Revisiting Nund Rishi’s Charar-e-Sharief

His teachings are relevant even today, and badly needed by our people throughout the country
"It is one of the oldest shrines of the Kashmir valley, dedicated to the Kashmiri Sufi saint Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani, popularly known as Nund Rishi."
"It is one of the oldest shrines of the Kashmir valley, dedicated to the Kashmiri Sufi saint Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani, popularly known as Nund Rishi."File/ ANI

As part of my ongoing visits to various historical places of the valley, I decided to go to Charar-e- Sharief, a town which has the most sacrosanct Sufi Muslim shrine, and a Khanaqah, which is situated about 28 km from Srinagar.

It is one of the oldest shrines of the Kashmir valley, dedicated to the Kashmiri Sufi saint Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani, popularly known as Nund Rishi.

He was a saint, mystic, poet and Islamic preacher. He inspired several spiritual teachers and saints, the best known of them are: Hamza Makhdoom, Resh Mir Saeb and Shamas Faqir.

The town has a population of about 20,000 and is en route to Yusmarg, a hill station only 19 kms away. The shrine which is about 600 years old is popularly known as the Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali.

He was born on 24th September 1377, AD, in the village Qaimoh in Kulgam to Salar Sanz and Sadra also called Sadra Moji.

His grandfather Sheikh Salah-Ud-Din hailed from Kishtwar. Little is known about his early childhood except that he was very intelligent. That was the time Kashmir was going through a tumultuous period of socio-political confusion, the period of Kashmir’s transition to Islam and the society was in a state of moral degradation.

He was greatly influenced by the well-known saint poetess Lalleshwari popularly known as Lal Ded, the greatest litterateur produced by Kashmir. It is widely believed in Kashmir that as an infant Nund Rishi refused to suck milk from his mother.

The legend is that Lal Ded who was 30 years older than him made a surprise appearance and spoke these words to the baby:

“Thou was not ashamed of being born, why then are you ashamed of sucking” with these gentle words the baby NundReshi, immediately sucked milk from her breast. He held her in great esteem and looked upon her as a saint of divine incarnation.

The society that he represented was divided into two classes. The neo-converts to Islam and the old Hindu Pundit society, both competing and outdoing each other by erecting their mosques and temples.

He realised that both Hindus and Muslims were children of the same God, whom they called different names. Both he and Lal Ded propagated the mystic idea of divine unity in simple language that religion does not divide, and it had a deep and direct appeal to the common man.

His main target was to reveal the real face of fake Mullahs and Brahmins for their deeds of sowing discord.

He revolted against social inequalities which were widely prevalent. Nund Rishi manifested it in his teachings commonly known as Shruks (verses of 4 to 6 lines). He is also credited with translating the holy Quran in Kashmiri.

His messages redefined the disordered harmony of the population and were addressed to the entire mankind and not just one section of the society or religion. Both he and Lal Ded denounced idol worship.

Noor-ud-Din renounced his worldly life at the age of 30, and retired to a life of meditation in a cave which can still be seen in Qaimoh, and is about 10 feet deep. During his last days he survived by drinking a cup of milk and later just by drinking water.

He died at the age of 63 years in 1440. the king, Sultan Zain-ul-Aabideen, also took part in the funeral procession and got the tomb for his body commissioned at Chrar-e Sharief. Besides Muslims, Hindus also visit this shrine with reverence.

Unfortunately, the holy shrine became the site of armed clash, and on the night of 11th May 1995, there was a mysterious fire and the Khanaqah and the shrine was gutted in a fire.

Rebuilding of the Shrine:

The shrine was rebuilt in the traditional Kashmiri architecture of a Ziarat with a Pagoda shaped top being retained in the new structure. The work was started on October 16. 1996 under the supervision of Chief Architect, Muneer Ahmad Khan who visited Central Asia and Iran to study Sufi Muslim architecture.

The present structure which has the ceiling of typical Khatamband design is bigger than the original, with a central Sanctum Santorum consisting of graves of the saint and his disciples, in the original design. The expenses for the construction of the Shrine and the Khanaqah were met by the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Auqaf Trust.

The central government also supported the expenditure partially. The compound beautification with a waterbody, is still a work in progress. Meanwhile the rehabilitation of the population of the town also required a gigantic effort of rehabilitating the people who suffered the damages during the fire.

This was done by Mr Manzoor Nawchoo, a noted engineer and his team. It meant a considerable cost, which included giving compensations and giving alternative land to all those who suffered.

The shrine is visited by hundreds of devotees every day but on Thursdays and Fridays thousands of devotees come to pay their reverence. The annual Urs of Sheikh ul Alam (RA) is a big event, observed on 26th day of the Islamic month of Safar.

It is marked by night long prayers before the actual day and there is also the change of the sacred cloth (Gilaf) on the grave of the saint each year. Last two years it was a subdued event because of the COVID pandemic.

Tail piece:

Chrar-e-Sharief, is the oldest sacrosanct Sufi shrine of Indian Muslims located in Kashmir valley. It is dedicated to the life and teachings of the Sheikh Noor-ud-din - Nund Rishi - and was built in 1460. His life was filled with love and compassion for people.

Through his poetry (shruks) he exposed the evils of the society and toiled to unify the people of different religions going in wrong directions. He travelled extensively, preaching his message against hypocrisy, greed, divisive tendencies and jealousy.

His teachings and messages are very relevant and badly needed by our people throughout the country, even today.

Prof Upendra Kaul is Founder Director Gauri Kaul foundation, 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.

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