Sunday, January 21, 2007

Nund Ryosh,Lal Ded and the Mullahs-Attempts at Distorting Kashmir's past

Kasid ke attay attay khat ek aur likh rakhoo
Main jaanta ho jo woh likhenge jawaab main

It gives me immense pleasure to correspond through your esteemed newspaper with one of the best known scholars of History in contemporary Kashmir-Prof. Mohd Ishaq Khan. His column dated 11th Oct, 06 as a response to my response to his column was a sure step walked from his previous column. Prof Khan is unequivocal in describing how Nund Ryosh was equally severe on Mullahs and not just Hindu Priests. It is hard not to agree with Prof.Khan when he says Nund Ryosh’s life and the titles attributed to him should be studied in their correct contextual and conceptual framework. But before we proceed to do just that, may I submit, where in my previous column have I mentioned that only selective verses are contained in books of prayers of Kashmiri Pandits. Also have I nowhere written that Nund Ryosh was against the Shariah(Islamic Laws),what I have written is “The truth is that he criticized the established order of religion whether Islam or Hinduism” .Prof Khan quotes” But this fact should not lead him(me in this case) to assert that the Shaikh was against the Shariah or the so-called established or institutionalized religion.” I am not sure whether the word “Order” was a typographical or intentional omission. Neither have I anywhere indicated that Nund Ryosh sought to reconcile Saivism and Sufism. Therefore it is my humble request to the learned scholar not to distort what has been said in my column for we must stay clear of garbled mess of semantics and related historical disorders.
In continuation to what I have said, the question of the common thread running between two differing religious viewpoints or even a remote reference between them does not arise. Through this column I wish to make it abundantly clear that I do not wish to parrot this line of Saivism and Sufism brotherhood story (a thought already written by me in the earlier columns of this newspaper), neither do I subscribe to it. Yet history must be presented in its right perspective and context.
Kashmiri Pandits drew lineage from the home grown religion of the land which at that point of time was Kashmir Saivism. Kashmir Saivism does not recognize caste system and anyone can be a Saivite. It made a conscious effort to put philosophy of the ritual over the ritual and thus internalize the ritual itself. Kashmiri Muslims obviously drew lineage from Islam, a religious concept which was spread in Kashmir through religious preachers like Bulbul Shah and Syed Ali Hamdani. The learned scholar has written and I qoute ” At the same time, the impact of Shaivite philosophy on a true seeker after the Truth like Nuruddin cannot be ignored during the formative period of his spiritual evolution.”I am sure he wouldn’t say the same about either Bulbul Shah or Syed Ali Hamdani. There lies the difference between two sets of religious preachers of the same religion. While Nund Ryosh was a son of the soil and understood and respected concepts like Saivism and its nuances apart from being influenced by it, the foreign preachers were ignorant and even intolerant of this stream of thought as well as the existing religion in the valley. This can be easily testified by these lines relating to Syed Ali Hamdani (text Bahiristan-i-Shahi) I quote” Again it needs to be recorded that for some of the time which the holy Amir spent in Kashmir he lived in a sarai at 'Alau'd-Din Pora. At the site where his khanqah was built, there existed a small temple which was demolished and converted into an estrade on which he offered namaz (prayer) five times a day and recited portions of the Qur'an morning and evening. Sultan Qutbu'd-Din occasionally attended these congregational prayers”.It would be hard for anyone to find such verses being attributed to Nund Ryosh.As to why Pandits and Muslims call him by different names, is a story not uncommon to people living in the subcontinent. Bulle-Shah, Kabir, Lal-Ded, Sai Baba or Nund Ryosh have this common story where every community wants to own them. Prof Khan’s column is a testament to this fact in case of Lal-Ded and I quote” Such eulogisation contributed to her romanticisation, so much so that in the Sufi literature of Kashmir she was called Maryam-i Makani, Rabia Sani, Arifa and so on”.
