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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Influence of Advaita on Muslim Rishis of Kashmir

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'


Kashmir has had a galaxy of saint-poets, both Hindus and Muslims. While Hindus are invariably referred as Rishis, Muslims are given various epithets. One of the epithets given is Sufi, which I feel is a misnomer. Sufis have come to Kashmir towards late thirteenth century and fourteenth century. They include Sharafud-Din Bulbul and Sayyad Mir AH Hamadani etc. They were Sayyads, who had escaped the tyranny in their country of origin and had sought refuge in Kashmir. With the advent of Islam and large scale conversion the demographic situation changed and the valley became Muslim majority place. Naturally, therefore, these inhabitants carried forward their Hindu tradition in the matter of their faith, customs, language, beliefs and so on. Kashmiris had a six hundred year old philosophy called Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy, which had seeped into the very psyche and the way of life of the populace. This philosophy is a non-dualistic doctrine, which emphasizes that the creation is the manifestation of the Creator and that in the ultimate analysis a being as a seeker can attain the Supreme and be one with Him.    

That God is one is a universally accepted fact. There is no difference of opinion about the existence of one God, although there is some doubt about the existence of God itself in some faiths. All those who do not doubt the existence of God universally believe that only one Supreme Power exists. There is absolute unanimity on this point among the major religions, religious ideologues, philosophers and thinkers. This view is held by those who believe in Confucianism, Taoism and Shinto in the East, by the Christians, Jews and Muslims in the West and the Middle-East as also by Indians with Sanatana Dharma as their faith. Even Zoroastrians believe in one God, ‘Ahur Mazda’ although they also believe that there is another evil entity called ‘Angra Manyu’, which misleads people. This is more or less like Christian and Muslims’ concept of Satan. Christians believe in trinity of God, Son and the Holy Ghost, who they believe are one like water, ice and steam are as clarified by Huston Smith in his book ‘The World’s Religions’. As regards Indian view point, the God is no doubt one called ‘Brahman’ but He is also perceived through various powers of the nature, which are viewed as ‘Devatas’ (Literally those that shine) as His different facets only. Thus there is universal ‘Ekeshwaravad’ or belief in one God. This is called ‘Vahdat-ul-vajud’ in Islamic parlance. Sometimes this term is mixed up with ‘Advaita’ or non-dualism of the Upanishads. Advaita actually denotes oneness of ‘Jeevatma’, the individual soul and ‘Paramatma’, the Universal Soul. This doctrine of the Upanishads is against the tenets of Islam. When a Sufi saint or poet talks of oneness he is referring to this doctrine and not to the existence of one God, for he says ‘Anal Haq and Man Khuda’ – I am the Truth and I am the God. This is the reason why Mansur–al–Hallaj was hanged and burnt for such an utterance. Sufis were not accepted in the fold of Islam for a long time till Islam lost political power and they became very important instruments in spreading Islam in different countries. The Muslim Rishis in Kashmir who are called Sufis are, however, a class apart by themselves.

Advaita as conceived in the corpus of Upanishadic literature, the Brahma Sutra of Badarayana and the Bhagavad Gita (The three together are called ‘Prasthana Trayee’) has been interpreted and enunciated in a variety of ways. Basically it is a doctrine explaining the relationship between the Creator and the creation. Some sages and philosophers have held that the two are really one and what we see and observe outside these, is all an illusion. Some of them believe that no doubt the two are one but individually they have their own identity. Some sages have likened the two to the phenomenon of an object and its reflection in a mirror, while others have explained the two as the ocean and its waves. The Kashmir Shaiva Darshan has not subscribed to the illusion theory. It propounds that since the creation is the manifestation of the Creator and since the Creator is real there cannot be anything unreal about the manifestation. What is unreal is the apparent difference observed between the Creator and the creation. This difference is actually an illusion and once this veil of illusion is removed from our vision we can clearly perceive the truth of the individual soul and the Universal Soul being one. This state can be achieved in a variety of ways including contemplation, devotion, spiritual pursuit and the like. This doctrine has appealed the thinkers world over, whether Greek and Roman philosophers, Eastern thinkers, Christian monks or Muslim Sufis. The Muslim saint poets of Kashmir also could not remain unaffected by this captivating doctrine.

