A great archival treasure that is Khanpur!

I had never before concentrated my attention on what I now characterise as an Archival Treasure that is the legacy for us to see and appreciate at Khanpur
The Daeg (Cauldron) (L) at the Shrine of Syed Muhammad Janbaz
The Daeg (Cauldron) (L) at the Shrine of Syed Muhammad JanbazAuthor

A recent visit to Khanpur, where I grew into my adulthood, revealed certain aspects of the life around, which I had never experienced, before! It happens in one’s life when one grows that all aspects of the life around don’t get revealed early. The consciousness dawns gradually. It is then, that one can pay complete attention to understand these situations.

I must admit that I had never before concentrated my attention on what I now characterise as an Archival Treasure that is the legacy for us to see and appreciate at Khanpur (Baramulla).

I was brought up at Khanpur, but the objects now visible to my eyes looked entirely different then. I can now say rather authoritatively that Khanpur is a real treasure of archival wealth. There are two categories of Archival Artefacts at Khanpur.

One aspect of this Archival Wealth is that there are unique artefacts that are associated with the life of the Saint, Syed Muhammad Janbaz Wali (RA), who happened to travel to Kashmir from Central Asia, among the luminaries, who had travelled from Central Asia, in the company of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani or his son Mir Muhammad Hamdani.

We know about Syed Muhammad Janbaz, more by circumstantial evidence that he belonged to the lineage directly connected through hierarchy with the Prophet of Islam (PBUH).

It is a marvellous treasure of very great archival value that we see at the shrine. Whatever materials are available at the Shrine of Syed Muhammad Janbaz can be categorised into two situations.

The sanctum sanctorum of the grave of Syed Muhammad Janbaz stands artistically decorated for centuries. The wood work itself is of great historical and aesthetic significance. The walnut lattice work (Panjrakari) is a unique specimen of great art that has been produced by the artisans, who built the shrine.

The artefacts connected with the Syed’s life include Allams (very long staffs) made of brass, perhaps. The quality and value can be best described by the experts. Then, the ‘Daeg’ enormously big copper cauldron in which food is cooked on special occasions. It is a very big copper utensil in which several quintals of rice, wheat, mutton and a variety of spices are cooked together to become what local people call “Daeg Wugra”. It is a yellow-coloured substance which is a mash of food that produces a unique fragrance!

The distribution of the cooked substance is a hazardous situation as its orderly distribution has never been possible. One Parvaiz Akhoon, a young Mujavir - one among the designated persons to look after the Shrine - told me how about five quintals of a variety of grain is cooked in the cauldron. A member of the committee Bashir Ahmad Akhoon provided to me a list of food items that are cooked in the Cauldron (the Daeg) on the chosen occasions:

Rice 1.5 quintal, Meat 30 kg, Wheat 10 kg, Moong Bean 10 kg, Turmeric Powder 5 kg, Coriander Powder 5 kg, Fennel Seeds 1kg, Dry Ginger Powder 1kg, Cinnamon 250 grams, Green Cardamom 250grams, Greater/Black Cardamom 1kg, Chilli Powder 1/2 kg, Cumin 250 grams, Ginger 1 kg, Onion 15 kg, Verka 10 kg, Salt 7 kg, Laung Spice 50 grams.

A good amount of money is required for wood to be used to cook the substance and feed the labour, who organise the cooking etc.

There is a platform outside the shrine which has been there for centuries. This platform is called by the locals as Paend. It is on that Paend that we find a visual feast of three heavy round stones, which have been there for times immemorial!

When Mughal Emperor – Aurangzeb visited Kashmir in 1664 and camped at a vast plain stretch of land near Anantnag (Islamabad), he had a large entourage with him, consisting of family members, courtiers, servants and others, who had managed the safety of dozens of elephants, horses, cows and other animals, who had been carried to Kashmir as part of the Caravan!

While Aurangzeb remained busy in Namaz (prayer) and his hunting sessions that were exclusively organised for him, his personal physician – Francois Bernier, who was part of Aurangzeb’s entourage, once took a day off and travelled to Baramulla. As there was no other transport available then, Bernier is supposed to have travelled to Baramulla by boat.

Fortunately for us, his visit to Khanpur is succinctly described by him in the following words:

“There is a large round stone that the strongest man can scarcely raise from the ground, but which eleven men, after a prayer made to the saint, lift up with the tips of their eleven fingers with the same ease as they would move a piece of straw.”

Francois Bernier says further, “I was not sorry for another little excursion, and set out with both my former companions, the trooper and the native of the country. I found Baramoulay (Bernier calls Baramulla, Baramuoulay) a rather pleasant place, the mosque is a tolerable building and the saint’s tomb is richly adorned.”

The reference to mosque and tomb decidedly means the mosque adjacent to the Shrine of Syed Mohammad Janbaz.

Interestingly, Bernier does not mention Khanpur but his reference to Baramouley is the reference to Khanpur, as part of Baramulla. It is particularly so because he has clearly referred to the Shrine and these round stones of great historical value. Unfortunately, Bernier does not describe anything related to Aurangzeb’s visit to Kashmir, comprehensively!

Saifud Din Soz , former Union Minister of Environment, Forests & Water Resources

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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