As the Lord, according to the Bhagvad Gita, incarnates periodically for the protection of the oppressed and the destruction of the wicked, so does He sends, from time to time, his chosen ones to strengthen the wavering faith of the devotees and relieve them of their troubles and mental tribulations.
Apart from showing the right path to the Sadaka by their teachings, they set an example for the people to live a pious and a fruitful life in the service of mankind. For the relief of their devotees they go to any length. Their spiritual attainments give them control over environment and they are able to perform miracles for the relief of their devotees which seem incredulous to the uninitiated but strengthen the faith of the Sadaka. Their supernatural feats could also be intended to shock the ignorant into the realization that there is a divine force above and beyond the ken of human understanding which controls the destinies of us mortals.
Kashmir over the ages has had its compliment of Rishis, Munis, Saints and Sufis who, from time to time, have appeared among the common people to guide them towards the Ultimate Truth. Among them rose in the middle of the last century a Siddha Purusha, Swami Shankar Razdan, who was revered by all for his spiritual attainments. Swamiji was not only a saint, he had great literary attainments. One of his more important contributions to the Kashmiri literature is his Ramayana in Kashmiri verse in Sharda script. He has left behind many Vakyas which are a source of inspiration to the faithful.
It is unfortunate that because of the perverse mentality of some of his successors, his Ramayana has not seen the light of day in printed form. It should not be difficult at present to transcribe the text from Sharda into Devnagari script for the benefit of the readers. After some time this task may become impossible with the passing away of those people who know the Sharda script. It also needs to be seen that such a precious and a rare manuscript is not made a feast to termites and lost to posterity through the narrow vision of those people in whose possession the manuscript is at the moment.
Born in a middle class family at Kaniakadal, Srinagar, Shankar, even in his childhood, had displayed a remarkable Vaakh Sidhi (what he said would come true) which startled people around him. As a child he would babble prayers in incoherent words and be absorbed in contemplation. As such he had not much attachment to the family. His father, a revenue official, was posted in Kulgam, an area abounding in natural beauty. Shankar spent his early days there which brought him closer to nature. The surroundings were in tune with his spiritual make- up and he started his Tapasya in Uttarsu, at a shrine of Umma Bhagwati. He later wanted to shift his place of contemplation to Khirbhavani shrine in Manzgam (Kulgam).
On his way to Manzgam, Swamiji encountered a strange phenomenon. All of a sudden dark clouds started gathering overhead and there followed lightning and cloudbursts, thunderstorms and rains which uprooted trees and rocks started rolling down the Vishaw river and along with it Shankar Razdan was swept away. Swamiji, being a man of prescience, was not afraid of this extraordinary phenomenon. On the contrary he took it as an indication of some supernatural happening. In a flash he saw the Devi on a rock beckoning to him. The Devi extended a corner of Her 'Longi' to the Swami; he caught hold of it and the Devi pulled him to Herself, applied Tilak on the forehead of the Swami and gave him Khir and other Prashad with Her own hands. The Devi admonished him for frittering away his energies in search of the Divine without a Guru. He should go to one of Her devotees, Swami Zanardan Dhar of Srinagar, to whose care She had given him for future. "He will give you Updesh", said the Devi, and disappeared.
In a short while the storm subsided, the sky cleared, the sun shone and the Swami found his way to safety. This was a clear indication to the Swami that the Devi to Whom he was going had met him half-way, given him Darshan and confined him to the care of Swami Zanardan. No sooner did Shankar Razdan reach Srinagar, Swami Zanardan came out to greet him and after that Shankar Razdan continued to be a Shishya of Swami Zanardan.
A few instances of the miracles that were performed by the Swami may be narrated here. Once he, along with his other fellow-students, was studying at night. There being no other means of lighting those days, they were studying under an oil lamp. The oil of the lamp dried up and the lamp started to flicker. The students felt disappointed because it was not possible to go out to fetch oil at that late hour to refill the lamp. Shankar told them not to mind and the lamp started to light up brightly to the wonder of his fellow-students. It went on well beyond their requirement. It is possible that it was in remembrance of this event that when a Samadhi was built in the memory of the Swami, it was named the temple of Ratanjot.
There is a saying "Shankaren Makach" Shanker's axe. Swami Shankar Razdan used to carry an axe with him and worship it. Once at Bijbehara, when asked what was in that axe that he worshipped it he struck the axe at a huge stone. An axe got stuck in the stone, yet Swamiji's axe continued to be in his hand. It is said that the stone with the axe is still existing.
It was Sawan Pooranmashi, and thousands of people were on pilgrimage to the holy Amarnath cave. The Swami was at his home. He had not gone on pilgrimage. At Amarnath there was a thunderstorm. People were in distress and there was danger of large-scale death and devastation. All of a sudden, Swamiji appeared near the cave deep in Tapasya. The sky cleared and the people were happy at the sight of the Swami. On their return from the cave they did not find the Swami at his place. When they reached Srinagar and narrated their tribulations and mentioned the presence of the Swami there, his disciples were puzzled and asserted that the Swami had never stirred out of his hut.