I remember my old home in Chhattabal. There was a long lane leading to our house from the main road. On the one side of the lane there were cultivated fields full of vegetables and tobacco. The other side was a row of houses. One of these belonged to one Sheikh Mehmud, who ran a small shop in the ground floor, selling milk, yogurt and some pulses. Whenever I passed by this shop or went to him to purchase yogurt, I would observe a number of men sitting with him and talking about mystic subjects. Soon I came to know that he was also a holy person of the same Rishi order and had a number of disciples whom he guided in their spiritual pursuit. This ‘Peer-mureed’ or ‘Guru-shishya’ tradition in Hindu terminology, meaning a lineage of preceptor and disciple is an essential feature of the Rishi order. This holy person was revered and though illiterate, he also wrote mystical poetry to bring home to his disciples the secrets of mysticism, as was the practice with other holy persons of this order.

Lal Ded and Nunda Rishi

Lal DedThe ‘Adikavayitri’ or the first poetess of Kashmiri language is considered to be Lal Ded, who was a great mystic and a ‘Shaiva Sadhika’ or the seeker of the Divine through the path of Kashmir Shaiva Darshan. She has left behind a corpus of her sayings, which are in the form of four-liners called ‘Vakh’ (or Sanskrit Vakya). These have been translated into Sanskrit, Hindi, and English and interpreted by many a scholar. Let me quote two of her Vakhs to denote how she denounced the false exhibitionist practices and pointed to the essence of spiritualism. She has deprecated the practice of ‘Bali’ or animal sacrifice in these words: ‘Yi kamyu vopadeesh dyutui hayo bata, atseetan vatas dyun sutseetan kath ahar? O Pandit! Who has advised you to offer as a feed an animate sheep to an inanimate stone idol?’ Similarly she has ridiculed the idol worship when she says, ‘Diva vata deevar vata, heri bon chhui ikavata, pooz kath karakh hayo Bata? Your deity is made of stone, the shrine is made of stone, everything from top to bottom is the same stone, what are you going to worship, O Pandita?’ She laid stress on the need to go inwards and realize the self and perceive the Divine in everything. These two ‘Vakhs’ of her will make this point clear. ‘Go’ran d’opnam kunui vatsun, nyabra d’opnam andar atsun, sui Lali gav vakh ta vatsun. My preceptor told me but one thing only and that was to go from without to within. Lala adopted this in letter and spirit.’ ‘Kava chhuk divan anine vatsha, trukai chhuk ta andrei atsha Shiv chhui aet ta kun mo gatsh sahaz kathi myani karto patsh. Why are you groping in the dark like the blind? If you are wise go within yourself. Shiva is there in your heart. Do trust me since it has come to me naturally.’ This great poetess was followed by Nunda Rishi, another great ascetic poet of the Kashmiri literature, who wrote four-liners called ‘Shrukh’ (or Shloka in Sanskrit). He did penance in a cave and was greatly influenced by his senior Lal Ded. He wrote, ‘Tas Padmanporachi Lale, Tami gale amryeth chav. Swa sanin avatar lwale, tithyui mye var ditam Diva. The great Lal Ded of Padamanpura drank a mouthful of nectar. For us she is an incarnation. O Lord! Give me a similar boon as you gave her.’ In the true tradition of Vedanta he considered the world an illusion. He addresses himself in these words: ‘Hai zuva bram chhui samsar ho, zuva marun mothui kava, s’or ta zuva gara panano. O my self realize that this world is an illusion, why do you forget the inevitable death; remember your own home, the abode of the Divine.’ This influence of non-dualism or ‘Advaita’ and other Upanishadic principles as were prevalent in Kashmir is vividly seen in the writings, compositions and other verses of the later Muslim saint-poets of Kashmir.

