The Legends and Tales of Gund Gushi,
Kupwara (Kashmir) - An Insight
The village Gund Gushi,
tehsil Uttar Machipora of the erstwhile district Muzafarrabad and presently a
part of the district Kupwara, faraway from the bustling life of city, is a
distant corner of Kashmir. It is a village of indescribable tranquility and
serene atmosphere with its hill sides rich in nature's bounty, which invite
inquisitiveness and curiosity. The village was home to about thirty five
Kashmiri Pandit families comprising nearly two hundred fifty members prior to
their forced migration in 1990. The village which includes Rangwar Gushi has a
myriad of legends, beliefs, tales and hearsay stories which form a part of its
oral history. A sense of intense religiosity pervades the village's atmosphere
due to the presence of Goddess Sharda temple there. The land of Gushi Rangwar is
sanctified and hallowed by 'Peer Pandit Padshah Hardu Jahan Mushkil Asan', Reshi
Peer, the renowned and celebrated saint of Kashmir,
who is said to have spent his childhood days here.
Rangwar Gushi is the
'lost' abode of Pt. Sarwanand Bhat, who claims to have an ancient lineage
besides being a direct descendant of the indigenous clan of Gund Gushi. Away
from the urban hypocrisy and with rural simplicity; he in an animated
conversation with the author in the recently regaled the splendid stories of the
antiquity besides the unpleasant memories of the past. Pt. Sarwanand Ji traces
his genealogical descent about five hundred years back from Pt. Teeza Bhat, a
chieftain of a hamlet of Uttarmachipora. Teeza Bhat is believed to have his
royal residence at the adjacent Nagri Malpora besides a fortress at the nearby
Kuthar hillock at Rangwar Gushi. Pt. Sarwanand Bhat recounted his ancestry with
the sequential genealogical clan starting from Pt. Teeza Bhat, Sahaz Bhat,
Bhawani Bhat, Hemant Bhat, Reshi Bhat, Ishwar Bhat and saintly person Pt. Ved
Lal Bhat, father of Pt. Sarwanand Bhat.
Stepping into the pages of
oral history, Pt. Sarwanand Bhat articulated that Uttar Machipora Chieftain
Teeza Bhat was a man of religious disposition but an obscuration in his
religious pursuits is said to have resulted in a calamitous outcome for him and
his whole clan.
Further, it is said that
Teeza Bhat's cousin also settled down at Gund Gushi at that time. But personal
ambitions, acrimony and clash of egos between the two cousins is believed to
have resulted in an open feud. In the ensuing armed struggle and fight, all the
family members of both the cousins are said to have perished barring a female of
the clan, who was in a family-way at that time. Anguished at the ruinous outcome
of the family feud, she is supposed to have pronounced a curse that eleven
dynasties starting from her will not see any cousin, which astonishingly later
on turned out to be true. In the mean-time, the lady in question gave birth to a
male child. Since all her near and dear ones were killed in the family feud and
she being a new entrant in the 'Bhat Clan', was not aware of her own gotra (guthur).
To solve this riddle a learned and knowledgeable Pujari of Sopore in
consultation with the fellow Brahmans of that time assigned four gotras
representing the four directions i.e. the gotras of Dev-Dutt, Koshak, Bhardwaj
and Gautam to the male child born to the lady. This is how Pt. Sarwnanad Bhat, a
progeny of the said male child come to acquire the four gotras instead of the
one found usually.
To ensure her own safety
and protection, the lady in question encouraged her acquaintances from the
adjoining areas to settle down permanently at Rangwar Gushi.
Pt. Sarwanand recalled
with a sense of pride that forefathers (from the maternal side) of the renowned
Kashmiri Saint Resh Peer belonged to his dynasty. As per his claim, Resh Peer
had his maternal grand parents' house (matamal) situated at Gushi Rangwar. As
such, Resh Peer is said to have spent his early childhood there. As part of this
oral history, Pt. Bhawani Bhat, resident of Gushi Rangwar and an ancestor of Pt.
Sarwanand Bhat had a pious and good natured sister named Zoonamal, who was
married to Pt. Govind Koul of Batyar Ali Kadal Srinagar. Since there was a
considerable age difference between the two, the bride Zoonmal's mother is said
to have fainted at the sight of an elderly bridegroom on the day of marriage.
