Kashmir has produced many Sufi saints and has therefore been also given the name “Reshi Waer” (Abode of Rishis). One of them was Reshi Peer, a lesser-known mystic of the valley. He worked tirelessly for the welfare of people irrespective of cast, creed and religion.
It is for this reason Kashmiri people often call him as “Peer Pandit Padshah Hardu Jahan, Mushkil kar Asan”. Emperor of the two worlds who answers all difficulties with a solution.
In my endeavour to visit the Sufi Saints’ places in the valley, this time I was accompanied by my friend Manzoor Nawchoo. He has spent his early life in the “Shehr e Khas” and we went down the memory lanes to visit the Ali Kadal Mohalla where Reshi Peer spent his life.
Reshi Peer was the son of Pandit Govind Kaul, a resident of Battayar Mohalla in Ali Kadal (5th bridge over the river Jhelum) in Srinagar. The legend says that his maternal grandmother prayed to Goddess at a holy spring to give her daughter a child. The Goddess appeared in a dream to her and directed her to go to the spring and smell a beautiful bunch of flowers, which she did.
This was followed by the daughter becoming pregnant. It is customary for the Kashmiri Pandit girls to go to their mother’s house (Matamal) during the last part of pregnancy. When the time of delivery came, she was to come to Srinagar for delivery in a boat from Handwara in North Kashmir.
While en route at Sopore, she delivered the baby boy, who was named later Keshav after Lord Krishna, who was also borne in somewhat similar circumstances.
It is said that at that time a Saint forecasted that a second sun had arisen on the horizon of Kashmir. The saint went to the boat, kissed the baby on the forehead and put two gold coins in his tender hands.
At the age of 5 years, after the sacred thread ceremony (Yagnopavit), Keshav was sent to a school for formal education. He, however, had very little interest in worldly matters but would accompany his father to Hari Parbat and to Devi Angun (A temple of Goddess Sharika on the foot of the hill in a courtyard). His parents married him at a very young age to divert his mind but it had no effect. His father died and mother sent him to his uncle’s village for getting admitted to a school.
He, however, ran away from there too and came straight back home. Keshav thereafter went to Hari Parbat and spent 40 days performing circumambulation while crawling on his knees with great devotion. As the legend goes Goddess Sharika appeared and blessed him with a boon.
He only asked her to make him meet a person who could guide him in search of the ultimate truth. Goddess told him that he should continue his circumambulation and the first person he meets would be the man, he is looking for. Saying this she disappeared.
He found his Guru in Saint Mastana (Pandit Krishna Kar) and paid his reverence to him. As the saying goes the Saint Mastana went straight to Reshi Peers home and asked for his chillam (a pipe of clay used for smoking tobacco and cannabis) from his mother. He smoked through it and told her to give it back to her son.
When Reshi Peer smoked through this on his return his mind reverberated and he acquired divine powers. He then went into meditation for 14 years and 6 months. He wanted to go to an Ashram but his mother did not allow him to go out of home. During this period, he took only milk, honey and fruit as his diet.
Following this he became a great saint of very high spiritual power and performed several miracles. People, both Pandits and Muslims, used to throng to his home in Ali Kadal to pay respects, seeking solutions to their worldly problems. He would give sermons to them and solve the issues. He thus became a Reshi for Hindus and Peer for Muslims.
Reshi Peer had spiritual and intellectual discourses with Saint Roopa Bhawani and other well-known learned persons of that era. During this period when Iftikhar Khan was the Governor of Kashmir a big fire broke out in Srinagar city, which engulfed the entire Ali Kadal mohalla.
When the flames became out of control, people out of panic approached Reshi Peer for help. He went to the site and threw a piece of Sandal wood in the fire. The flames immediately doused.
During the regimen of emperor Aurungzeb, he was summoned to his courts because the king was very angry that being a Pandit he was also called a Peer. He sent his courtiers to his home to arrest him.
Reshi Peer told them to stay on for the night and looked after their hospitality. As the legend goes, he appeared in the Durbar of the emperor the same evening mystically. The emperor got convinced of his divine powers and cancelled the arrest order.
He also fixed a Niaz of 14 piaes for him. Till now this 14 paies Niaz is a practice with Pandits when they visit his abode seeking solution to their problems.
When his mother died, he dedicated all his belongings to her memory. Following this he again went on a meditation for 14 years eating very frugally. This made him very skinny and weak. Reshi Peer passed away at the age of 60 years. After his death there was an argument between the Muslims and Pandits regarding how to perform the last rites.
Burial or cremation. While this was continuing, someone opened the cloth which was covering the body. To everybody’s surprise there were only 27 flowers instead of the mortal remains. Muslims then gave up and pandits took these flowers and burnt them on the shore of River Jehlum at Batta Yar Mohalla in Ali Kadal. A temple has been built at that site which still stands there.
A famous poet of Lucknow, of Kashmiri origin, Rattan Nath Dhar Sarshar, composed a poem in his name as a tribute.
“Maddah-e-janab-e-Rishi Peer aiya hai
Darbar mein shahon ke fakir aiya hai
Khursheed ki aankh kyon na jhapke sarshar
Ek zarra-e-khak-e-Kashmir aiya hai”
Kashmir needs the healing touch of such saints who are accepted by all communities to bring back the past glories.
Prof Upendra Kaul is founder Director Gauri Kaul Foundation, and recipient of Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy Award.
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.