Let us first see what these Saint poets have said about their mentor, Lal Ded. Mohmud Gami (1765 – 1855), a great name in Kashmiri poetry, who may not strictly be clubbed with Saint poets has written a beautiful verse associating every seeker with Lal Ded in these words: ‘Tsonza shoobai ba khazmatsei, granz Sahibo hyetsthas na zanh. Ada nav pyom Lala matsei, aavaz vatsei no. I am nothing but a maid to serve you, no one to be counted by you. Then I got the name of ecstatic Lala, My Lord! Did you not hear my wail?’ Shamas Faqir (1843 – 1906, real name Mohammad Siddiq Bhatt), one of the foremost Saint-poets of Kashmir who lived in Chinikral Mohalla in Srinagar was fascinated by the writings of Lal Ded. He has paid tribute to her in one of his compositions and also made a mention of her having given spiritual guidance to Nunda Rishi. Says he, ‘Kor Lali ikavata aakash pranas, zan milanav Bhagavaanas seit. Lali trov zala no’t manz pote’l khanas. Zan milanav Bhagavaanas seit. Tchala gayi Lala ma’ts shurahyar shranas. Hala tami kor zagi tikatar tarnas. Kala tami tsotnai nafsi shaitanas, zan milanav Bhagavaanas seit. Vopa deesh karni gayi Nunda reshanas. Rindav dophas aini Irfan. Tshyapi tshipras gyundun Shahi Hamadanas, zan milinav Bhagavaanas seit. Lala did breath control called ‘Pranabhyas’ to realize the Divine. Lala offered a pitcherful of water to the idol in the shrine to know the Lord. Lala slipped to the riverbank called ‘Shurahyaar’ to take a bath and took a plunge to cross the river of life. She controlled the sense objects in order to realize Him. She went to give spiritual lessons to Nunda Rishi and the knowledgeable found it to be the pure mysticism. She virtually teased Shahi Hamadan, who could not gauge her spiritual heights (there is difference of opinion on whether there ever was a meeting between Shah Hamadan and Lal Ded as there is some conflict in the dates). Another Saint poet, Ahmad Batawa’r, a contemporary of Shams Faquir (1845 – 1918), has described the exalted spiritual position of Lal Ded in this verse: ‘Lala matsi kala tso’t nafsi shaitanas. Kala karan Alla Lal sape’n hoo. Lola ha’ts mahav gayi he Bhagavaanas. Jan chum meelith jahanas saet Lala in ecstasy killed all her senses, engrossed in the love of God she became one with Him. My self is one with the universal self.’ While poets other than Rishis have also sung in praise of Lal Ded, but the manner in which the Rishi poets have quoted her, repeated her idiom and referred to her clearly shows the deep impact that her philosophy had had on their minds resulting in their express acknowledgement through their verses.

The Impact and the Influence

When religions travel to new pastures they adopt many new things both ideologically and in order to gain acceptance among the local inhabitants. Buddhism underwent changes when it travelled outside India to Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and other places. Christian theology was reformed in Europe quite substantially. To quote Lippman, ‘Prophet Muhammad’s vision of a united polytribal community fused into one brotherhood by Islam has long since been proved to be unattainable’ because of which Islam thrives as a religion but not as a polity. In India also a multitude of regional and tribal rituals and customs have got fused into the mainstream religion. The Muslim Saints of Kashmir could not also remain unaffected by the influence of the Hindu tradition of thought, ideology and philosophy, which was powerful and inherited by them. Even though they held the Prophet and the holy Qura’n in high esteem, they absorbed the major tenets of the Hindu philosophy in their own spiritual practices and prescriptions. This became a very strong cementing factor between the Hindus and the Muslims. The lead had come from Lal Ded when she proclaimed: ‘Shiv chhui thali thali rozan mo zan Bhata ta musalman. Trukai chhuk ta paan panun parzan, soi chhai sahibas saet zani zaan. The Divine verily pervades everything here, don’t you differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim. If you are wise realize your own self and that is realization of the Divine.’ The lead thus having been provided these Saint poets have tread on the same path and have earned respect, reverence and love from both the communities. No wonder, therefore, that these Saint poets, even though professing Muslim faith, earned love, reverence and regard from Hindus as well. Some of these holy men professed great regard for the Hindu deities and why not; for them there was no difference and no conflict. Holy persons like Makhdoom Sahib, Dastagir Sahib, Batamol Sahib (Muslims) and Krishna Kar, Peer Pandit Padshah (Hindus) were revered equally by both the communities. About Makhdoom Sahib there is a legend that he had a firm belief in Hindu concept of Mother Goddess in her ‘Jwala’ or Flame form. His mausoleum situated at the Hill of Hari Parvat was burnt thrice in fire and the Mother Goddess ‘Jwala’ had to be propitiated so that there is no more devastation of this holy place by fire. 

In the backdrop of what has been stated about it would be worth our while to study the impact and the influence of the Hindu thought, Hindu practices and Hindu tradition on some of the prominent Muslim Saint poets of Kashmir, who in my opinion should appropriately be called Muslim Rishis. This is evident not only from what we hear about them but is also explicitly brought out by them in their poetic compositions.

