Mysticism, meditation, moist eyes: Ramzan devotion in Srinagar Shrines

As the holy month of Ramzan is underway, hundreds of devotees from the city and the countryside visit the famous shrines of Srinagar to offer their prayers. These shrines have their own streak of faith to proffer amid silent and sounded beseeching of Heavens.

Removing gilaf—pillow cover of Quran, 60-year-old Ghulam-u-din Muhammad calmly sits inside Makhdoom Sahib Shrine to recite the word of God. The shrine is a packed house of faithful. A young woman at one corner is repeatedly entreating Almighty to streamline her troubled marriage. Her tears compete with her cries.

At another corner, in this lofty abode of mystic Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom aka Makhdoom soab, sits a student wearing a worried face. He has apparently turned up to seek the saint’s intervention in his career.

Women praying at Makhdoom Sahib’s Shrine. (FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi)

Inside the sanctum sanctorum, the faithful have left their deep devotional impressions: Names and roll-numbers. All this, perhaps, to remind the mystic—whose legend is household in Kashmir—about their heartfelt beseech and beckon.

At the doorsteps, this devotion magnifies. A bunch of votive threads give away the massive faith.

During Ramzan, many of these faithful—parched and famished—climbs a huge stairway to spend some moment of respite inside the shrine.

“We come here to seek solace and blessing as it’s Allah’s promise that wherever His pious souls put their steps, it becomes a blissful place,” says Hajira, a shrine-regular, sitting at the spot where the famous photographer clicked the defining image of Kashmiri Burka-clad women, cupping their hands towards heavens.

That rare monochrome image of Friday prayers at Makhdoom Sahib by Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1948 is the window of Kashmir’s faithful past.

Down the stairs, as the serpentine pathway opens into the Old City’s enchanting structures, another shrine of Srinagar makes its appearance. Naqeshband Sahab Shrine—the lasting address of 1931 martyrs—is also witnessing the devotional buzz during the holy month of fasting.

The faithful praying inside the Naqshband Sahib’s shrine. (FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi)

Scores of faithful are feeding grains to pigeons here. The towering and cool Chinars in its courtyard root for the shrine’s spiritual significance. The pagoda-style rooftop of medieval Khanqah—made of mud, Maharaja-style bricks and heavy woodwork—holds its own heritage value.

The world-weary souls seeking intervention of “His dearest” often crowd the place during Ramzan. Among the men are mystics who retire to its meditative corners, with rosary in hand and prayers on lips. As they strike a spiritual connection, the mood becomes uplifting.

Further down the street, ahead of the famous Kashmiri shawl dyers of Ranger Stop, the shrine of saint whose shining trait to uphold truth even in terminal treachery, is in the middle of mystic routine.

The fire might’ve gutted the old “serene and soulful” Dastgeer Sahab Shrine, but the new one does hold the vintage promise.

Praying amid the carefully crafted space itself transcends one’s soul to higher realms of spirituality, as many worshippers explain it. Some of these solace seekers are only following the footsteps of their forefathers.

Devotees at the Dastegeer Sahib’s shrine in Sarai Bala. (FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi)

“In the holy month of Ramzan, my deceased father used to come here to offer five times prayers, now I do the same,” says Tanveer, a young devotee.

Besides being decorated, special arrangements are made in these shrines to welcome the blessed month. Some of these preparations are glaring at another fabled shrine of Srinagar—Khanqahi Moula.

The shrine is the signpost of Kashmir’s leap of faith.

After it became the address of Mir Syed Ali Hamdani—the saint-scholar who spread Islam and made Kashmiris skillful in many crafts—it sparked off the revolution against the treacherous Dogra Raj in early 1930s, when a butler-turned-rabble-rouser raised the anti-Dogra slogan here.

An elderly person sitting outside Khankah-e-Maula. (FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi)

But now, the shrine that lost its ancient spire to flames in recent past, only houses the unruffled and submissive souls. “We offer special prayers here on Ramzan,” the shrine caretaker says. “The worshippers here sing Naats throughout the day.”

The shrine is perched on the banks of river Jhelum—now bereft and bare of the houseboat community that once added their own devotional spirit to the shrine during Ramzan.

For Muslims, the 30-day fasting period is a month of repentance and patience as well. It teaches self-control. The religious places—especially shrines—are often flocked with hundreds of devotees, including women, like in Dargah, Hazratbal.

Under sunny blue sky, the devotees in Dargah are seeking His intervention in setting their matters right.

“The whole point of praying in shrines is to feel the oneness which these sacred spaces traditionally represent,” says Shagufta, a young devotee, sitting in the lawns of the shrine from the Dal Lake side.

Women offering prayers are Hazratbal. (FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi)

“But unfortunately, many deride the shrine-goers—dismissing them as pagans and grave-worshippers. If only those people could understand that visiting a shrine is not to commit the so-called Shirk, but to participate in the collective prayers, for the collective good.”

The same spirit is at display, couple of miles away, at Sarai Bala shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani [R.A].

The sermon and silent prayers go hand in hand—so does the collective recital pitch of the “word of Allah”, which apparently makes the month of Ramzan a spiritual undertaking for many in shrines.


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