MavzaanHyound ta Mussalmaan
Trukhaychukh ta pananuypaanparzaan
Ada chaySaahibaszannizaan” – Lalleshwari (LalDed)
Siva abides in all that is, everywhere;
Then do not discriminate between
a Hindu or a Mussalman.
If thou art wise, know thyself;
That is true knowledge of the Lord.
Kashmir is known for its mountains, lakes, springs and the mystic shrines that nestle among them. Not many probably know that Kashmir has been a land of spiritualism. For ages, it has been known as ReshéVer or Peer Ver (Reshé/Peer: a sage or a spiritually enlightened person and Ver : a garden). It’s the land of Saints and Sufis and therefore a land of several incredible shrines.
Kashmiris share a deep emotional connect with these shrines and every family has one special one that the clan has been paying obeisance to, since hundreds of years. And if you’ve lived in Kashmir, you would’ve sensed how these shrines are practically an extension of your everyday life.
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It is interesting to note that most of the Hindu shrines are based around natural Nags and Sars (springs and lakes respectively). Practically, every prominent Nag or Sar is considered holy and so are the fish in them. Nobody catches the fish in the waters around the shrines— both Muslims and Hindus consider them sacred and just love feeding them!
Similarly, most Muslim shrines have courtyards full of pigeons and people from all faiths feed them grains. Another common sight is the local sweetmeat vendor who has a stall right outside the Ziyarat (shrine), selling Nadir Monje (lotus stem fritters) and other fried breads. Many times you would find women distributing Taher (yellow rice) outside to the devotees visiting. Anyone and everyone most respectfully accepts a handful as a blessing.
Devotees at these shrines often seek blessings and tie threads in the niches there praying for a boon to be granted. It’s called — Dashi Gandin.
Some Sufi shrines like Dastgeer Sahib and NundResh are in which both Hindu and Muslim have faith alike. At many Hindu shrines, you would find Muslim vendors outside selling flowers and Naveed (an offering of food) which are offered to the deities. However, there are some Sufi shrines where women cannot enter, they just have to limit themselves to the main door
Kheer Bhawani temple is one of the most highly revered Hindu shrines, situated in the TulMul village about 22 km from Srinagar. The temple, made of white marble, sits in the middle of a hexagonal sacred Nag, surrounded by a huge number of Chinar trees, which render a very peaceful aura to the place.
The water of the Nag is said to change its color, sending a sign of the time to come. While the hues of pale blue and green are supposed to be a good omen, the colors of red and black are not considered auspicious. Goddess Ragnya — an incarnation of Goddess Durga — is the presiding deity of this shrine. The temple is named after the popular Indian dessert Kheer, which is offered to the Goddess
Though the ancient spring has been there from time immemorial, the Dogra king — Maharaja Pratap Singh built this temple first in 1912.
There are arrangements to stay in the premises. One can book a dharamshala and eat at one of the many food stalls right next to it. Luch’ete Halve (puri-like fried bread and halwa) with Kehwa (green tea) is the most sought after delicacy along with Nadir Monj’e (lotus stem fritters).
Author Note :
I had the good fortune of visiting Kheer Bhawani in 1987 when I was visiting my relatives posted in Ganderbal. The horse tonga ride to the temple is still a vivid memory, the driver kept up a running commentary about the place. I was most intrigued to know about the water turning red with the advent of danger. They say that this was seen during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. What I was most bewitched by was the Chinar trees lining both sides of the road to the temple. It was just so utterly serene and gorgeous.
Hari Parbat or Parbath
If you have been to Srinagar, the first thing that catches your eye is an imposing fort atop a hill which forms the backdrop of the Dal Lake. Since, this lake is the first thing all tourists usually rush to, it’s hard to miss the Hari Parbat fort, the walls of which were got constructed by the Mughal ruler, Akbar in 1590 and later the fort was built by an Afghan governor in 1808 during the Durrani rule.The fort gives a panoramic view of “Shahar-e-Khaas” or the entire downtown.
Popular belief is that Kashmir was once a huge lake wherein resided the demon Jalobhava, who used to terrorize the locals. The inhabitants prayed to Goddess Sharika, an incarnation of Goddess Durga, for help. She is said to have taken the form of a bird Haer (Mynah)and dropped a pebble on the demon’s head. The pebble which magnified in size, and what we call Hari Parbat now, drained all the water out from the lake, crushing the demon instantly!
On the western slope of Parbath, is the shrine of Mata Sharika, which is regarded as the presiding deity of Srinagar by Hindus. The temple has an 18-armed idol of the Devi and a big rock smeared with Synder (vermilion). This temple is regarded as one of the most sacred sites by Kashmiri Pandits. The shrine is thronged with devotees at all times who offer TaherTsarvan (Taher is rice cooked with turmeric, oil and salt &Tsarvan is liver of sheep cooked in oil and spices) to the goddess.
