Monday, May 16, 2011

Nund Rishi: A Rosary of Hundred Beads by K. N. Dhar



Kartal Phtrem ta garimas drati
(I broke the sword and fashioned the sickles from its molten metal)
~ Shiekh Noor-Ud-Din

The book was first published in 1981. It opens with a short ‘Printer’s Note’’ by noted Kashmiri scholar M.Y. Taing. He writes,”Sheikh Noor-Ud-Din’s was an era of intense cultural clash. Islam had won its political victory but it had yet to overcome the spiritual and cultural resistance of Native streams. Its task was not made easy by the preachers of the new gospel, who came from alien lands and tried to bask in the sunshine of swords, out-sheathed by the Muslim victors of the land. This only compounded the sense of cultural shock. Noor-Ud-Din with his alchemy of synthesis challenged both and won a resounding moral triumph. He gave a distinct Kashmiri coating to Islamic doctrines. This was not a verbal gimmick.”
The note was written in 1981 while he was in Jammu. Nund Rishi’s sayings are now often read in the above given context: He basically came up with a distinct Kashmiri flavor of Islam.
Professor K.N. Dhar (it must be mentioned, Director of Shri Parmananda Research Institute Srinagar), the man behind this book of translation of Nund Rishi’s Shruks, in the ‘Synopsis’ to the translations, adds another, less mentioned, dimension to the context. He alludes to an old conflict within Islamic world, a question that strangely enough is still often asked, a conflict revolving around the questions whether Sufis were into free interpretation of Islamic tenants and whether that made them less Islamic and more of something else. He mentions Sufis (Shah Hamadan and his Son, and the Syeds) and their initial contribution to the spread of Islam in Kashmir through their missionary efforts that weren’t necessary so popular or effective in Kashmir. He mentions Sufi Syeds and their supposed aversion for Reshis (as documented by Dr. Mohibul Hassan and a claim apparently contested by K.N. Dhar). K.N. Dhar writes,"In this context, we should make it abundantly clear that Reshis of Kashmir derive their inspiration from the word of ‘Quran’ and the life of Prophet Mohammed. It has been wronly asserted that Reshi literature represents the amalgam of whole thinking on the terse subject of Divinity current in Kashmir from dawn of civilization. While going through the ‘Shruks’ of the originator of this Reshi Cult “Nund Rishi” the emphasis on tenets of Islam, reverence for Prophet Mohammed and also the attributes of a true Mussalman are the loudest. The language employed and approach made towards Divinity might have cut across the barriers of religions at times, but it is a common feature with all great religions and needs to be underwritten. Assimilation and in no way rejection forms their attitude to life. ”
K.N. Dhar wrote this on Shivratri of year 1981 while living in Srinagar.
And then begins the writer’s English rendering of Noornama , which seems at times seem like a simple but earnest man’s mediation on Death, Doomsday and hereafter, Hell and hence the need for man to behave proper, redemption. These rendering interestingly come with footnotes (with Hindi, Persian, Urdu, Sanskrit wordings) that make esoteric references to Koran, Shariat, Gita, Vedanta and its Yogic breathing exercises, Hindu concepts of light and so on.
Sample this:
At the appointed hour of bidding farewell to this feeting world, you will be torn between the obligation you owe to your own self and those to Super-Self; even if, belated realization of yoking yourself to spiritual pursuits, will dawn upon you, yet you would be lamenting your lot in leaving behind your loving wife and riches; through the sorcery of faulty perception. If you would opt for overcoming this embarrassment, the inner perennial effulgence of unerring comprehension is the ready-made ool for you – a sinless soul inherently-to groom your inborn innate faculties to reach up to that mental beautitued called self-consciousness.
The note with this one reads:
Herein explicit reference has been made to shaivistic Monism, wherein the ultimate object laid down for the realiser is to cultivate ‘Sat Prakash’ – unending and unquivering innate light – a synonym for self-consciousness. Herein yogic practice of controlling breath has been alluded to. Vedanta is at pains to exhort to the realiser the urgency of ‘Pranayama’ and through this physical and mental drill reach upto the tenth pinnacle of yogic excellence where self and super-self become one indissoluble whole.
Sitting in Ghaziabad, in middle of a power-cut, as I read these heavy worded lines in second edition of this book, printed at Delhi-6 in 2004, given to me as a gift by an uncle who I suspect is no friend of Islamists, I lament my inability to comprehend any of it. As each year passes, I am finding it more and more difficult to relate to these great Kashmiri concerns and their beautiful poetic motifs. But I also realize, as each year passes by I am drowning in more and more of these dead motifs.
“I was brought to life simply to rise above the temporal level, but my mind unbridled of course, was allured by the objects of sense. Behold! How a full baked experience of mine even got deceived? What I have, for sooth, gained by being born into this world”
I am told about things like: Hazrat Bal was seat of power for ‘Sher’ National Conference, Jamia Masjid was for ‘Bakra’ Moulvis and Nund Rishi’s Trar Sharif, giving an ironic twist to Nund Rishi’s sickle saying, was seat of power for ‘Marxist’ G.M. Sadiq.
I am drowning in mutilated motifs rendered long irrelevant. The stories are not linear, not anymore, that audience is gone, and we now read: even if sword was followed by sickle, sickle was broken and sword reformed, what if sword is broken and sickle remade, to hell with sickle, to hell with sword. Poet you are dead, irrelevant, your grave a block of cement, a shrine, rejoice, your words a line carved in quick lime, mourn, you are still revered.
“The soul is as fleeting as the body which enshrines it. This world is as ephemeral as the thoughts, which fashion it.
Such verses of mine demand un-divided contemplation, O Great Lord: do away with my sinful demeanor.”


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