the valley. Even though in short intervals of material modern Life, the thoughts of righteousness and values come as a flash from the subconscious. This is when the long journeys undertaken by all those Noble souls centuries ago stand accomplished in intent and purpose. The ideas of Self-purification, love and service to humanity needed no label of any particular religion. Call them Sufis, Bakti saints, Auliyah, Rishis or Gurus. They believed in universal human rights long before the term was coined. They were far ahead of times and possessed knowledge much beyond science of today. The heart, mind and soul yearns only for peace. Pleasantness of all three makes the physical and the intellect of man truly happy and healthy. Be it Lalla Ded or Habba Khatun, everyone is familiar with their deep faith and spiritual richness. But a very few know about saint Renuka Devi of Kashmir who travelled down south to Karnataka. She was a wandering saint and reached the banks of river Mallaprabha tributary of river Krishna. Later Renuka Devi married the great sage Jamadagni Rishi and gave birth to the greatest sage of the times Rishi Parashuram. This was ancient India even before the age of the great king Ram. This Kashmir connection with the south India since the ancient times is an unknown fact. Also the shifting of the holy relic in the medieval period is not known by many. The journeys were long, and well-intended for a purpose. The purpose being human love, tolerance, acceptance, righteousness and piety. Kashmir culture was borne out of these principles. These virtues graced everyday life of people. It became a cradle of civilisations as different faiths flourished on its soil. The soul of Kashmiri society was pure, the social fabric was interwoven with diversity and the heterogeneity of races and castes was the order of the day. The power to grasp the essence of different faiths came from the inherent ability of the Kashmiri society to enquire, reason and accept the truth.  The deep intellectual capacity of the thriving civilisation enabled them to absorb and assimilate the pious Sufi way of life. What an individual practiced silently was spiritualism and what he practiced collectively was religion. It was graceful acceptance of the essence of the Divine cosmos. Then came the Rulers with benevolence, farsightedness and prosperity. There were periods of brutal dominance of monarchs who considered the valley to be their source of entertainment and material gain

The generations that followed suffered at the hands of ruling or political masters. And the values of Sufism vanished in the mist of the valley. I see the common man tired of the decades old conflict often honks louder at the traffic especially when stuck in the jam. There is a certain agitation, irritation and growing intolerance in the public at large. This general apathy is unseen in other states. There is a general mistrust growing in the society. The agencies, external forces and subscribers to different ideologues have divided the society. Moreover, the constantly guarding army has sapped the feeling of being free in the free country. This erodes confidence and enthusiasm in life. When the society’s social integrity is disturbed, it is easy to manipulate the masses especially the youth according to the interests of the stakeholders.  The land of Sufis has been dragged in the undesired war. The effects of the disturbed life are visible in the common lot. This harsh winter of life in Kashmir seems unending. Loss of peace has torn the valley into pieces. The society is internally fragmented and external enemies are many. 

I strongly believe that the values of Sufism can revive the mutual acceptance and love. This mean spirited intolerance, class bias and political divisions need to be rooted out. Let’s take a single virtue of Sufi philosophy of accepting. Accepting the situation, accepting the differences of opinion or accepting that the fight for self-purification is far higher than for land or territory. The acceptance of lack of integrity in the political and social life in the valley. All those leaders who stand up to lead the masses must not essentially forget that mutual hatred, disrespect and lack of diplomacy is doing more harm to the internal socio cultural fabric of the society. Collaboration is another way to get out of this mess. Collaboration with traders’ guild, business houses, corporations, educational institutions, private players and global partners can be a possible solution to break the deadlock of chaos. For this the society needs to cooperate, extend its hand for association, trust and grow beyond regional affinity. Also the outside collaborators must not hesitate to reciprocate in terms of cooperation and reap the benefits of engaging from an untapped resourceful region. The great philanthropists of today must have learnt the art of caring and sharing long before in life. The basics of team effort, entrepreneurship and success are rooted in simple virtues of life. These small virtues of caring, sharing, righteousness that emanate from a strong character are nurtured since childhood. We know times are not in favour of the common lot but in the meantime the society needs to build on its lost integrity and hence needs to strengthen its capabilities. To be truly credible and resourceful the process of thinking needs change. The society needs to revive the values of the rich spiritual heritage in practice.

The author is Karnataka origin settled in Kashmir.