Documenting the Sufi Heritage

Modern scientific conservation technologies have not been adopted to preserve and maintain this heritage
Documenting the Sufi Heritage
"The evidences of this wonderful heritage is still showcased by this mountain locked land in shape of Sufi and Reshi shrines, tombs, caves and their relics, associated with the grand saints."Special arrangement

In few local Persian traditions Kashmir is referred as Baghi Suliman, the Garden of King Solomon. Interestingly there is a hillock in Srinagar, still pronounced as Kohi Suliman or suliman taing.

Most of us know that King Solomon is a historical character, well mentioned in the sacred Jewish, christian and Muslim Scriptures, and very much known as Prophet Solomon or Suliman (AS), who lived centuries before Prophet Issa.

This character is also mentioned in few curious local legends to have helped this water body to get drained off. This may have been the reason to title this land as Baghi Suliman, the Garden of Prophet Solomon. But this fact is not scientifically proved, it is only in local traditions.

Kashmir has been tilted by various other names. In fact Kashmir is also known as Paervier, the garden of saints. This is because of its rich spiritual legacy, cultivated here by great Reshi and Sufi Saints.

The evidences of this wonderful heritage is still showcased by this mountain locked land in shape of Sufi and Reshi shrines, tombs, caves and their relics, associated with the grand saints.

The land preserves wonderful Sufi practices, collections of Zikr (dikir) and relics at its most Sufi centers. Indeed Kashmiris have got close association with the doctrines of its local Rishism and Sufism but surprisingly they are not so serious in documenting and preserving this spiritual legacy.

The spiritual heritage sites consist of the Reshi, Sufi shrines, Sufi practices; their relics are not been taken due care.

They are still handling this heritage in traditional way while as the modern scientific conservation technologies have not been adopted to preserve and maintain this heritage.

The wooden Sufi shrines, their sacred relics and artifacts in most of Sufi shrines of Kashmir are decaying as there is no proper mechanism even for their preventive preservation and conservation.

Unscientific storage, non professional handling and lack of conservation facilities within these shrines have posed a threat to the historic relics and artifacts. The threat is felt more in those Sufi shrines which are located in distant villages and maintained by local shrine management committees. The sacred relics which Kashmiris treat as (‘Tabrukaat’) are those things or artifacts which are associated with the different Sufi saints and are housed in their respective tombs and Khanqahas.

These collections include the sacred scriptures, robes of many saints, collections of scared scripts, hand-written documents’, manuscripts, garments, slippers, embossed feet impressions, tomb covers ‘charder’, terracotta and wooden chandeliers, candles, inscribed utensils and other such many artifacts and objects used by Sufis and saints.

Experts view that the shrine attendants have got hardly any technical know-how in dealing with these delicate objects for they are usually not concerned about their historic, cultural and antique value.

These items are simply dumped in unsound boxes and showcases, and absence of necessary chemical treatment to them is catalyzing their decay.

Almost all the Sufi shrines besides housing the mortal remains of the respective Sufi saints, have scores of sacred relics and artifacts. But most of these historic objects are not documented.

In the absence of proper inventories and documentation, it is very much difficult to safeguard the genuine relics and artifacts. Most of these relics are undocumented and unclassified. These items are not usually exposed to fresh air, and are exhibited only on few special occasions.

There are many such abandoned shrines, located in the distant corners of this land which have no care-takers.

The Sufi relics enshrined there are under severe threat. Similar is the case with performing Sufi practices popularly known as Zikir, its oral traditions have considerably declined; besides the new generations who have got the scientific temperament are not ready to adopt these practices.

In Sufi form of Islam, Zikir is considered the significant practice, where an individual or collective group of worshipers remember God.

The content includes the chanting of different names and qualities of GOD and Dua (prayer of supplication). There is a popular tradition of reciting of Dikir (Zikir) in the khanqahs and mosques, mostly the senior worshipers would gather in the mosque and hold such oral practices before the prescribed morning prayers ( Fajr), and after the prayers.

They would sing in a melodious tune the prescribed lyrics of Dau-Subha, Awadi Qadiriya Awardi Fathiyyah, and other Khatmaat (Zikir composed and prescribed by various Sufi saints). This Zikir collection originally has been taken from the sacred Muslim scripts including (Quran and Hadith) and is chanted in accordance with the directions of Quran and Hadith.

It has been first chanted by the Companions and descendants of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) and the tradition was carried forward by learned Sufi Scholars and Saints, which included Imam Zain Ul Abidine (RA), Shiekh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA), Amir Kabir Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (RA) Moulana Jamai, and Shiekh Saadi Sheerazi.

Several local Sufis have translated it into local Kashmiri dialect, Miskeen Kashmiris translation of Dau Subha is very popularly recited here during morning prayers.

In fact the heart touching recitation of this Zakir helps one to obtain a feeling of peace, separation from worldly values and in general strengthens one’s faith (Imaan). In short it is a form of Muslim meditation where worshiper goes closer to his creator.

Obviously things have changed and there has been change in beliefs and practices as well. Several local khanqahs and mosques located at distant places have discontinued this oral tradition of reciting the Sufi practices.

On the one hand new generations are not adopting this Sufi tradition and on the other hand the senior worshipers who have been preserving its oral tradition are gradually living for abode, the future of these practices looks not so good.

The Wakaf Board authorized religious and cultural institutions should come forward and preserve this forgotten heritage in written and audio visual formats.

The local shrines and khanqahs shall also be equipped well with modern conservation technologies so that the Sufi shrines and there enshrined relics are preserved well.

The shrine caretakers and shrine attendants shall also be provided the necessary trainings in preventive conservation which shall include its handing techniques as well.

This land has already lost very much of its cultural and spiritual heritage to the already prevailing unfavorable circumstances and it is not in a position to lose more. Let us take concrete steps to document the heritage of our sufi shrines and conserve this heritage for the generation to come.

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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