Shams Faqir

Lal Ded had said ‘Asi aes tai asi asav asi dore kaer patavath. We only were and we only shall be, it is we only who kept on coming and going.’ Shams said the same thing in his own way. ‘Yun ta gatshun mo mashrai, tami gatshit chhu tuhund garai. Do not forget birth and death because His abode is beyond this transmigration.’ The Gita has stated that people see the secret of life with awe and wonder and no one knows the reality of self. This idea has been conveyed by him thus: ‘Kyah chhu hayat kyah chhu mamat, kath cheezas nav kara bo zaat. What is life and what is death, what shall I call the Self (or the Divine)?’ Lal Ded had said, ‘Phiran phiran nyoth anguj gaji manech dui tsaji no. Telling the beads of the rosary you have rubbed the flesh of your thumb and finger but the duality has not gone from your mind.’ The same idea has been conveyed by this Sufi in the following verse. ‘Ha zahida kyah chhuk tsa karan, raath doh goi tasbih phiran. Mokhta ravi fotus rachhit zom, roni mutsrith shroni shroni ko’t gom. What are you doing you fool, you have been telling the rosary day and night. Going after fake things you are losing the real pearl. Have I lost the jingle by untying the bells?’ Again Lal Ded had dissuaded from giving spiritual message to an undeserving person in these words: ‘Syeki shathas byol no vaevze, Kharas gore dina ravi doh. Moodas jnanach kath no vaenze, kom yajyan raavi teel. Do not sow seed in a sandy belt; you will waste a whole day in feeding a donkey with jaggery. Do not give spiritual knowledge to a fool, as you will waste oil in preparing cakes from chaff.’ Shams Faqir has put the same thing thus: ‘Nasihat kaerzi no nasli shaitanas, tala kani zanzyan aasi ma kham. Maarfat kyah kari napak banas, tas naadanas kar tsali tshai. Do not give advice to a satanic person because basically he is raw and not ripe. Mysticism is a waste for an impure one. Alas! When shall his ignorance go away.’ The opening lines of one of his ghazals are an excellent example of the non-dualism of the Vedanta. ‘Bo chhus kenh nai kho’d panay, bo kenh nai kas vanay panay. I am nothing; it is He himself in my form. How shall I explain my not being anything to any one.’ This can be compared with this line from Shankaracharya: ‘Tad-eko-vashishthah Shivah kevalo-aham. I am Shiva and Shiva alone’. He has described omnipresence of God in these words: ‘Mye vuchh har shayi su yaar, chhuno kanh moi ti khali. Vanai bo siri israr yino aasakh vubali. I perceive the Divine at every place. Not an inch is without Him. This is the secret I reveal to you; do not get lost.’

Ahmad Batawari

Ahmad Batawari was a contemporary of Shams Faqir and lived from 1845 to 1918. He was an advocate of the immortality and continuity of life. In the footprints of Lal Ded he has said ‘Hayatuk aaftab chhuna zanh losan, bozan kona chhuk yi chhu yaksan. – The Sun of life never sets, why don’t you understand that the Divine pervades everything equally.’ He has freely used the Hindu mythology to bring home his point of view. A few examples are given here. ‘Saalkas balkas Shiva Naranas, tsonven ikavata pranas saet. Tarkas saath chum vetsarnag sranas, jan chum meelith jahanas saet. Veshnas, Krishnas, Resh madanas, Maha Ganish tati kas kari namaskar, Ganga raza byuthum Gangabal thanas… Ravun rovmut manz tawanas, Sita sata rats He chhavan, Tsayi Rama Tsandras manz daricha khanas… Shaster dendar gupt gnanas, zuv chhuk Shaster dil sat noor, Ahmad Batawar gupt rood panas, jan chum meelith jahanas saet. A seeker, a child, Shiva and Narayana, all these four are together to be remembered through the vital breath. This is the auspicious time to bathe in the spring of contemplation. The individual self is united with the universal self. Maha Ganesha is bewildered in the gathering of the sages. He sees Vishnu, Krishna among them and whom he should salute in reverence. The Lord of the Ganges is seated at the source of the Ganges. Ravana has gone astray while Sita is engrossed with her consort. She is there with Shri Rama. It is the Shastras (the revealed text) that give the secret knowledge. The life essence for the knowledgeable are these texts while their hearts are full of divine light. Ahmad Batawar has remained hidden and his self is one with the universal self.’