Guest Author Note :
My oldest memories of this day from childhood are still very fresh in my mind. Baabi — my grandmother, even if she would not be able to go to Parbath on a festival, she would offer huge chunks of raw lamb meat to the kites by flinging them high into the sky from the attic of our home in Srinagar. The kites would majestically swoop down and catch them without amiss! All the kids in the house would the spectacle in so much awe!
Tsrar-e-Shareef / Nund Rishi
Tsrar-e-Shareef is the most revered and loved Sufi Islamic shrine of all Kashmiris. It is situated 30 km from Srinagar in a town called Tsrar which is close to the idyllic meadows of Yusmarg. It is the tomb of Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali, a Kashmiri Sufi saint, poet and mystic known famously as Nund Rishi. He also goes by the name of Sheikh-ul-Alam and Sahajanand. Both Hindus and Muslims have deep faith in him. It’s important to note that, while some other Sufi saints revered today in Kashmir neither belong to Kashmir nor have they ever visited it, NundResh was born here and propagated the Rishi-Sufi order of Islam. That’s why NundResh is known as Alamdar-e-Kashmir-the patron saint of Kashmir.
The shrine was built in 1460 and Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin’s is supposed to have laid foundation of the shrine after the saint passed away in 1438.
Nund Rishi was deeply influenced by the Shaivite Hindu mystic Lal Ded as both belonged to the Rishi order of Kashmir. The Rishi Order is a spiritual practice associated with religious harmony which was practised in the Valley. The true syncretic culture or Kashmiriyat was propagated by these Rishis and Sufis.
Women are allowed through a dedicated entrance.
Also known as Shah-e-Hamadan shrine, it is one of the oldest and most revered Sufi shrines in Kashmir. Located on the right bank of river Jhelum in downtown Srinagar, it was first built in 1395, by Sultan Sikandar in the memory of the Sufi Islamic preacher Mir Sayyed Ali Hamdani. Shah-e-Hamadan came to Kashmir as a preacher from the city of Hamadan in Persia in the 14th century. He has been the largest influence in the widespread conversion to Islam in Kashmir.
Khanqah is a sanctuary for penance where the Sufis would spend a time of 40 days in deep prayer and meditation. The shrine is quite imposing with beautiful wooden architecture in the Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic styles. The designs in wood are quite intricate with beautiful PapierMache adorning the walls.
Women are not allowed inside, only upto the shrine entrance.
One cannot not talk about Khanqah-e- Moula and miss one of the oldest Hindu shrines dedicated to Goddess Kali adjacent to it. It shares a common wall with the Sufi shrine and overlooks the river Jhelum as it sits right on the banks of it. Most of this shrine which is also supposed to be around a sacred spring, is now under the earth.
But the belief of the people is still very strong and faithful come and pray at the steps of Kali Ma! The shrine consists of a wall with a huge round figure made of vermilion on it.
Guest Author Note :
The only time I have visited it was in the summer of 2018. It had been pouring from the heavens since morning. The raindrops splashing on my face, the steps of stone awash and Vyeth (River Jhelum) flowing furiously in the front. It was a moment to reckon with!
This shrine is named after the popular Sufi saint from Bukhara in Uzbekistan, Syed Baha-ud-Din Naqshband the founder of a Naqshbandi Sufi order. The mystic never visited Kashmir but his followers made a shrine in his name. In this Khankah, one of his descendants, Mohi-u-din, lies buried in a mausoleum.
The architecture of this wooden shrine particularly stands out as it has some fine panels done in the pinjra-kari style.
Women are not allowed inside.
Shankaracharya hill is the centre of Srinagar, figuratively and almost literally too. It is a part of the Zabarwan range. In ancient times, it went by the name of Gopadari Hill.
The stone temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is right at the peak of this hill, at a height of 1000 ft, overlooking the city of Srinagar. From the top you can see the entire city with the river Jhelum meandering through.
Kashmir is the seat of Shaivism, therefore, this very ancient temple holds a very special in the hearts of all. There are different backgrounds attached to the temple. Many believe that the temple is from 200 BC although the present structure is probably from 9th century AD. The seer, AdiShankara visited the temple and that’s how the temple got the name Shankaracharya.
Some historians believe that the temple was originally built by a Hindu king Sandiman ,who, reigned in Kashmir from 2629 to 2564 BC.
The earliest historical reference has been made by Kalhana,the great Kashmiri poet and historian. He called the mountain Gopadri. Kalhana mentions that King Gopaditya built the temple as a shrine to Jyesthesvara (Shiva Jyestharuda) around 371 BC.
The Doordarshan TV tower also stands on this hill!
Most of the people would have heard of Anantnag in South Kashmir. Anant means numerous and Nag means spring in Kashmiri. Thus, Anantnag means endless springs! There are so many springs in Anantnag, some of them being Nagbal, Devibal, Salak Nag, Kokernag, Achhabal, Verinag, Mattan Nag, Malik Nag and many more. What we see below is Mattan Nag.
