Javaid Beigh


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 Kashmir is one of the rare places on the earth, which is associated with nearly all major faiths of the world in some form or the other. The valley of Kashmir and its people have been linked with not only ancient Zoroastrian, Rig Vedic faith and pre-biblical Judaism but also older Shaivite Hinduism  and Buddhism and more recent faiths like Christianity, Islam and Sikhism, all of which have together woven a tapestry of unique and diverse culture of faiths that have all been amalgamated by Kashmir very own Sufi way of life that has glued all these diverse religious traditions in a syncretic manner, which is often described as “Kashmiriyat” or “Kashmiriness”, something that makes a Koshur person regardless of his/her faith distinct from non-Koshur communities.

And nothing symbolizes this “Koshurness” more than a short trail that starts from Hari Parbat or Koh-e-Maran and ends at Imambargah Hassanabad in old Rainwari, Srinagar. This heritage trail embodies within itself – Kashmir’s unique and diverse history and religious traditions that includes both Abrahamic faiths as well as Dharmic faiths. In many ways, Hari Parbat or Koh-e-Maran is the singular and most prominent identity marker of Srinagar (from Sanskrit “The Great city”) also known as “Shehar-e-khas” (from Persian “The Special city”), the historical capital of Kashmir valley. This imposing hillock separated from mighty Zabarwan mountain range by the sprawling spread of Dal Lake, has been a spiritual guardian of Koshur people and repository of Vedic, Buddhist, Sufi and Sikh traditions, something which makes it a potent cultural symbol of “Kashmiriyat”.

The ancient name of this hillock is “Hari Parbat” and contrary to popular belief, the “Hari” in the “Hari Parbat” has got nothing to do with Hindu God Krishna but it actually is a Koshur word for Myneah bird – so literally speaking “Hari Parbat” means – the hillock of Myneah. According to popular ancient local Hindu legend, the mountain was abode to demons called by various names such as “Jalobhava”, “Chanda” and “Munda”, who used to harass the people of Kashmir valley and it was Devi Parvati, who took the form of Myneah and dropped a giant pebble on these demons and crushed them to death to get the people of Kashmir valley rid of these evils. The pebble is said to have grown into mountain and as a mark of gratitude there is a temple dedicated to Devi Parvati, who is worshipped there as “Sharika” in the form of “Shri Chakra”, a tantric motif made by flowers on vermillion laden rock edifice, which is a symbol of “Shakti” or cosmic energy pervading through the universe.

The place is also sacred to Buddhists as the 10th century Buddhist literary masterpiece – “Mokshopaya” was believed to have been composed on the peaceful and pristine slopes of Hari Parbat. Buddhism was a major faith along with Vedic and Shaivite Hindu faiths in ancient Kashmir, which has had a lasting cultural impact on Kashmir as most Islamic Sufi shrines of Kashmir are said to have adopted the Kashmiri Buddhist stupa spire in making canopies of Kashmiri Sufi shrines.

Hari Parbat’s association with Islam has given it another name – “Koh-e-Maran” and nothing embodies that more than the world-renowned Sufi shrine of “Makdoom Sahab” named after Hazrat Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom (RA) also known as “Sultan-ul-Arifeen” and “Mehboob-ul- Alam”, who hailed from North Kashmir and belonged to a Chandra Vanshi Rajput clan that is said to have descended from Rawan Chandra, brother of Maharani Kota Rani, the last Hindu queen of Kashmir. The greatest thing about Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom (RA) was that he did not adhere to any one particular Sufi tradition but he studied them all and integrated them with Kashmir’s own Rishi Sufi tradition. Even though trained in Kubrawi Sufi silsilah, he later on drifted towards Suharwardi Sufi silsilah. He served as a meeting point of Suharwardi Sufi saints and saints belonging to Kashmir’s Rishi order and encouraged interaction among them. It was the charismatic wisdom of “Makhdoom Sahab” that prompted Afghan governor Atta Muhammad Khan to mint a coin in “Makhdoom Sahab” and “Nund Rishi’s” name as a mark of respect to these two legendary sufi saints of Kashmir valley.

The fortification seen on top of Hari Parbat is of more recent origin and were built during Mughal rule. The imposing fort is built in typical Mughal architectural tradition and is a symbol of Mughal rule over Kashmir valley and the love of Mughal Emperors for Kashmir valley and her people.

It was during Mughal rule that “Koh-e-Maran” also enveloped the sacred wisdom of Sikhism, when Sixth Guru of Sikhs – Guru Hargobind Singh made a visit to the hill, the exact spot at which stands the historic Gurudwara Chatti Patshahi today. Guru Hargobind Singh was the first Sikh Guru, who integrated the tradition of “Bhakti” or “Piri” with “Shakti” or “Miri”. He is said to have come to Kashmir valley driven by a devotion of a local blind lady called “Mai Bhagbari”, who had prepared a special “Chola” (dress) for Guru, which she gave him, once he visited her on the foothills of Hari Parbat. Guru Hargobind was instrumental in the establishment of many Gurudwaras and spread of Sikh faith in both Jammu region and Kashmir valley.

This amazing Sufi trail of Kashmiryat that begins at the temple of “Sharika” Devi ends at beautiful Shia Imambargah of Hassanabad that caters to a large Shia population that lives in the area surrounding Dargah Hazratbal on the banks of Dal Lake. The foundation of this beautifully built Imambargah is believed to have been laid in the middle of 19th century by Mirza Muhammad Ali and was reconstructed later in Kashmiri-Persian architectural style by Aga Syed Ahmed.

Where else, can one find such a beautiful example of coming together of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Sikh traditions than the sacred slopes of Hari Parbat or Koh-e-Maran that remains a powerful symbol of Kashmir’s secular and sectarian unity – all embodied in the unique and unparallel way of life called – “Kashmiriyat”.

The writer can be reached at [email protected]

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