Seized by grief and despair, she is believed to have prayed day in and day-out
at the Sharda Matta temple at Rangwar Gushi for her daughter to be blessed with
a male child. She being an ardent devotee of Her, had immense faith in the
By the time, Zoonmal was
in a family-way, the Goddess Sharda is said to have directed her mother in a
dream to bring back her daughter from Batyar Ali Kadal Srinagar to Rangwar Gushi.
As the water transport was in vogue those days, it is said that she travelled by
a 'Shikara' upto Sopore on her way back to her mother's home (malun) at Rangwar
It was during the course
of this journey that she gave birth to a male child, who with the passage of
time attained fame as a great saint Reshi Peer. She is said to have stayed back
at Sopore for about three weeks or so after the birth of her son before
proceeding to Gushi; her stay and subsequent travel having been managed and
taken care of by her family priest (Kulbrahman) of Sopore. The child Rishi Peer
spent his childhood at his maternal grand parents' house (matamal) at Rangwar
Gushi and also acquired his initial education there. Given to childish pranks,
Reshi Peer is said to have been very naughty in his childhood. To hold him back
from such conduct, his maternal uncles would admonish him off and on. Utterly
displeased at this treatment and out of animosity towards them, the child Resh
Peer one day in league with his fellow friends is said to have ransacked his
grand parents house (matamal).
He threw away all
house-hold items including all types of eatables and foodstuffs out of the
house. On the counselling of his friends, the child Resh Peer agreed to spare
only the overcooked portion of rice (Phori) inside the house, as otherwise it
would have been ominous for the family. To honour this goodwill gesture, the
descendents of Resh-Peer's maternal grand parents (Matamal) started the practice
of offering the overcooked portion of rice (Phori) as 'Prasad' (naveed) among
his devotees at Gund Gushi. Subsequently, it was substituted by 'Kulcha' and 'Isbund'
as 'isbund' is supposed to remove the evil spirits and inauspicious omens. The
village Gund Gushi is also credited to have three huge chinar trees, which are
reverently known as 'Resh Peer in Booni'. They are believed to have been planted
by Resh Peer himself. Resh Peer is said to have planted one of these from the
apex. A temple of Sharda Mata is also situated at Rangwar Gushi, having a holy
spring within its premises, which is called as Sharda spring.
The Goddess Sharda is
believed to have visited this temple from the famous Sharda Peeth Shrine located
at the village Dhrov, presently in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. It is also said
that the Goddess Sharda has set 'Her' holy feet on one of the hillocks of the
village Rangwar Gushi before Her permanent depart the Sharda Peeth Shrine. The
Goddess Sharda’s resolve to stay permanently there is said to have been revealed
in a dream to a devotee of Rangwar Gushi. In the said dream, the Goddess is said
to have ordered that one Kashmiri Pandit family of Rangwar Gushi especially of
Teez Bhats' clan should come to Sharda Peeth Shrine to serve Her there. To obey
the order and command of the Goddess Sharda, one of the ancestors of Pt.
Sarwanand Bhat moved there permanently to serve the Goddess at the Sharda Peeth
Shrine. Later Pt. Nand Lal Bhat nicknamed as 'Shardi' was appointed a 'pujari'
at the famous shrine of Sharda Peeth till his death in 1946.
Pt. Sarwanand Bhat himself
has performed twice the arduous pilgrimage to Sharda Peeth Shrine. It would take
two days of arduous journey from Rangwar Gushi to reach the Shrine on foot.
Right upto the year 1947, the yearly pilgrimage to Sharda Peeth would commence
from Rangwar Gushi and the 'Yatra' would include about 500-600 sadhus and
devotees. Gund Gushi has also a shrine dedicated to the presiding 'Bhairav'
locally known as Mangal Raza, who is also the Bhairav of Karihama and Gotengo,
the close by villages. In close proximity to it is the cremation ground, which
has a huge Chinar tree, known as 'Raza Boin' and its presiding deity revered as
'Raza Padshah'. Reminiscing about the old days. Sarwanand recollected that the
sacrificing offering of 'Raza Kath' used to be performed at the Bhairav temple
and also at Badarkali on Bhadoon Shakul Paksh Navami, the day following Ganga
Ashtami every year to propiate the Goddess Kali.