I agree with Prof Khan about three distinct phases in the life of the great saint but let us see what Prof Khan has written. He agrees that in the second phase of his life Nund Ryosh was influenced by Lal Ded, because of her fight against Brahman ethnocentrism. Taken that to be true, and that he wanted to slay the same demon I assume there would have many more Muslim saints and Ullemas who would have been also opposing Brahman ethnocentrism more fervently than Lal Ded.Why did he chose Lal-Ded( as a role-model), a Hindu saint, a Saivite… baffles me no end! About the third phase of his life, we must take into account the times Nund Ryosh lived in.With time Nyond Ryosh gained fame and even the then king had known him. Despite being a great saint and visionary he was but a mortal and even if he wished to say something which was not in strict conformance to Sharia, he would not have dared to take the establishment and the Ullema on beyond a certain point.Besides he had the example of Mansur-bin-Hallaj, another great Sufi saint being stoned to death after his arms were severed for simply saying Anal-Haq.Maybe it is about time we discuss “Wazoo-i-Khoon”.As regards sources which Dr.Khan calls historical and Persian hagiographical accounts(and bases his brahmanical bashing..oops Historical facts on),let us evaluate their historical authenticity. Most details in this regard have come down to us in various Rishinamas or Nurnamas.Amin Kamil, an eminent poet and critic, points out , that these greatly differ from one another. The late Abdul Ahad Azad,says "greater reliance has been placed in them on imagination than on historical facts." The first Rishinama or Nurnama that has come down to us was written about 200 years after his passing away. Surely, there has been a lot of mixing of facts and fresh light needs to be shed on many "unclear" events and episodes in the story of his life and the cobwebs that have gathered around many others need to be cleared.
I really don’t feel the need to argue the fact as to why Nund Ryosh called Lal Ded an Avtaar because the verse is self explanatory and unless we have an agenda to prove something else, nothing is left to doubt. As to whether Lal Ded was a renegade, yes she was a rebel, but if she was an avatara for the commoners undergoing process of Islamic acculturation is a statement of historical mischief. If one reads Vaakhs of Lal-Ded not even one is seen to be supporting Islamic Laws (Shariah) nor have we any verses where Lal-Ded exhorts “commoners” to convert to Islam or Sufism. There surely are vaakhs asking Hindus to give up ritualistic religion and concentrate on Shiva, The all pervading. This call is truly in conformance to the cannons of Kashmiri Saivism.Out of approximately 235 odd vaakkhs which have come down to us almost one-third are devoted to Shiva and his glory,I wonder what makes Prof.Khan say that attempts are being made to resuscitating Lalla as a protagonist of Kashmiri Saivism. Lalla does not need to be resuscitated as a protagonist of Kashmir Saivism. She already is..and her vaakhs are more than a testament to that. As to why Saivate chroniclers are quiet about Lal Ded’s vaakhs and life, I presume Prof.Khan is referring to Jonaraja, Srivara, Shuka and Prajabhatta. It may surprise all of us but Kalhana makes no mention of either Charaka, Aryabhatta, Anandvardahna or even the great Abhinavgupta in his Rajatarangni. Does that mean Kalhana was ignorant or he despised them so he did not write about them. These people were essentially court chroniclers and would write royal history or incidents related to the royals. That explains why Suyya(the engineer on whose name Suyyapur-present day Sopore is based)finds mention in Rajatarangni but Abhinavgupta does not.
There still is a lot be researched about the life of the great saint especially his leanings and their historical context. While we must do serious research to clear the mist, I once again request that we should not make conscious efforts of appropriation of great icons of our history. It is being observed that such efforts are being made to erase or at-least distort the past with reference to Hindu history and its impact on Kashmiri psyche and thought. Arinmal being, in realm of imagination only or Lal Ded being avatara for people undergoing Islamic acculturation, Hari Parbat being called Kohi-Maran are all attempts of such appropriation or distortion. I would like to conclude with a verse from the great saint himself which makes us feel how he himself sought synthesis (which Prof Khan and me cannot debate on)and how the essence of Bhagwad Gita has been invoked to describe a Musalman. Also please mark the choice of words to define a faithful………

Suy Purusha Swarg Pravi,
Yus aahar tsavi beyan saan
Raten dohan yus roza thavi
Aisi Sato sath namaan
Krud,lubh,muh,mad,ahankar travi
Suy dapize musalman

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Dead End

Dead End
The road to what was once my home in Kashmir....zuv chum bramaan ghare gachehae..