Kashmir’s gift to mysticism

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From 8th to 13th century, Central Asia, Iran and Arabia witnessed a mystic movement known as Sufism. At the time, Shaiva philosophy was popular in Kashmir. Progressive Buddhism in the shape of Mahayana had also arrived in the Valley by then.
The three movements met in Silsila-Rishian, or the Rishi Order, which is indigenous to Kashmir.

The standard-bearer of this order is Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali (1378-1438), alias Nund Rishi, the patron saint of Kashmir.

He taught humanism comprising fear of God, love of mankind and service to fellow human beings. He eschewed the terminology of any particular faith and had a harmonising influence on society.

For the serious seeker, he recommended true love and devotion. Devotion means complete and exclusive absorption in God and indifference to all else. The lover, according to him, is one who cares neither for spiritual nor fleshly pleasures and depends only on God. Nund Rishi writes:

There is one God/But with a hundred names/There is not a single blade of grass/Which does not worship Him/First I became certain that there is no God but God/Then I made myself acquainted with divine revelation/When I was able to recognise my own self/I was able to recognise God/Both loss and gain became identical to me/The distinction between life and death disappeared.

The Rishi Order, set up by Nund Rishi, is a simple code of leading a spiritual and social life. It desires of man to lead a contented, simple and purposeful life. Its followers abstain from dogmas and rituals.

The Rishis preached universal love, abstinence from worldly things and striving for realisation of God. The Rishis did not isolate themselves from the masses but played the role of social reformers. They raised their voice even against oppression and pressed the rulers to rule with justice, often risking imprisonment. The Rishi Order is Kashmir’s contribution to world thought. The shrine to Nund Rishi stands at Charar-e-Sharief, near Srinagar.

(The writer is a Srinagar-based Sufi scholar.)


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