After an elaborate
ceremonial pooja, a male ram would be slaughtered and all its body parts cooked
using only water and salt with no oil and spices. The cooked preparation would
be distributed among the devotees as 'Prasad'. It was mandatory to eat it at the
pooja site itself for it was prohibited to take it inside the home. In addition
to the usual festivals and rituals, Kashmiri Pandits of Gund Gushi (Kupwara)
would celebrate a lesser known festival of 'Chari
Ok Doh' every
year on 'Ashad Krishan Paksh'. The ritual involved a symbolic pooja of
pestle (Kajawat) placed on a circular grass base (Aari) and the
cooking of 'dal' rice.
with the hear say
stories about the enchanted
village of Gund-Gushi,
Pt. Sarwanand Bhat
articulated with a sense of pride that
one of his ancestors Pt. Teza
Bhat, a powerful chieftain of
Uttarmachipora was a man of
valour. About five hundred years back
a ruler of a nearby
hamlet marched upto the adjacent
village of Bramri with his armed
men with an intention to invade
Uttarmachipora. He along with
his armed men halted at the
village Bramri, which is about six
kilometres from Rangwar
Gushi. He challenged
Uttarmachipora chieftain, Teza Bhat for
an armed combat. Accepting the
challenge. Pt. Teza Bhat is
believed to have tied a written
reply with a huge stone and hurled
it towards the village Bramri by
means of a catapult (gulela).
The stone is said to have
covered an unbelievable distance
of about three kms. before hitting
the canopy of the chinar
trees, under which the invading
armed men were taking rest at
Bramri. The huge Chinar
tree branches are believed to have
come crushing down on
the resting armed men, killing
and wounding many of them.
valorous act of Pt. Teza Bhat is
supposed to have frightened his enemy
out of its wits. Fearful of
the disastrous consequences of the
armed fight, the invaders
are believed to have fled away
from the scene without offering
any resistance. A well-known
Kashmiri saying "Tezi
Bhati Kan" is claimed to owe its
origin to this background.
gruesome events and frightful
memories associated with
Pakistan sponsored tribal invasion (Kabali
raid) in the year 1947 still
haunts Pt. Sarwanand's mind. He
recalled vividly the agonizing
and horror filled events of
death and destruction resorted
to by the tribal raiders on the
helpless Kashmiri Pandit community.
He was about twenty two
years of age at that time. He
recalled that his father Pt. Ved
Lal had asked him to make an
unwilling choice of conversion
to Islam. Accordingly, he was
given the new name of
Sarwar Sheikh and his wife
Kamlawati was renamed as Mukhta.
Notwithstanding it. Pt. Sarwanand
recalled the feelings of
brotherhood, good-will and concern
displayed by Muslim
neighbourhood of Gushi, who strongly
disapproved and resented their
forceful conversion to Islam.
In order to save them from
further sufferings and mental torture,
the samartan Muslim neighbours
of Gund-Sushi hid the
neo-converted Kashmiri Pandits,
including Pt. Sarwanand
and his family in their
homes, unmindful of the risk and
threat to their personal lives.
Subsequently, they advised them to
move out of the village
Gushi till the situation normalised.
While recollecting those
painful and frightful days, Pt.
Sarwanand showered all the praises on
his neighbours Haji Lassa Bhat,
Lassa Akhoon and Aziz Bhat
(nicknamed as Toumlavol),
who had escorted them out
from Gushi to Kulangam
enroute to Sopore.
time, the Indian Army had
started pouring into Kashmir. From
Kulangam, they were taken to
Sopore by the Indian Army in
their vehicles. At Sopore,
Pt. Sarwanand and other Kashmiri
Pandits of Gushi took shelter at
the 'sarai' of Haji Samad
Pandit and 'Dharampur Sarai' of
Pt. Gopi Nath Matu.
were joined by Kashmiri
Pandits belonging to the
villages of Sogam, Lalpora, Pazipora,
Chandigam, Tekpore, Sholoora,
Goetung, Karihama, Moghalpora,
HakacharNagrimalpora, Drugmulla and Kandikhas
villages of the district Kupwara,
who too had been forced to
move out of their homes and
villages due to tribal invasion.
The total number of Kashmiri
Pandits, who had taken shelter at
Sopore was about six thousand.
A few among them had
moved-out to Srinagar, which
included the joint family of Pt.
Sarwanand comprising about
thirty members. Later, after three
months when the tribal raiders
were thrown-out by the army and
the situation normalised,
the Kashmiri Pandits of
district Kupwara returned back to
their villages and homes from
their temporary stay at Sopore.
Immediately, after reaching their
homes at Gushi, Pt. Sarwanand
and others dug-out the buried
corpses of those Kashmiri
Pandits, earlier killed by the
cremated them as per the
Hindu religious rites. However,
they failed to recover the buried
body of Pt. Ishwar Bhat, the
grandfather of Pt. Sarwnand.