The British had sent a political mission to Central Asia via Kashmir under the leadership of Douglas Forsythe. The mission was of great significance because the British wanted to checkmate the influence of Russia in this area and the Begs and other petty rulers there could be influenced one way or the other. The impression was given that it would be a joint mission of the Government of India and the Kashmir Government and Maharaja Ranbir Singh was induced to render all assistance to the mission to meet Yaqub Beg who had formed the short-lived independent kingdom of Kashgharia and Yarkand. Queen Victoria of England was deeply interested in the mission and sent presents to the Maharaja. However, the mission did not return for a long time and various search parties were sent out to trace it with no results.
The British got annoyed and furious with Maharaja Ranbir Singh and pressed him hard to find the whereabouts of the mission because its loss involved the interests of the State and the prestige of the Queen herself. The Maharaja got worried and stood in the danger of even being deposed. In spite of his best efforts no trace could be found of the political mission. It was suggested to him that he might seek the aid of Swami Shankar Razdan, a recluse living in a hut near Chattabal. The Maharaja finding no alternative went personally to the saint.
The saint at first expressed his inability to do anything but after much persuasion by his disciples and considering the gravity of the situation for the Maharaja he finally agreed to intervene and said that the mission would return in a few days. And, surely, Douglas Forsythe and his party returned. Asked what had happened to them Forsythe said that while returning they had lost their way and had been wandering over rocks and valleys and had been held by some local chieftains. On the intervention of a Kashmiri (giving the description of Swami Shankar Razdan) they had been released and guided to safety. He also gave the same date of his rescue on which the Maharaja had approached the saint. This narration struck wonder in the whole court and the Maharaja rushed to the saint, bowed before him and made obeisance. This incident became known throughout India, even Britain. Since then Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Maharaja Pratap Singh, who succeeded him, were devotees of the Swami.
Once Maharaja Ranbir Singh had paid a visit to the saint in his Kutia. With him was his military attachˇ. The party was offered tea which they most cherished as Prashad from the saint. While offering tea a disciple inadvertently dropped some boiling tea on the shoulder of the military attachˇ, who could not even squirm in the presence of the Maharaja. Swami Shankar Razdan divined the pain that the military attachˇ was undergoing. He rubbed the shoulder of the Colonel for some time and the pain went on reducing in the Colonel's shoulder, but blisters appeared on the shoulder of the saint himself. This indicates that when he relieved the tribulations of his devotees he took all the pain upon himself.
There are many miracles which Swami Shankar Razdan performed to relieve the distress of his devotees to bear narration here. It was not for any personal benefit or any consideration that he did good. He lived in a small Kutia at Chattabal, Srinagar, and welcomed everyone who came to him, a pauper or a Raja. The Maharaja wanted to build a residence for the Mahatma which could accommodate comfortably him, and his disciples. With this end in view he deputized his engineers to make a layout plan and an assessment of the proposed Ashram. When the engineers went on the site to take measurements and there was some activity outside the Mahatma's Kutia, he inquired what it was all about. When informed by the engineers about their purpose and the Maharaja's wish to build a mansion for his Ashram, he strictly forbade to take measurements and sent message to the Maharaja that if he felt ashamed to visit his humble Kutia, he (the Maharaja) had better not come to visit him (the saint). This perturbed the Maharaja because he was devoutly attached to the saint and he came forthwith to beg pardon for his temerity.
Swamiji was a celibate and had no family. Once a widow came to him with the limp body of a child stricken with small-pox in her arms who, she thought, had breathed his last. She cried and wailed before the Swami and told him that it was her only child who was no more. She implored him to do something to bring the child back to life. Everyone present was moved by the pleadings of the widow and implored the Mahatma to grant her boon. After some contemplation Swami Shankar Razdan told the widow that her son might return to life but she should have to part with him. He offered to adopt the child. The widow, for the sake of the life of her child, agreed readily to have nothing to do with him if he came back to life and the Mahatma could adopt him if he liked. The Mahatma sprinkled some holy water from his Puja on the child who started opening his eyes and making movements. There was great excitement and happiness among the devotees and they fell at the feet of the Mahatma. The child recovered and was named Ramjoo by the Mahatma and adopted by him. He brought up Ramjoo with great care, gave him good education, secular as well as religious.
The Maharaja out of consideration for the Mahatma wanted to give a prize post to young Ramjoo. But Swami Shankar Razdan would have none of it. After great persuasion, he allowed his adopted son to take Government service which was the only means of livelihood for Kashmiri Pandits those days. Shri Ramjoo rose step by step to become Military Secretary in the Government, and later adviser to Raja Amar Singh, father of late Maharaja Hari Singh.
Swami Shankar Razdan lived and died in his humble Kutia. The Swami was a man of learning. He wrote extensively and, as mentioned above, his Ramayana in Kashmiri is a unique piece of religious literature which awaits publication. When he attained Mukti the Maharaja got a Samadhi built in his name. It was named Mandir Ratanjot. Though the Mandir is in private hands, it is open to allÑ Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others. Everyone in Chattabal reveres the memory of Swami Shankar Razdan. In the temple are placed the personal effects of the Mahatma, the axe which he worshipped and the offerings made by the Maharajas and other humbler folk. There are many books in the temple (some in Kashmiri-Sharda) which need to be researched upon.
Much of what is written above is recorded history except for the supernatural part which was personal to the disciples and who had profited by his benevolence. This piece is to record for the benefit of those who do not know what spiritual powers our ancestors possessed which they utilized for the good of the mankind.