When Sheikh-ul-Aalam, Sheikh Noor Ud Din spearheaded an era of religious consciousness and social revolution via his poetry, he spoke for the marginal, the left-out, the neglected and the voiceless. No different for Lal Ded, who, in her pithy poetic compositions called Vakhs disarmed the then prevalent religious tyranny and spoke of eclecticism and equity which has ever since been the hallmark of Kashmiri Mystical Poetry.
Soothing the commoners of the burnouts of life and reassuring the helpless and oppressed of the universal call to truth and Justice, Kashmiri sufi poetry has continued to inspire generations and has been true to its calling. But it is not the poetry of the less privileged, the poetry to taste whose fruits you need to be poor – it has a lot to offer to the apparently affluent but spiritually poor. Sufi poetry has not only vouchsafed for social change, it has, more importantly addressed man in his loneliness, his mental unrest and the undying spiritual quest. Reading Kashmiri Mystical poetry, one is reassured that he is not sailing alone in the tumultuous waves of life, there are others besides him and more importantly, there is the master sailor who shall help us sail through.
People have known well that these assurances, as they emerge in mystical poetry, are no hollow parts or placebo effects, but something emerging from the deepest experiences of life and its profoundest caress across the human soul. This understanding not only helped readers to repose their trust on what they were reading, but to pragmatise these teachings in their lives and create a bulwark against the vicissitudes of life. . But in our times, our indifference to and alienation from our rich literary tradition which has therapeutic and spiritual value and offers deep insights into some of the pressing issues of our life has deprived us of the rich and diverse source of wisdom and consolation.
Mystical poets created spaces of inclusion not only by virtue of their poetic structures appealing to men and women alike, but in the enactment of these compositions, which collated the entire society together by the force of universal brotherhood, love, amity and mutual respect. The message enshrined in these verses still possesses the power to undo the difference of caste, creed, gender and ideology which have torn our world and our own selves like a piece of paper. In a situation like this, mystical poetry emerges as the necessary first aid and remedial measure which can be of immense importance to restore the broken unity and heal the cleavage created by superficial differences in the human realm. No wonder that the musical fests held across the shrines of sufi saints even today pull together thousands of devotees from across the geographic divide and each individual benefits according to his receptivity and understanding – but the very phenomenon of people coming together is phenomenal and is testimony to the perennial healing and uniting power of mystical poetry.
We have evidence, both by way of folklore and living testimonies, that sufi spaces have peculiar healing powers particularly in context of mental health disorders (). When a devotee recites/reads the poetry of these great mystics, he/she feels in direct communion and communication with the spirit of the mystic who offers panacea to his/her ailments by way of his insights and inspirations couched in the verbiage of poetry.
The attendance to mystical poetry has a special reference to and importance in Kashmir – a place torn apart by violence, victimhood, poverty and issues of hundred thousand faces. The therapeutic nature of poetry and literature has been known to people since times immemorial. Not only is the writer benefitted by the catharsis which the very act of writing brings with it, but the same aura of purgation and ecstasy dawns upon the reader who takes upon himself the task of reading – in other words participating in the poetic mystique of joy and wonder. Poetry, mystical poetry in this case, shall not however be seen as an escape and fleeing away from the harsh and hard realities of life. It rather strengthens individual will to accept and helps us to recognise the fact that life is larger than the individual and enables us to stand open to the unforeseeable, unpredictable and unexpected in life.
This expectation of the unexpected may not avert the unexpected but acts as a shocker mechanism and cushions our life in the face of unforeseeable and the un-programmable. This element of unexpectedness is of heightened importance at a place like Kashmir which always stands in the midst of uncertainties of one sort or the other. The reign of hatred, difference and animosity from social media posts to neighbourhood to international affairs is not lost on anyone. Is it not thus needed to place our ears close to the mystical call of unity against all agents of dissipating diversity , a call that has exercised healing power across ages and continues to exercise the same.
- Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author is a Srinagar based columnist
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