Monday, October 10, 2011

Snake Lords of Aishmukam

The Legend of Aishmukam as told in 'Sport & folklore in the Himalaya' (1913) by H. L. Haughton.

His honour did wish, so, having got out a pipe and seated myself on a rock, I listened with interest to the story of : Zainudin-Walli of Pohar Pajjan

Aishmukam, 1927. Martin Hürlimann 
"Many, many years ago the Liddarwat was not inhabited, being given over to the beasts of the forest and djins and fairies. Gradually men moved up the valley, clearing jungle, bringing water in little irrigation cuts from the river, and making little patches of cultivation near the huts which they built. But beyond a certain point, no man could establish himself on account of the enmity of numberless snakes, and that djin who, in the form of a snake, was the king of them all. Many had tried to build houses and settle there ; but all had either died of snake bites, or had been obliged to beat a retreat. At last there came to the country a very holy Pir, named Zainudin-Walli, who, on seeing the stream, the fertile valley, and the gently sloping hills, asked why it was that no one lived in such a spot, where but little labour might produce fine crops of rice and corn, and where there was grazing for so many cattle. Then the people told him of the djin, who, assuming the form of a snake, lived in a cave on the side of the hill, and how that this evil one and all the snakes who were his subjects prevented them from settling and living there. So the Pir, who in his sanctity feared nought, desired the people to show him the cave where the djin lived, and with several men as guides, set out for the spot.  When they came near to the cave, the men who accompanied the saint pointed to the dwelling of the djin, but would not themselves go near. But Zainudin- Walli without hesitation entered the cave, and at once perceived a large serpent, which raised its crest and hissed at him with widespread hood. Nothing daunted, the Pir, calling upon Allah and the prophet, cursed the snake and turned him into stone. And thus he stands, a figure of stone to this day, and on his broad hooded head a lamp is kept burning in honour of the saint who overcame him. When Zainudin-Walli had disposed of this djin who was king of the snakes, he summoned to him all the rest, and ordered that in future they should bite no man unless he first attacked them and tried to harm them.  The news of the saint's exploit, and the orders which he had imposed upon the snakes, soon spread, and men readily came up the valley and took up land and built houses for themselves and their families. Because of the beauty of the spot and the richness of the soil, they called the place Aishmukam — ' the Home of Luxury.' Now it so happened that of all the snakes, one, such as we call a Pohar, refused to obey the orders of Zainudin-Walli, and continued to attack whomsoever he met ; so the people of Aishmukam went to the Pir, and reporting the matter to him, asked for his assistance again. At once the Pir went in search of the rebellious Pohar, and having caught him, he put him into one of those round baskets, which we folks call a Pajjan, and carried him to the top of that high peak, where he left him imprisoned in the Pajjan. Wherefore from that day the name of the hill has been Pohar Pajjan, and the snakes of the district, remembering the orders of  Zainudin-Walli, never harm those who do no harm to them."
The story-teller had spoken with a simple reverence, as though he had perfect faith in the powers of his saint, and in the snakes remaining true to their treaty obligations; personally, though interested, I am afraid I still remained wanting in faith, and killed several snakes within the next few days, for there were plenty of them about. Nor did the fact, that a few days later three men of Boogmoor village were bitten by snakes when cutting grass, increase my trust in the efficaciousness of Zainu- din-Walli's arrangement. But of course, as my shikari said, the foolish men must have lost their heads and attacked the snakes first !

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Highly recommend this book for legends from Gilgit 

6 comments:

  1. Dear Vinayak The Legend of Aishmukam

    Bravo MAN. I was sure you will blog something on Aishmukam sooner or later. Please let me congratulate you for your passion. About snakes not harming any body - my parents remember seeing snakes freely moving around in the shrine with homo sapiens feeling completly at ease in their company, but that was about 1978. And they are Leventine Vipers, locally called "Gunus" one of the deadliest species of vipers, especially as there is almost no anti venom available locally. Analyze that. ( i'm sure about an article on Gunus soon ) Dinesh

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  2. The saying goes:
    'Haruch gogji tah Laruch gunas chhih barabar'

    A June turnip and Lar serpent are equal.

    from Knowles dictionary of Kashmiri proverbs and sayings.

    I have been planning to write an ode to this famous snake of Kashmiri people. Will do it someday.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Such lovely story-telling! Where exactly is this Aishmukam? what Dinesh recalls is kind of like Karni Maata then, except these are Vipers he is talking about? Wow.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It one of the famous shrines in Kashmir. Falls in Anatnag District. About snakes...there are basically towo kind of poisonous snakes in Kashmir...Gunas and Pohur (notice the name of the serpent in the story. Also Pohur is a minor river in Kashmir that joins Jhelum at Sopore). Rest of the snakes even though similar in size are non-poisonous. The way Kashmiri used to tell if a snake is poisonous or not went something like this: Any place from where Harmukh mountain is visible snakes are non-poisonous and any place from where Harmukh is not visible, snakes are poisonous.

    ReplyDelete
  5. i have not so far come across any poisonous snake in kashmir....seems like the land is devoid of ferocious snakes.. i am 25 but yet to see a snake of significant snake

    ReplyDelete

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