This beautiful shrine has a huge Shivling at the centre of a rectangular natural spring. The entire shrine is surrounded by huge Chinar trees which must be hundreds of years old.The blue-green water of the Nag is full of fish of different hues, which are considered very sacred. In fact, most holy springs and lakes have fish in them which are never killed or eaten. There’s a folklore about this spring which says that there exists a fish in this spring, which wears a gold nose ring. Only the lucky ones get to spot it. And the one who does, is truly blessed by the Gods!
The temple at Mattan is where priests used to maintain a record of Hindu families. They were also soothsayers and matchmakers. Mattan also is home to the famous Sun temple called Martand.
Author Note :
I have visited this place as a small child in 1978 and later as an adult in 2006 – both times I remember being enchanted by the scores of fish that would teem upwards as I would flip a piece of food in the water. My dad had checked out the records held with the priests here and his entry from 1978 was found- you cant imagine how surreal that felt.
Ya Peer Dastgeer! This is the cry you often hear from faithfuls of Dasgeer Saeb!
The 200-year-old Sufi shrine in downtown Sringar is of Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani, the patron saint of Kurds. The Sufi saint never visited Kashmir but people of all faiths there revere him a lot.
It is said that an Afghan traveler on a visit to Kashmir presented the then Afghan governor of the state, Sardar Abdullah Khan, with a holy relic belonging to the renowned Sufi saint. That’s when the shrine was built in its honor. It was initially built in 1806 in a locality called Khanyar. The wooden shrine boasted of the finely carved traditional Kashmiri Khatamband ceilings.
Unfortunately, the shrine got burnt down in fires twice, however, an equally magnificent structure still stands at the same place. And the relic is well preserved there.
Dastgeer Sahib is also called Kahnavi (one with eleven names). And that’s the name I have always heard my folks take in reverence of the saint. People often say “Kahnaviyas path” or “KahnaviyinKah” while invoking the saint’s name for sounding truthful.
It is a shrine dedicated to Zeestha(Jyeshtha) Devi in Srinagar, at the foothills of Zabarwan mountain range. Set amidst a cross-section of Shankaracharya mountain and Zabarvan, it overlooks the famous Dal Lake. It is quite close to local spots of tourist attraction like Pari Mahal and Chashma Shahi.
The approach to the temple is through a high security area which houses many VVIPs.
Pokhribal is a place just below the Hari Parbat and close to Nagin Lake. It is a famous place of pilgrimage since ancient times. Pokhri means spring and Bal a place – the place of springs.
The temple is at the center of a rectangular spring surrounded by many Chinar trees. The water from the spring flows out to join the waters of the lake. An ancient Shiva temple stands overlooking the holy AmritKund. The most prominent decorative features of the temple are the carved eaves board and the carved wooden balustrades.
Situated at an altitude of about 7,000 feet, near Ramboh village near Gulmarg, the shrine of the Baba Reshi is the tomb of the Sufi saint Baba Payam Uddin. Built-in 1480, in Mughal & Persian style, this shrine and its surrounding garden is a popular destination for pilgrims from across Kashmir.
Baba Payam Uddin was a courtier of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin , who later gave up all his worldly belongings in order to serve the common people. He lived and meditated at this location, which became the site of his tomb and a shrine.
This shrine has a big minaret and inside the shrine is the Noor Khwan where the grave of the Sufi saint lies. The Noor Khwan is made of glass and wood carvings.
This shrine of Shiva is in the town of Gulmarg, perched atop a tiny hillock. It was built by the Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh in early 20th century. His better half Maharani Mohini Bai Sisodia was an ardent believer in Lord Shiva and used to offer prayers here.
Guest Author Note :
Many Bollywood movies have been shot in the surroundings and it’s highly reminiscent of the song “Jai Jai Shiv Shankar, KaantaLage Na Kankar” which was shot at Shankracharya temple and partly here
Well I hope you enjoyed this travelogue on the many beautiful and holy shrines from the Kashmir valley. I would love to hear your thoughts on this post please.
Today on the blog I have the gorgeous Namrata Wakhloo as my guest blogger. She was born and raised in Srinagar, Kashmir in a Kashmiri Pandit family. She did her schooling from Presentation Convent, Srinagar. Having pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a Master’s in Management, from Pune, Namrata works as Head of Corporate Social Responsibility with a Fashion Retail organization in Gurgaon, India. She is married with two children and lives in Delhi. Her hobbies and interests include reading, travelling and photography.
Namrata is quite a die-hard fan of her hometown and her knowledge of its tourist spots is incredible. Today she is going to regale us with the many important shrines that dot the Kashmir valley.
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A trained Interior designer who loves to travel, photograph and write, I have done some boutique stays in limited budgets and some in extravagant ones too. My forte is in using locally sourced/ made products which would provide support to the local community. I am also an advocate of using sustainable practices in housekeeping, laundry,etc which lessens the use of harmful chemicals. The water used for such chores is clean enough to be fed into the garden directly.
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