SHANKAR RAMAYANA BY SWAMI SHANKAR RAZDAN
Over the ages Kashmir has had its compliment of Rishi, Munis, Saints and Sufis who helped common people discover the truth. Among them lived in the middle of the last century, Swami Shankar Razdan, who was revered by all for his spiritual attainments. Swamiji was not only a saint, but also had great literary attainments. One of his more important contributions to the Kashmiri literature is his Ramayana in Kashmiri verse which he wrote in Sharada script. He has left behind many Vakyas, Leelas which are a source of inspiration to the faithful.
M. K. Raina
It is unfortunate that his Ramayana has not been printed. It should not be difficult at present to transcribe the text from Sharda into Devanagari 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.
Born in a middle class family at Kania Kadal, Srinagar, Shankar, even in his childhood, had displayed a remarkable Vaakh Siddhi i.e. what he said would come true. As a child he would 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 Manzgarn, Swamiji encountered a strange phenomenon. All of a sudden dark clouds started gathering overhead and there followed lighting and thunderstorms which uprooted trees. Rocks started rolling down the Vishaw river and along with it was swept away Shankar Razdan. Being a man of presence, Swamiji 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 Devite 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 Zanardai came out to greet him and since then 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. Shanker 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 rememberance of this event that when a Samadhi was built in the memory of the Swami, it was named the temple of Ratanjot.
Swami Shankar Razdan used to carry axe with him and worship it. Once on Sawan Poornmashi thousands of people were on pilgrimage to the holy Amarnath Cave. The Swai was at his home. He had not gone on pilgrirmage. 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 stepped out of his hut. He had twelve years Tapsya.
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 a 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 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 of Kashmir out of consideration for Mahatma wanted to give a prize post to young Ramjoo but Swami Shankar Razdan would have none of it. Aftcr grrat 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.
Sawmi 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 Mukhti 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, all - Hindus, Muslims, Christians and othersEveryone in Chattahal reveres the memory of Swami Shanker 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 mazy books in the temple, some in Kashmiri Sharda which need to be researched upon.
It is the first Ramayana written by Swami Ji when Maharaja Ranbir Singh was ruling the state who was devotee of Swamiji. This Ramayana is written in Sharda lipi and the language is Kashmiri. Some Sanskrit words are also used. This Ramayana has been written in Saptrishi Samwat 4945 in 18 century. It is also unpublished. Its original Manuscript copy is with me. It is in verse. Some events are depicted in art colours. The colours are not chemical but are prepared from original flowers. These paintings resemble the Basholi Art Printers. As per one verse, the said date of completion of Ramayana is Samwat 4945. So it is safe to consider it as the first Ramayana of the century and not the second one as mentioned by some writers.
The original manuscript is lying safe and is in Sharda Script. I am trying my best to get it translated into Devnagri from Sharda, but I am not able to find any person who knows Sharda written in Kashmiri. My friend late Dr. Pushap Ji had promised to do the job, unfortunately he was snatched away from us. I appeal to any Sharda knowing personality in getting this Ramayana translated. I am even prepared to pay for this job. The complete life of the saint has been published in book form in Hindi, Urdu and articles in English from time to time by me. It will not be out of place to mention here that there are seven Ramayanas in Kashmiri Sharda and Persian in 19th Century by different saints and poets. This was the period of Dogra Rule in the J&K State from 1846 to 1947 A.D.
Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Partap Singh were ruling the state from 1856 to 1940 A.D. It is believed that many more Ramayanas have been written by learned saints and poets before the 11th century, but there is only one Ramayana of this century available which is written by Acharya Khemander. It is also believed that after the spread of Islamic culture in Kashmir such literature appears to have been destroyed in this period due to Islamic rule since 1914 and thereafter no one might have tried to compose further Ramayanas. If any one had tried, that too appears to have been destroyed. It is in Dogra period that there are seven Ramayanas written. They are:1. Parkash Ramayana by Pt. Parkash Ram Tarigami who lived from 1819 to 1886. This Ramayana was published in 1910 in Persian at Partap Steam press in Srinagar and has been translated by Dr. Shiban Krishan Raina in Devnagri and has been published by Bhawani trust in Lucknow in 1975.
2. Anand Ramayana, written by Anand Razdan in 1888 and this has not seen the light of day as yet.
3. Partap Ramayana by Vishva Kaul in 1930.
4. Sharma Ramayana written by Pt. Nitkant Sharma written in 1919 and completed in 1926. This too is unpublished.
5. Tarachand Ramayana written by Pt. Tarachand in 1926 AD. It is also not published as yet.
6. Amar Ramayana, written by Pt. Amar Nath in 1940. This too is unpublished.