Swachhi Kral

This poet lived around the same time in a village named ‘Yander’ in Pulwama. He was an ardent believer in non-dualism. He says, ‘Akh tsa te byeyi bo ganzer maba, haba yi chhui gumanai. Me and you are not to be taken as different because dualism is a delusion.’ ‘Dapyomus bavtam pananui mye aasun, dapunam pan panun gatshi thari kasun. I asked Him to reveal Himself to me. He replied that for that you have to go beyond your self.’ Long before, Lal Ded had stated, ‘Larah lazam manz maidanas aend aend kaer mas takiya ta gah. So rooz yati tai bo gayas panas vonye gav vanas falav dith. In the middle of a field I constructed a house and decorated it on all sides. The house remained here and I only went away as if the shopkeeper left after downing the shutters of his shop.’ Swachh Kral has this to say in the same vein, ‘Yath fan sarayi dyun chhui shaba, ath manz mo trav dukanai. Path chhui marun az ya saba, haba yi chhui gumanai. You have to spend just a night in this mortal inn. Do not start a business here. For you have to die now or in the morn; it is all a delusion.’ He advocates adopting a vision of discrimination to see right from wrong. ‘Dapyomas swarma laegith kyah chhu banan. Dapunam poz ta apuz ada chhu nanan. I asked him what use is the collerium of discrimination in ones eyes. He replied that this enables one to distinguish right from wrong.’ He sees the Divine in everything, the ocean in every drop. ‘Joyi manz basith chhui daryav, nav dar aab tai aab dar nav. The river exists in a brook, water inside a boat and boat inside the water.’

Nyama Saab

Nyama saab was senior (born 1805) and he also lived at Chinikral mohalla of Srinagar. He has time and again reiterated what Lal Ded had said in these words: ‘Lal bo drayas lolare tshandan lustum dyan keho raath. Vucchhum Pandit panani gare, sui mye rotmas nyechhther ta saath. I set out in search of Him early at dawn and wandered day and night. Ultimately I saw Him within myself and that was the auspicious moment for me.’ At one place he has said, ‘Yas naad layi su chum nishi, kamyu sheeshi chovnas mai. That one whom I call aloud is near me. What a cup of wine he has made me drink!’ At other place he repeats, ‘Shah chhui basith panane gare, hoore mye nyunam tsure dil. The Lord is seated within me, he has taken my heart away.’ Again he says, ‘Yaar chhui gari panane, su no me vane aaw. My Beloved is within me but I failed to recognize Him.’ Nyama seems to have reached a stage where he has shunned the notion of ‘I’ and ‘my’. This is the high point of Upanishadic Vedanta. ‘Orai aayov ladith chhav, dopnam sorui myonui gav. Ba dapun myonui vasith pyav, ath nav aalim haarith pyav. He came with all His grandeur and declared that everything is His. The notion of ‘I’ in me was gone because no reason or intelligence is of any use in this arena.’ He has described the status of the Divine purposefully in indefinite terms because he feels that none of the religious schools has any clue to that. ‘Sang ta gnyana math haeratas. Nyermalas manz myani naav. Shubi shinyah tati khidmatas, pyom tsyatas tas chhu myon naav. Bouddh congregations (Sangha) and Hindu centers of spiritualism (Maths) are themselves bewildered; the boat of my life is in the pure sacred waters. Even nihilism is meaningless there for I realized that He and I are one – with the same name.’

Shah Ghafur

This great holy man lived in the beginning of 19th century at village Chhivan in Badgam. He has adopted the Vedantic dictum ‘So-aham’ (or I am He) in its pristine purity and has written a full poem with this title. ‘Brahma, Veshan, Maheeshwar garun, shuft ho chhui tyuhundui zuv. Pan hai khatanai jan hyekh marun, darnayi darun suhamsu. Seek to know the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as they are the givers of your life. If they hide themselves from you give your life at their feet. Adopt always the great mantra of ‘I am He’. ‘Bashar travith, Ishar tsa garun, Isharas saet roz sapnakh sui Ishar sapdun sharir gav marun…. Dah chhi avtaar zanh lagi na tharun, mah zan prazlan naran chhui, Ram Ram karun gav naam sandarun, daranayi darun suhamsu. Leave the individual soul and go after the Universal soul. Remain with God and you will become God. For that you have to shun your self. There are ten different incarnations of God. Narayana only shines in all of them like the Moon. So you need not feel hesitant. Repeating the name Rama is the way to remember God and once you get habituated to that you will feel one with the Divine.’ Saying so, he is at once reminded of the crucification of Mansoor and he warns, ‘Chhu vanan Shah Ghafur vaati ma marun. When Shah Ghafur says that the Divine and I are one, he should not be crucified for this truth.’ Again he says, ‘Shah Ghafur pazichi han chhuna bavan, tan chhas rachhni lachha bo’d jaan. Po’z gatshi aashkar asi maranavan. Intentionally Shah Ghafur avoids telling the truth. After all he has to save his skin for the life is very precious. If he reveals the truth (of oneness of God and man) he will be killed.’ One is reminded of these lines from a Urdu poetess of repute: ‘Sach bolna bhi lazim jeena bhi hai zaroori, sach bolne ki khatir Mansoor ho na jana’. Speaking the truth is necessary but to live also is essential, one should not give up one’s life like Mansoor did simply to speak the truth.

