It was not just a physical journey but a spiritual voyage confirming the deep roots in Islamic traditions
As part of the curriculum, the Department of Islamic Studies (Semester 5th; Islamic Culture Society in Kashmir), Government Degree College Kulgam, visited the sacred places/ shrines of prominent Sufi saints of the valley – Chrar-e-Sharif and Pakherpora of Budgam district in the context of religious-cum-educational tour. The college bus departed at 8 a.m. towards Chrar-e-Sharif via Shopian-Pulwama. After three hours, we reached the shrine of Sheikh-ul-Alam (RA), a place of solace where not only we enjoyed but refreshed our inner selves with the blessings of Allah. In between the Chrar-e-Sharif and Pakherpora, we paused and enjoyed the scenery of lush green forests and the calm environment for a while. The famous shrine of Syed Ali Aali Balkhi (RA) at Pakherpora served as a source of recreation besides refreshment for the soul and mind.
Both these places are known and confirm prominence throughout the valley. Both places are visited by hundreds of people on a daily basis. Not only the Muslims but the non-Muslims too visit these places with more enthusiasm and regard. People of the valley mostly visit these shrines, especially the Chrar-e-Sharif, to perform the ritual of ceremonial tonsuring of newborn babies.
The visit to these shrines paved the way for us to comprehend the contribution of Sufis in Kashmir and the role of shrines in the socio-political and religious-economic aspects of the valley. It reflected that Chrar-e-Sharif is not just a “geographical location” and a “tourist destination” but an esoteric centre of “Islamic Civilization”. It is the epitome of Islam, spirituality, language, culture and civilization of the valley. It is the place which reflects the zenith of Islamic spirituality and Islamic sociological grandeur. Chrar-e-Sharif—a place that essentially delineates the “nourishment” and “perfection” of the “Kashmiri language” that still bears the testimony and serves as a base for its future. It is a sacred “space” that fragrances the inner self of an individual and sluices exoterically. It is not just a physical place based on a piece of land but actually a hope for despaired and depressed ones. Somewhat the same is the shrine of Syed Ali Aali Balkhi (RA).
Both these shrines, besides the other shrines of Kashmir, depict the architectural grandeur which cannot be underestimated in any way. The square-shaped wooden structure of Chrar-e-Sharif, in the past, was rich in aesthetic beauty, especially those having aesthetic taste. Unfortunately, on 11 May 1995, in a fierce encounter, the shrine caught fire and suffered extensive damage. It has now been renovated with the same pattern and style.
The nature and culture of the local villages in and around these shrines were also observed and analyzed keenly. It was evident that the local people (shopkeepers) used to sell dried vegetables (Houk Seun) including tomatoes (Ruwangan Hachi), bottle gourds (Alle Hachi), turnip (Gogji Aare), dandelion greens (Hooch Handh), quince (Bam Choont) and firepot (Kangrri) etc to the visitors which they buy with great fervour.
Precisely speaking, it was not just a physical journey from Kulgam to Budgam but a spiritual voyage which confirms the deep roots in Islamic traditions. It experienced a kind of transition from a passive mode of Sufism to activism. It can, indeed, be considered as a transition from materialism to spiritualism.
The writer is an Assistant Professor (contractual) at Government Degree College Kulgam. He can be reached at [email protected].