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Eighth Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

December 02'



Romeet K WATT


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Fundamentalistic rage in secular Kashmir

Romeet K WATT

Much water has flown under the bridge, and it is a heart-rending incongruity that the Kashmir Valley, long celebrated as Rishivaer or Garden of Rishis has been in the eye of storm with terrorist violence becoming the order of the day. Although the Valley has had tumultuous history of inside discord and foreign incursions, she has also brought into the world holy men and women who preached a humanitarian faith in the homogeneous conduct of people belonging to dissimilar belief, and a faith that there was one God afar from sectarian divisions.


The orthodox Islamic school of thought that came to find its most dangerous face in Taliban, originated in the peaceful north Indian town of Deoband, where Hindus and Muslims peaceably co-exist to have external rhythms of sowing and harvesting. The length of the streets in this holy town is festooned with shrines to blue-skinned Hindu Gods, cows, sacred in Hinduism.

In the Kashmir context, the division is between those who believe in shrines and those who do not. The Islam practised in Kashmir is Islam as propagated by the local Sufi order of Silsila-e-Rishiyan, the Muslim saints of Kashmir, whose progenitor was Sheikh Nooruddin. The Hindu community of Kashmir reveres Him also. The Sufis worship in shrines where pre-Islamic practices still survive. In fact, the existence of Shrines, as distinct from mosques, is seen as a non-Islamic tradition by the orthodox. Orthodox, and their leaders such as Syed Ali Geelani, who deprecate worship in shrines, has had to address gatherings of believers at popular shrines such as Hazratbal.


Kashmiriyat - cultural-cum-religious ethos of Kashmir - emerged and evolved as an assimilation of the varied influences from central and west Asia, the Tibetan highland and from the heartland of India. Drawing on beliefs and thoughts from dissimilar religious convictions, dogma and customs and developing its own traditions and a manner of living that, even today, remain atypical to the Kashmiri people and, more than all other facets, characterize their distinctiveness and identity.


Kashmir started a new epoch in the history with the advent of Hinduism in the second century B.C with the arrival of Aryans. The commencement of the third millennium B.C is by and large regarded as the phase when Buddhist influences acquired traction in Kashmir predominantly in Ladakh, north of the valley. Kashmiri intellectuals played a pivotal role in the growth of Buddhism to other parts of the world. Notwithstanding the arrival of Buddhism, Buddhist royals, centered in the Valley, persisted the exercise of backing Hindu temples and revelling Hindu fiestas.


Kashmir was also receptive to the Mahayana school of Buddhism whose doctrines revolve round their fundamentalist concepts of Shiva and Shakti. However scholars also argue that the doctrine of Buddhism consequently faced a confront from a rejuvenated Shavite Hinduism. The Amarnath cave in Kashmir, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is representative of the profound impression that Shavite Hinduism had on the populace of Kashmir Ė an influence that the very system of Buddhism encouraged. It was a variety of reverence that symbolised a spiritual union involving the disciple and God devoid of ceremonial contemplation. Its increase resulted not from proliferation but the partaking of the people themselves. The highly esteemed status of Kashmir as a seat of learning equalled that of Magadha.


The arrival of Islam, ensuing from permeation from Central Asia, Persia and Turkey, saw the waning of Buddhism mainly in the Valley and the conversion of a sizeable number of populace to the mystic Sufi school. The Kashmir Valley became the halting place of the caravans going in either direction. Syed Ali Hamdani from Hamadan in Persia, an intellectual and Sufi saint, is accepted as the poignant influence behind the non-violent extend of Islam in Kashmir. The Kashmiri kinship with Sufi Islam stemmed from the customs of spirituality that infused the life of people true to Shavite Hinduism with its stress on the mystic contact linking man with God.

It was in the Valley that Muslim ascetics instituted the Rishi order, even though the fact that the notion of a Rishi is unknown to Islam. On the other hand, Hindu saints did not reticent away from correlating with Muslim sages. The common goal of both was the realisation of the self. Sufism was in part a symbol of disapproval, critical of the codified and institutionalised Islam of the sultanates and caliphates, analogous to the Shaivite custom, which did not visualize a ceremonial function for the priestly order. Sufism had parallels to tantric rituals, which also had influenced the Kashmiri nation.


These assorted influences shaped the basis of Kashmiri society and the formation of an culture of Kashmiriyat. However it needs to be borne in mind that much before the advent of foreign missionaries to Kashmir, Kashmir was a land of civilisation and had a well-structured mosaic of culture. Buddhist age edifices such as the Shah Hamadan Mosque on the banks of river Jhelum; the Ziyarat Dastgir Sahib in Khanayar and the Zirat Nund Rishi at Charar-e-Sharif epitomized the atypical liberal edition of Islam take up by the Kashmiris.


Sufi saints produced a amalgamation of monotheistic Trikka (the Kashmiri outline of Shaivite veneration) into the Tawhid; conception of Islam ensuing in a way of life that welcomed spirituality, conversant to the doctrine of fundamentalist Islam. The fusion of mystic Trikka Shaivism and spiritual Sufism guided to the dawn of Rishi belief in Kashmir analogous to the Hindu theory of Bhakti.


The propagation of Islam, in this atypical and moderate form, to the people of Kashmir was the giving of the Rishis. One such saint was Lal Ded. Born to a Brahmin family in the region of Pampore near Srinagar, this 14th-century saint was drawn towards spirituality from a very young age. She did not believe in idol worship, sacrifices, and the other rituals her clique indulged in, nor did she distinguish between a Hindu and Muslim or the rich and the poor. Through her songs, which still echo in the Kashmir Valley, Lalla-ded spread the message of universal brotherhood and fairness before God, quite diverse from the doctrine of fundamentalist Islam.


There are some popular allegories in Kashmir concerning Lal Dedís relationship with Syed Ali Hamadani and Sheikh Noorudin Noorani. While it has not been established that she met the former, there is almost no suspicion articulated by scholars about Her correlation with Nund Rishi. Sheikh Nooruddin or Nund Rishi inherited her mantle and is revered to this day by both Muslims and Hindus likewise. True spiritualists, as they were, their pronounces mostly in doggerel, accentuate ecumenical philosophy.


The Rishi institution can be seen in the contemporary Kashmir in post Namaz recital of the Aurade Fathiya sonnets in Kashmiri, in admiration of the Prophet; the veneration for Shrines and tombs of saints and Sufis and the reverence of holy relics; as well as the espousal of a tolerant form of Islamic theory or philosophy. Kashmiriyat, of which these customs and rituals form an essential ingredient, is not restricted simply to the ways of prayer. It permeates the every day verve of the Kashmiris.


The Sufi order, distinct from those in conventional Islamic institution permits a woman complete pronounce in the manner of leading her life and the conception of a lady being considered less than a man is unfamiliar to Kashmiris. In Kashmir, contrary to the conformist Islamic practices, visits to Hindu temples by Muslims and to Shrines by Hindus are routine. Muslims abide by the Hindu practice of fastening threads at the yearly Hindu pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave; it is Muslim families which customarily take care of the Cave.

The character of co-existence and accord amongst faiths and beliefs, and the amalgamation of customs and practices of dissimilar religions that have had their situate in culture, despising fundamentalism, and fanaticism. The people have departed from the spiritual legacy bestowed to them by their saints, and thrust the Valley into a scene of carnage.

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