Aishmuqam: It is a rare spectacle of faith and fire that lit the hillock leading to the shrine of 15th century Kashmiri Sufi saint Zainuddin Wali, in this otherwise sleepy hamlet of south Kashmirs Anantnag district.
Every year on the Urs (death anniversary) of Zainuddin, whose following cuts across religious and sectoral denominations, dozens of devotees carrying mashals (fire torches) line up the zig-zag hilly track leading to his Shrine.
Villagers light earthen oil-lamps at their doorsteps to commemorate the Urs. Faith and fire rarely make a spectacle like the one seen here on Thursday night.
People from dozens of neighbouring villages and other places of the valley travelled to seek the saints blessings.
Many devotees had come to untie the votive knots tied at the shrine to seek fulfillment of prayers.
Each thread tied on the wooden windows or iron grill or railing of the shrine is for seeking blessings for the fulfillment of a desire.
Once a wish is fulfilled, a devotee returns to the shrine to untie the knots and offer obeisance at the shrine.
Zainuddin Wali was one of the principal disciples of Kashmirs patron saint, Sheikh Nuruddin Wali, whose shrine is located in Charar-e-Sharief town of central Kashmirs Badgam district.
Son of a Hindu ruler of the Kishtwar area in the Chenab Valley of Jammu and Kashmir, Zainuddins Hindu name was Zia Singh.
Historical records indicate the boy was constantly unwell, causing huge worries to his parents. One day, Sheikh Nuruddin Wali, during his travels through the length and breadth of Kashmir, came to Kishtwar.
The parents sought his blessings for the good health of their ailing son. Nurruddin Wali took a pledge from the parents that once fully cured, they would devote their son to the path of righteousness and piety.
In fulfillment of her pledge, the mother carried Zia Singh to Aishmuqam, where Nurruddin Wali was staying that time. It was here that Zia Singh embraced Islam and accepted the Sufi way of tolerance, love and compassion for every human being.
Folklore has it that under directions from his mentor, Zainuddin Wali retired to a cave in this village for prayer and meditation.
Finding the cave full of poisonous snakes, he carried them on a club gifted to him by his master, to a place far away from the cave so that they did not harm the devotees in future.
The saint is believed to have passed away inside the cave where his mortal remains are laid to rest.
Violence during the last 25 years has destroyed many institutions and turned beliefs and ideas upside down in trouble-torn Kashmir.
The mighty winds of violence, though, have not succeeded in eroding or shaking the basic edifice of Sufist Islam as it came to Kashmir 600 years ago.
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