Faith cuts through cold at Kashmiri saint’s Urs
Srinagar, Jan 21 (IANS)
Hundreds of Hindus and Muslims from across the valley are thronging the shrine of Kashmiri saint Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom on his 10-day Urs here, braving sub-zero temperatures.
The sick seeking a cure to their ailments, students seeking better percentages in the exams, childless parents tying votive knots to be blessed with a child and others invoking the saint’s blessings for their worldly problems spend the day in prayer inside the mosque adjacent to the shrine during the Urs that began Thursday.
Despite minimum temperatures Friday dipping to minus 3.5 degrees Celsius, men, women and children, clad in traditional tweed over garments called ‘pherans’, make their way to the shrine atop the ‘Koh-e-Maran’ (Hill of Serpents) in the middle of the old city of Srinagar.
As an icon of Kashmir’s syncretic culture, the shrine is central to the tolerant brand of Islam that Kashmir has been famous all over the world for.
Interestingly, the temple of a Hindu deity, Sharika Devi, is also situated on the hillock adjacent to the shrine.
“The ‘azan’ of the muezzin calling devotees to prayer five times a day and the Pujari sounding the temple bells gel so perfectly here,” said Ghulam Nabi, 65, who comes here every year with his family to invoke the saint’s blessings.
“The shrine is sacred to both the Muslims and the Hindus of the valley and before their migration, many of the local Pandits would also pay obeisance at the shrine after doing their puja at the Sharika Devi temple.”
Known popularly as ‘Sultan-ul-Arifeen’ (King of the blessed ones), Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom was born in 1494 to parents whose ancestors belonged to a Hindu Rajput family of Kangra in today’s Himachal Pradesh.
In contrast to most Sufi saints who were indifferent to Sharia (Islamic law), Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom lived a highly austere life, following the Sharia in letter and spirit and yet his followers cut across barriers of Sufi and puritanical schools of thought in the valley.
Despite being a hereditary landlord, Hamza Makhdoom gave up all worldly comforts to spend days and nights in prayer and meditation, a tradition still followed by the devotees at the shrine.
“He was everybody’s saint and continues to be so even today,” said another devotee at the shrine.