ROOP DEEDH: Saintess of Kashmir

It is said that since her birth, this baby girl had spiritual powers filled with divine touch.

Humanly form of Goddess Sharika of Hari Parbat in Srinagar, is commonly known as Roop Deedh according to Kashmiri Pandit ethos. Also referred as Roopa Bhawani, which literally means the form of the Primordial Mother Bhawani, Roopa means form and Bhawani means Mother Creatrix as per Hindu philosophy.

It is believed that pleased with his great devotion, Sharika Mata in the form of a little girl appeared in the dream of her staunch kashmiri pandit devotee, Madhav Joo Dhar and asked him " to speak out your wish ". Prostrated at Mata's feet, he submitted that " I wish you are born as my daughter ". Goddess granted the boon by giving birth to a girl child to his wife in Samvat 1681 ( 1621 AD) at Khan-i-Shokta in Safakadal of Srinagar city. It chronicled as the birth of Roopa Deedh as a bright star in the galaxy of mystic Saints and Sufis who have adorned the firmament of lesser known name by Reshiwari, Kashmir.

At that time, the birth of a girl child in a kashmiri pandit family was believed to be the form of Goddess, hence she was named as "Alakshyeshwari ", her childhood name, meaning one who is unnoticeable. It is explained as the Goddess in unnoticeable form of life, as per traditional kashmiri philosiphy. Roopa Bhawani is not different from Lalleshwari, her localities and followers used to refer her. It is said that since her birth, this baby girl had spiritual powers filled with divine touch. Maintaining his family traditions, her father, as her teacher, started to preach Vedas at her tender age. So Mata grew up in the profound religiously righteous and spiritual ambience of her home under the guidance of her father.

From her early childhood days, Roop Deedh started to reshape the prevailing Kashmiri household culture in to divine sanity and encouraged spiritual devotion that helped in reduction of difference of opinion and resolution of various community conflicts. Delicately Mata also started cultivating tolerance that generated love for each other irrespective of religion, so shared the role of a social reformer.

Roop Deedh, a renowned yogini and a reputed spiritual poetess, occupies an iconic grandstanding in the religio-spiritual tradition of Kashmir. Mata is one of the most revered scholar Saintess, who is known for her masterful spiritual wisdom of the mystic occurrences, transcendental perceptions and social assertions. Her soul staring sayings and sermons in Kashmiri, commonly known as Vakhs, enormously popular among her devotees, are full of metaphysical truths, incorporeal perfections, yogic realizations and true to mundane life discernments. With her mastery in Sanskrit and Persian, she was well versed with local religious traditions and her sermons in the form of these Vakhs came to us in usual kashmiri oral tradition.

For want of solitary location to peruse her spiritual meditation, Roopa Deedh went to Manigam, then to Vaskura followed by Cheshma-Sahib, all serine village hamlets in central Kashmir, away from the materialistic world. She preferred to remain in the company of saints, learned people and devotees all over to follow the path of meditation and spirituality.

During her life time journey, she kept on performing miracles beyond imaginations depending upon the prevailing situations and justified needs. The great old chinar tree on the banks of river Sind in Manigam, the culmination of a half-burnt branch planted by Mata, is still standing there as a mute but living witness to her spirituality. A blind man who sincerely served Mata with his full devotion, got back his vision and to address water woes of locals, Mata dug a well at Vaskura, whose water is considered to be pure and pious is still thereat, are some of the miracles Mata did for her devotees. Mata's brother, also her devotee, requested her to bless his illiterate son. Mata gave him a pen and paper and asked him to write and he got transformed to write like an educated person are some of her miracles for her devotees.

Roop Deedh enjoyed tremendous respect among Muslim community and her Vakhs were overwhelmingly applied by them during their routine cultural and religious discourses. The local saint of Lar, Shah Qalander, a muslim spiritualist, surrendered and accepted her tutelage for spiritual ascension, was Roopa Aarifa, to Kashmiri Muslim community. He along with locals paid rich tributes to her by offering local bread and local sugar balls ( Shirini ) as per their last rituals and forcefully demanded her burial according to Muslim rites as she was a Muslim divine to them. They even obtained orders from then Moghul Governor of Kashmir and took assistance of force kith and kin's of Roop Deedh for accepting their demand.

Mata preached much needed awareness among innocent women for development of their divine feeling of self-respect and nurtured their sentiments for the eternal peace for the peace of the society, which under present times is seen as " Women empowerment ". In the present world, Roopa Bhawani is also lovingly called as Alakh Sahiba, Alakh meaning a secret of " being and becoming " which reveals itself only to those who are familiar with their own inner soul. Roop Deedh was a Goddess in human form, born on earth with a religio-spiritual purpose and her legendary life and Vakhs shall continue to enrich us to move forward on the right path of our life.

DR DALEEP PANDITA

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