As a symbolic substitute for
cremation rites, they burned the
twigs and tree branches
at his burial site. As per Pt.
Sarwanand, Mahadev Pandit nicknamed
as Mahadev Bishta, who had a
Robinhood imagewas a
resident of Gund Gushi. He had
earned the nickname of 'Bishta'
as he was adept in imitating the sounds
of different animals
particularly that of cats.
Bishta in league with his fellow
associates named Nabir
Akhoon and Sona Parray would rob
the affluent persons of the
society and distribute the booty
among the needy and the destitute.
To accomplish their task, the
trio had formed a singers' party. In
its guise they would resort to
the stealing acts usually during the
marriage functions to the
accompaniment of a Kashmiri
Chi Ker Panen
Kaem, Sombrith Aun, Diy
Mae Kunae, Kenh Chi Heri,
Kenh Chi Bonai, Sona Chi
Ker Panen Kaem
accomplish your assigned task, the
guests are either at the
ground-floor or at the upper storey,
resort to the stealing act and
hand-over the booty to me).
Sarwanand further rebring about 1½
chatank of rock salt
priced at Rs 10 at the time from the
village Trehgam, as it was not
available at Gushi. On reaching
Trehgam, he heard the invading
tribal leader delivering a hatred
and passion inciting speech and
ordering the immediatecapture of
Mr. Lassa Bhat, the
Nambardar of Gund Gushi. Mr. Lassa
Bhat was a good friend of
Pt. Ved Lal Bhat, father of Pt.
Sarwanand and was on good
terms with his Kashmiri Pandit
Sarwanand immediately rushed
back to his home at Gushi Rangwar
and informed his father about it.
By that time, the tribal
raiders had sneaked into Gushi
Rangwar. On the very first day,
the raiders killed Pt. Ishwar
Bhat, the grandfather of Pt.
Sarwanand in the vicinity of his home,
when he was feeding hay to his
cattle. Sarwanand himself
was a witness to this gory
scene. After committing this
inhuman and savage act, the raiders
continued the killing spree.
Next, they mercilessly showered a
hail of bullets on the inmates of
Malla family of Rangwar
Gushi, killing nine members of
the said family on the spot.
The unfortunate souls included
Pt. Mahdav Ram Malla,
Ramchand, Koth malla,Lassa
Malla, Jia Lal Malla Shridhar
Malla, Prem Nath Malla,
Govind Malla and
Madhusudhan Malla. These helpless
Pandits were subjected to most
agonizing torture before being
massacred. Subsequently Pt. Madhav
Kak Pandit, nicknamed as Madhav
Bishta and Pt. Veshin
Pandit of Trehgam, who had come
to Gushi to meet his relatives,
also met the same fate. After
committing this heinous crime, the
leader of the raiders is said to
have ordered the forceful conversion
of the surviving Pandits of
Gushi to Islam.
conversion ritual involved the
snapping of the sacred thread
(worn by them and recitation
of the Kalima. Caught in between
the catastrophic situation and dogged
by terror, harassment and
intimidation, Pt. Sarwanand
and his family were left with
no alternative but to vealed
that the village Gushi has a few
mighty Chinar and walnut trees,
believed to have been planted by
of years back.
still remembered as 'Resh
Bhatun Kul', 'Sunder Bhatun Kul',
and 'Anand Bhatun Kul' etc.
He also revealed with an obvious
pride that besides being an
established orchadist and
agriculturalist of repute, he was also
the lone Kashmiri Pandit to
own a hotel cum restaurant known as
(also called Kapoor
Bakery) at Kupwara upto the
time of migration.
nostalgia filled conversation with Pt.
Sarwanand was a journey
down the memory lane. It
was a telling tale of cherished moments,
painful memories, set-backs
and heart-aches, which are
now his prized possessions. He longs
and prays to return to
his home and the village.
As on now,
a cruel ironyof fate
and unfortunate circumstanceshave
stripped life of its meaning
for him. With a noticeable gasp and a
wounded expression, Pt.
Sarwanand concluded the
conversation with the remark, "after
having been disowned and
abandoned, life has become a
drag and an unbearable weight
am reminded of Noel's
assertion: "Rattel his bones over
the stones, he is only a pamper,
whom nobody owns".
legends, myths, fables and
heresay stories may or may not have
authenticity, yet they are a part
of our oral history. The above
article is based on an
elaborate conversation with Pt.
Sarwanand Bhat, who expired recently
after a sudden and brief illness -