Asad Paray

Asad Paray is a later poet who lived in village Hajin (1862 to 1930). The effect of Hindu mythology and philosophy is apparent from most of his poems. ‘Naran naguk mas’ is a glaring example of this influence. It would suffice to quote a few stanzas from this poem. ‘Om ba karith drass Omkarasay, Om Narayan sat logum saet, tosas Omki pan khalmasay ba rasa rasay kornas tayar. Suhamsu yaar vuchha novnasay tathya Rama tsander sholyav, sayas tahndis tal thovnasay. Jugyah lagith doonya zajmasay, khalvakh dandakvanasay manz, pranay abhyas sharir zolmasay. Bhavanaki nagarada tan navmasay, bava sara vuchhim divay jan. Haramokha bala paan mansovmasay, bo rasa rasay kornas tayar. I started my spiritual journey uttering the sacred ‘Om’ and the Divine accompanied me all through. I went on chanting Om as if He was preparing me for the journey slowly and steadily. When by His grace I realized that He and I are one, I perceived the radiance of Shri Rama. He kept me under His refuge. In the solitude of a forest I lit the sacred fire like a Yogi. I burnt my body in the fire of breath control. In the sacred waters of the shrine at Bhavan I cleansed my body. This helped me to see the divine radiance here itself. I sacrificed my childhood at the sacred foothills of Harmukh, the abode of Shiva and He geared me for the journey slowly and steadily.

Ahad Zargar

Ahad ZargarPerhaps last of the great tradition of Muslim Rishi poets, Ahad Zargar is a forceful exponent of this ideology, which thrives on non-dualism, self-realization and emphasis on contemplation. He was born around 1916-17 in the house of Mohiuddin Zargar, a weaver by profession, whose ancestors were goldsmiths because of which the family got the surname ‘Zargar’. Although he had studied a little of the Persian language but by any standards he can be said to be illiterate like many of his predecessors. Many holy persons would visit their house and in their company he got attracted to this field of mysticism and spiritualism. Finally he became the disciple to one Khwaja Abdul Kabir Lone of Kawadara, Srinagar at the young age of fifteen. He emphasized the need for interaction with the holy persons in the very first verse that he wrote. ‘Shad roz dila myani kyazi chhuk gamanaey, Saet mehramanaey thav ikhlas – Rejoice my heart, why are you gloomy? Keep in contact with the knowledgeable persons.’

I have stated elsewhere that calling these Muslim Rishis as Sufis is a misnomer. Ahad Zargar’s saying supports my contention. It is well known that ‘Zikr’ or rhythmic movement of head, body and arms is an essential feature of a Sufi. Such a person is called ‘Zakir’. By this practice he recites the name of God, tells the beads of a rosary and aims at ‘Fana’ or complete annihilation of the Self. Ahad Zargar opposes this practice as useless and lays stress on contemplation and thought process, essential features of ‘Advaita’ or non-dualism. Says he, ‘Zikir tai tasbih zalith trav, fikrav gaetsh gaetsh seer parzanav – give up this Zikra and the rosary and try to know the secret by contemplation. Not only this, he calls it a fraud and deception, which leads us to nowhere. In his words, ‘Makrav saet no dai athi aav, fikrav gaetsh gaetsh seer parzanav – You cannot attain God by these frauds and deceptions. You should know the secret only by a serious thought process and contemplation’. He does not see any difference between himself and the Supreme, again a prescription of the non-dualist philosophy. For him self-realization and realization of the Divine are one and the same thing. ‘Dayi saey bronh sapud oasus bui- Only I existed before the Divine’. ‘Ha Ahad Zargara dur kar daey, pura ada deshakh panun deedar – O! Ye Ahad Zargar, shun all duality and then alone you will realize your self’.

