Kashmir: Sufis, Saints and Shrines

The Excerpts taken from:
An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri
by Braj B. Kachru
Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois
Urbana, Illinois 61801 U.S.A.
June, 1973

For centuries the Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir have lived together. The Kashmiri Muslims have been influenced by the Hindus, and the Hindus have been influenced by the Muslims.

Kashmir is the only place in India where Muslims have surnames such as 'pandit' and 'bhat'. The Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims have a distinctive culture and way of living. Even the sufis of Kashmir are of a special type.

How Sufism came to Kashmir is a long story. The famous sufis of Kashmir are Sayyid Bulbul Shah, Sayyid Ali Hamdani, and Mir Mohammad Hamdani. It is claimed that Hindu thought and religion greatly influenced Kashmiri sufis. The result was that Kashmir produced sufis with a different outlook. Some people call these sufis "Muslim risi:s''.

Among the "Muslim risi:s", the most famous risi: is Sheikh-nur-ud-din. Out of love and veneration, the Hindus and Muslims call him Nandirishi. The Kashmiri Pandits also call him Sahzanand.

The shrine of Nandrishi is locat.ed in Chrar-e-Sharief. This is a small village about five miles from Nagam. Both Hindus and Muslims go to this shrine to offer flowers.

It is difficult to say when Nandrishi was actually born. It is said by some that he was born in 1377 in a village called Kaimuh. People also say that Lalded nursed Nandrishi as a child. In addition to this, there are many other stories about him that are popular in Kashmir. Some of these stories must be true, while others must have been created by the people.

Many stories are also told about Nandrishi's parents. Some say that his parents made a living by stealing and robbing, which made Nandrishi unhappy. But others say that his father, Salar Sanz, was a pious man.

It is said that Nandrishi left home when he was thirty years old He meditated for twelve years inside a cave. This cave was in a forest where he could not get much to eat. When Nandrishi completed his meditation, he spread his ideas among the Kashmiris.

Many Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims became Nandrishi's disciples. They renounced the world and took shelter in a ziya:rath. They gave up eating meat and observed celibacy. They devoted themselves completely to meditation in their ziya:rath. On their death, these rishis were buried in their ziya:ratsi. Kashmiris have great reverence for these ziya:ratsi and devotedly go there to place flowers on the graves. These shrines are still found in Kashmir. Two well- known shrines are in Aishmukam and Anantnag. Janakrishi lived in Aishmukam, and Rishmol lived in Anantnag. There are three famous shrines in Srinagar. Batmal, Thagbab Sahib, and RishiPir lived in these.

Out of all these rishis, Nandrishi is considered outstanding. That is why his sayings are uttered by Kashmiris with great reverence.

Hazrat Makhdoom Sahib, a Sufi saint.

The shrine of Makhdoom Sahib.

The beautifully inlaid doorway to Shah Hamdan's shrine.

Pather Masjid, the valley's only unconsecrated mosque.

Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Walli with Baba Nassar-ud-Din, the great saint who propounded Kashmiri Sufism.

En route to Lolab valley, the Sufi shrine of Shah Walli, who was reputed to have the power of raising the dead.

The shrine of Bamadin at Bamzoo.

The shrine of Baba Reshi.

Rozabal, supposedly the tomb of Jesus.

The steps to the shrine of Zain Shah at Aishmuqam, where also is found Asa-i-Sharif or the Staff of Moses.

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