By F Ahmad
SRINAGAR- Jabbar Mir 56, has walked barefoot with a pitcher full of water to the shirne of saint Sheikh Hamza Mukhdoom in Srinagar. It’s an age old custom that he is sure will pull his village out of a “do or die situation”.
Mir, a resident of Ganderbal, 22 km from Srinagar, has climbed the Koh-e-Maran hillock in the middle of the city with hundreds of villagers, all travelling on foot and carrying water Filled earthen pitchers from various parts of the Kashmir valley.
They are seeking saint Mukhdoom’s blessings so that the intermittent rains lashing the valley stop and the bright sunny days return.
“It’s a do or die situation for us. Our paddy nurseries are turning yellow because of the cold and rain. Unless we have bright, warm sunshine there would be hardly any paddy saplings left to be transplanted into the rice fields.” Mir said.
According to a local tradition, water collected from parts of the valley and brought here in earthen pitchers by barefooted devotees is poured into the large pond outside the saint’s shrine so that saint Mukhdoom is pleased and blesses the people.
However, the devotees must walk all the distance from their homes to the shrine.
‘This is a practice that the people have resorted to whenever excessive rains, floods and other natural calamities have visited Kashmir.’
Asked if it works, Ghulam Nabi. 48 gives a stare.
“It is a heretic’s question. The custom always works. It is my experience of over four decades that whenever Kashmiris visit the shrine, their prayers are answered,” says Nabi, who has come from Anantnag district. 54 km away.
Nabi’s 20-year-old son is an epileptic whose seizures have become frequent in recent days.
“I won’t say a doctor is not needed to cure my son. But finally it is somewhere else that the outcome of our efforts is decided. Whether a doctor succeeds or not in curing my son would be decided at the sheikh’s shrine.” Nabi says.
Mukhdoom who lived in the 15th century, is also revered as the saint who was instrumental in ending the “tyrannical” rule of local king Yusuf Shah Chak.
Mukhdoom is believed to have written to Mughal king Akbar about the oppression of the people under Chak. This led to the invasion of Kashmir by the Mughals and the end of Chak’s reign.
Visiting shrines and seeking the blessings of dead saints is an old practice in Kashmir.
A little away from saint Mukhdoom’s shrine is the temple of Hindu deity Sharika Devi.
Before the migration of Kashmiri pandits following the insurgency in the valley, Muslims and Hindus could be seen buying flowers from the same vendors for their saints.
There are very few visitors to the temple these days, yet a semblance of the eclectic Kashmiri culture is recreated “when the lone priest at the temple rings the bells – the’ sound blends perfectly with the voice of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer at Mukhdom’s shrine.
(Kashmir Observer, 31 May, 2005)
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