Zargar is influenced by Hindu theology so much that he freely uses terms from that and refers to Hindu sacred scriptures with reverence. ‘Rig Ved. Yajur Ved, Sam Ved,Athar Ved vaster sanyasyan tai. Khastar go’ran tsor veed havinam, jugya samana gnyan – My preceptor taught me the four Vedas and revealed to me the knowledge from these, which is the characteristics of a Jogi’. Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy describes the Creator as ‘Prakasha’ or radiance and the creation as ‘Vimarsh’ or awareness of Him as the multitude in the form of creation. This holy person says the same thing in his own way. Aakash paatal prakash meelith su gash gatshi vuchhun tai – At the horizon there is a grandeur of light when the two worlds meet. That radiance is worth seeing. He acknowledges the benefits of chanting the sacred ‘OM’ and refers to the Hindu practice of ‘Pranayam’ or breath control. ‘Dama Shama dyut me Omkaran tav – I practiced breath control and was spiritually ignited by the sacred OM’. Bhagavad Gita has described the abode of the Supreme as self-illumined. In the same spirit Zargar says: ‘Na chhu tor subaha ta na chhu tor sham- na chhu tor kalma ta na chhu Ram Ram, na chhu tor millat-u- mazhab saman , rinda ban zindagi sara kartan –That supreme abode has no mornings, no evenings. There is no classification of sacred words nor is there any demarcation of creed and religion. Free yourself of all these divisive notions and try to know the secret of life.’

He uses Hindu names of the Divine, Hindu ways of worship and Hindu religious symbols freely in his verses, sometimes in a better way than a Hindu Rishi would use. I cite a few examples here. ‘Goshi goshi Shankaras Shainkh kona vayav- Why not blow the conch in every nook and corner to please Shankara?’ ‘Om ki aalav dity mye har shayav- I chanted aloud OM at every place.’ ‘Ram bo ko’rhas Rama rubayav- I was ecstatic to listen to the hymns in praise of Lord Rama’. The great Lalla had in a typical mystic way referred to the Divine as nameless in these words: ‘Goras pritsham sasi late, yas na kenh nav tas kyah chhu nav- I asked my preceptor repeatedly about the name of that nameless Divine’. Ahad Zargar has followed suit and has said, ‘Chhu kenh nai karith kenhnas ral, vuchhum kenh nai mye deedan tal, chhu kenh nai kyah mye kornam tshal – He is formless and you get absorbed in that formless. I have myself perceived the formless before my eyes. Being formless how come He has enchanted me’.  

Advaita’ or non-dualism is essentially a philosophy that believes in one-ness of the Creator and the creation. Knowing self according to this doctrine is tantamount to knowing the Divine. This has been amply explained and expressed by Ahad Zargar time and again in his compositions. A few examples are cited here. ‘Lamakan sapdith vaechh lamakan- you have to become the Divine (Literally one who has no house) in order to realize the Divine. ‘Aabaech soorath aabas banayo, khabas milavan khabas saet, grakas pananizath athi aayo – Water merged with water and all the illusions were removed. The seeker perceived his own self.’ ‘ Katras meelith gav daryav – the entire river got merged with one drop.’ ‘Baey chhus maikhana paimanay, baey chhus saqi hyeth sarshar, baey chhus baegran maerfata maiy, aki nokta gatsh bedar- I am the goblet in the tavern. I am the cupbearer and I only am distributing the wine of spiritualism. Thus you need to become wise by just one hint.’

The great Lalla had said six centuries earlier, ‘Asi aes tai asi aasav, asi dore kaer patavath – We only were in the past and we only shall be in the future. We only have been coming and going all the time’. Underscoring the same view about the continuity of life Zargar says, ‘Baey chhus aamut az kehnaiy, baey chhus kehnachi ziyi hund bahar, baey nata panaiy chhus kehnaiy, aki nokta gatsh bedar – From nothingness I have emerged, I am the fruit of nothingness. I am not I but nothingness. Again you should take a hint and awaken’. Non-dualism is a creed with this great mystic. He has no qualms to declare himself as the supreme and that too in a wonderful terminology. He says, ‘Bae chhus shama ta parvanay, baey chhus gashuk banikar, baey shamso qamar prazlanaiy, aki nokta gatsh bedar- I am the candle as also the butterfly that hovers around it. I am the one from whom the light emanates, I am the shining Sun and Moon. Take the hint and awaken’.

Other Luminaries

There is no Muslim Saint poet or Rishi, as I prefer to call him, who may have remained unaffected by the Hindu philosophy, mythology and religious beliefs prevalent among the Kashmiri Pandits. Non-dualism, universality of the Divine, transmigration of soul, continuity of life, chanting the name of God, penance in solitude and maintaining secrecy in spiritual matters as also ‘Guru-shishya parampara’ or teacher-taught tradition are some of the prominent principles which have influenced these pious souls and which they have clearly expressed in their poems. For the Divine they have often used the Hindu terminology like ‘Naran’ or ‘Daiy’( Narayan or Dev). Suffice it to cite a few examples from other such luminary- poets.

