Rupa Bhawani
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Rupa Bhawani

"Mother Sharika assumed human form for her devotees"

M.L. Bhat
(adapted from SANTMALA by Dilbar Kashmiri)

RUPA BHAWANI (Samvat 1681-1771), daughter of Pandit Madho Joo Dhar of Khanqahi Sokhta (Safa Kadal), Srinagar, shines as a bright star in the galaxy of mystic saints and sufis who have adorned the firmament of the Reshiwari (Kashmir). Rupa Bhawani's descendants, from her paternal side, called Sahibi Dhars, have carried her message and memory forward. They have been observing her nirvaan ceremony with great piety and devotion to this day both at Safa Kadal, the place where she was born and also attained nirvaan, and at Waskura in Baramulla district which the graced for many years after the initial tapasya at Khanqahi Sokhta, Wusan near Ganderbal, Manigam in the same area, and Chashma-i-Sahibi, adjacent to the renowed Chashma-i-Shahi on Zabarwan hills in Srinagar district.

The Legend

Legend, both oral and recorded, has it that Pandit Madho Joo Dhar, himself a devout Devi-Bhakta, performed Parikarma of Hari Parbat regularly for years, come summer come winter, praying to the Mother to fulfill his aspirations. The Mata, pleased with his devotion, appeared to him one day saying "speak out your wish". Madho Joo, prostrated himself at the Mata's feet, imploring," Great Mother, Creator of the entire Universe; you are so kind to me, I wish you are born as my daughter". The wish as granted, and Rupa Bhawani graced Madho Joo Dhar's home on Zaishta Pooranmashi in Samvat 1681.

Brought up with affection, and respect, Rupa Bhawani was married to a learned youngman, Pandit Hiranand Sapru, at an early age with great pomp and show. Roopa Bhawani was, however forced to forsake Grihast as her in-laws, including Pandit Hiranand, could not reconcile to her spiritual bent of mind and the meditative spells she had got used to at her father's abode.

The First Miracle

Her estrangement with the in-laws accentuated after a miracle which her mother-in-law failed to comprehend. It is recorded that at a special yagnya performed at the Sapru's place, the kulguru of Dhar's could somehow not give a satisfactory account of his capabilities. Not that he was not learned, but the other Brahmins present made fun of him. He could not put up with this. Feeling humiliated, he wanted to leave unnoticed without partaking of the prashad. And that is why and how the Mata's first miracle took place. While the kulguru was trying to get away, he was accosted by Rupa Bhawani. She requested him not to go away like that. "It is not appropriate to go away without taking food" she told him adding "you, Sir, seem to be very tired. Why don't you have a bath in the river (Vitasta) and feel fresh and then take food?" The kulguru could not refuse. He had the bath as advised, and while coming back he was accosted again by Rupa Bhawani. She gave him a full glance, welcoming him to the dinner. This glance transformed the Brahmin into a well-versed and confident guru. Bowing to the Bhawani, he partook of the food, and after that recited a full poem in praise of the Mother spontaneously, winning applause from one and all, including those who had tried to humiliate him only a few hours earlier.

This miracle of the Bhawani invited strong reaction. Her mother-in-law got infuriated, she provoked her son and made it impossible for Rupa Bhawani to live in her house. And this brought about the Sanyas of the Mata. She returned to her father's place, bared her heart to him. Consoled and encouraged by the father Rupa Bhawani started her meditation in right earnest. However, finding regular meditation somewhat difficult in a grahast, she shifted to Wusan, Manigam, Waskura, Chashma- i-Sahibi, etc. in that order, creating ashrams at every spot holding spititual discourses, attracting devotees, Hindus and Muslims alike, and performing miracles. A real sanyasin, she was the mother to all irrespective of caste or creed.

The great old chinar tree on the bank of Sindh river in Manigam, the culmination of a half-burnt branch planted by the Mata with her benign hands was, till some year back, standing as a mute but living witness to her spirituality. A devastating fire in Manigam was extinguished by her through a mere glance. Fish cooked for Shivaratri in the house of Pandit Lal Chand in Manigam started crawling over to the wall when it was learnt that the fish had been cooked in spite of her presence in the house. A potter's son got his eyesight back on completing the digging of a well at Waskura at her bidding. A shankh-shaped spring in Chashma-i-Sahibi appeared in the Zabarwan hill area when Rupa Bhawani shifted there, giving the hillock its name.

Mata Rupa Bhawani attained mahanirvaan at her father's place, where she spent her last days. It was the Saptami of Magha Krishna Pakshya in Samvat 1777. The day is since known as Sahib Saptami, observed by all the Hindus in Kashmir.

Mahanirvaan

On hearing that the Mata had breathed her last, Muslims of the locality demanded her burial according to Muslim rites as she was to them the Rupa Aarifa, a Muslim divine. They sought and obtained orders of the then Moghul Governor of Kashmir, and also any assistance to force the issue on the Mata's kith and kin and the large number of the Hindu devotees. Perturbed, her brother Pandit Sansar Chand Dhar prostrated himself at the feet of her mortal remains, requesting her to intervene "to save me from embarrassment which would for ever stick to the clan as a black spot". Lo and Behold, the Bhawani resurrected herself, and addressed all those present, including Muslims. To her brother, she said "stand firm by what you want to do and God will help you. Offer some bread and shirni (sugar balls used in Kashmir on important occasions) to the Muslim brethren and bid them good-bye."

Sansar Chand and others did as they were told. Completing all the rituals, the body was taken to the cremation ground on the usual wooden plank bedecked, of course, to suit the occasion. But when the time came to place the body on the funeral pyre, it was only the shroud and a few flowers. Rupa Bhawani had merged with the Supreme, Mother Sharika.

Source: Koshur Samachar

 

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