Rehman Dar who lived at Chhattabal, Srinagar around the middle of 19th century has said, ‘Nishi chhui panas paan parzanav. He is within you and so realize your self.’ Rahim Saab, who lived in Sopore and died in 1875, writes, ‘Samah kornam aem Omkaran. Chanting Om has created poise and balance in me.’ Moomin Saab (1810) has explained the high point of yoga in this line, ‘Aslas saet gatshi vassal sapdun ye. One should get merged with the ultimate Truth.’ Shah Qalander who lived at Haigam in mid 19th century has almost quoted Lal Ded verbatim in this verse, ‘Lava ta prava chhai navi khota navye, ravas atagath sori na zanh, Shiv Shah Qalander chhuna kansi hyuvye kamadeev divaye Manasbal. The radiance and glare is newer and newer while the Sun cannot cease to rise and set. Shiva is unique and unparalleled and Kamadev is enjoying at Manasbal (A village in Kashmir, literally the lake of the mind.). Another great Saint Vahab Khar has written a full ‘Masnavi’ on Sheikh Sanna clearly bringing out his love and devotion towards Hindu tradition and philosophy. In Hindu mysticism there is a tradition of keeping the directions of the preceptor secret and the disciple, after getting initiated makes a pledge in these words, ‘Shrutam me gopaya – I have heard what you have told me and I know I have to keep it a secret’. Ahmad Rah, who lived at Dalgate in Srinagar has stated the same thing in his poem thus: ‘Peeran vaenim easar, seer gatshi vyaparavun. Seeras ma kar guftar, deedar tas deedan – my preceptor revealed the secret to me and this secret has to be protected. Secret should never be talked about and then only the seeker is able to have a glimpse of the Supreme’. Referring to the Hindu concept of ‘Jeevan-mukhti – emancipation during life time’, he says ‘Mar zinda par soo ham soo hamas, damas saeti zaan – attain death while living, repeat ‘I am He’ and in a moment you will get enlightened’.

Another great name is that of Samad Mir. Originally he belonged to Nambal Har but lived initially at Narwara in Srinagar before going back to his village, where he lived up to his death in 1959. He was a disciple of Khwaja Ramzan Dar of Anantnag who initiated him in mystic discipline. He also advocated the doctrine of non-dualism and self- realization. Says he, ‘ Pay hyot aashqav kaaba butkhanas, gayi ada panas pana mushtaq- The seekers searched in the temples and the mosques and ultimately they realized that God was not different from them and they began loving their own selves’.   

These examples can be multiplied by the dozens. The influence is so pronounced that the following line from Asad Paray appears to be the translation of the oft-quoted quotation from the Veda. The Veda has said, ‘Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti. The Truth is one and the seers describe it in different ways.’ Asad Paray has said the same thing in this way, ‘Kath chha kuni vath chha byon byon. The Truth is one but the paths leading to that are different.’ This points to the mountain peak theory according to which the ultimate Truth is like a mountain peak, which can be reached from many sides. Of course the climb may be easy and smooth from some sides and steep and tough from others.  It is high time that we realized the truth of this statement and started respecting each others religious beliefs and customs as valid and relevant, so that harmony, love and peace are ensured for all times to come.


The non-dualism is a universal experience and the great thinkers of every religion have sometime or the other contributed to this on the basis of their own experience. Dionysus the Areopagite, a Christian monk of the 5th century has said, “Then beyond all distinction between knower and known the aspirant becomes merged in the nameless, formless Reality, wholly absorbed in that which is beyond all things and in nothing else… Having stilled his intellect and mind, he is united by his highest faculty with That which is beyond all knowing.” Malise Ruthven in his book on Islam has this to say, “In the long term modernization is a global process…Muslim souls are likely to find the Sufi path of inner exploration and voluntary association more rewarding than revolutionary politics.” In an article published in The Times of India Jamal Ahmad Khan has observed, “The Sufi saints, Muslim scholars and Islamic sects were liberal in their out look a la their Hindu counterparts and recognized that there were several paths to God, Love of God and service to mankind were their most important principles They were believers in pantheistic monism, the earliest exposition of which is to be found in the Upanishads.” The great Chinese Philosopher, Lao-tzu has said, ‘Knowing others is wisdom and knowing yourself is enlightenment.’ The bottom line is that the emancipation lies in realizing immortality of the soul, in awareness of the Self and in being an integral part of the universal consciousness. This is what Rishis and saint-poets of Kashmir have absorbed and expressed in their poems. Together with Hindu Rishis these noble Muslim Rishis preached a life of piety, purity, contentment, love and firm belief in God, who they said was attainable by love, devotion and penance.  

Source: Milchar

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles


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