oi-R C Ganjoo
Bhat who has a lot to share narrated the story of how Sikh rule ended and was replaced by the rule of the Dogras in Kashmir
Pulwama and Anantnag, the two terror-affected districts in Kashmir for the past many years, also have some inspiring stories about spirituality to tell. Particularly, in Pulwama district a village called Murran, where Pandit Badrinath Bhat, now 94, lives with his family. He never left his home and heart when the exodus of 1989 started.
He retired as a principal of a government school, is devoted to the great saint-yogi Nidhan Kak, and feels comfortable in his village with his own children and grandchildren. Bhat attained sainthood after the yogi left his mortal remains. The pairs of walnut-wood sandals (paaduka) of yogi are in the Puja room of the Badrinath Bhat.
Bhat has lot to share about the political and spiritual account of districts. He narrated the story of how Sikh rule ended and was replaced by Dogra rule in Kashmir. He said Maharaja Gulab Singh Dogra entered the valley of Kashmir in November 1846 via Pir Panchal route, but on his way to Srinagar, he was feeling disturbed. Gulab Singh was in search of spiritual strength behind him to achieve the throne of Kashmir.
He arrived at Ramoo, a famous village on the Mughal route, one mile away to the west of Harapora, where Nidhan Kak, the Yogi, was living in a cottage. The Yogi was a great saint of high spiritual order. His fame had spread around the adjacent villages to Harapora, Murran, Deeri, Ramoo, in the whole belt of Murran area.
Gulab Singh came to know about the great saint and was eager to seek his blessings. He, along with his generals and soldiers, came to Harapora. He changed his royal dress, but the yogi spiritually knew that Gulab Singh would be the savior of the Kashmiris who had suffered continuously at the hands of the Pathans for about seventy years and then by the governors of Sikh rulers of Punjab for about twenty-seven years. Yogiraj Nidhan Kak blessed Gulab Singh, who left with the confidence that he would certainly conquer Sheikh Imam-ud-Din (1845-1846), who was appointed governor of Kashmir after his father’s death by the Sikh ruler of Punjab.
Nidhan Kak was born at Sallar, a famous village of the Danchanpora Pargana (now District Anantnag).
The village has remained a high seat of ancient Kashmir culture and Shaivism.
It is that Nidhan Kak was initiated into Yoga in this village by one local saint. In his thirties, he attained much in Yoga and decided to leave for the village Murran of district Pulwama (then called Pulugome). Here he stayed with the famous Bhat family. This landlord family had maintained its sustenance even during the Pathan, the Sikh, and the Dogra rules. Nidhan Kak served the family as a domestic cook. He continued his services to the family simultaneously practicing his Yog-Sadhana till he reached the higher spiritual levels.
One fine day a woman of the Bhat family, during the night hours, noticed their servant’s room was illuminating. She informed her husband and he too found him in rapt yogic sadhana and his face sparkling. Next morning, the Bhat family placed Nidhan Kak with all reverence on a seat. Now Nidhan Kak realized that time had come to leave for his hermitage which he might have already chosen at Harapora.
Harapora is a lonely spot, one mile away from Murran. Nidhan Kak spent days in a solitary spot surrounded by all species of wild shrubs and trees. Later, the Yogi set up his cottage on the bank of Hara-nag. There is a pit few feet deep inside the cottage and the Yogi remained rapt in his yogic posture in this pit. These days the Ashram is abounded with Chinar and “bran” trees. They were planted by the Yogi himself.
Nidhan Kak’s most devoted disciple was Swami Ram Krishen from Rainawari. It is said that in 1855, in the month of Magha, Nidha Kak, left for Haridwar for his Ganga Yatra. He had informed his disciple about the exact date of his return to the Ashram. It was Magh Dashmi, the Bhimsen Dashmi; but the Yogi did not return even up to Aikadashi, Bhimsen Kah. He waited and waited, but his guru did not return and the disciple, Ram Krishen, understood that he would never return, so he decided to cremate the belongings of Yogi. He did it on the Bhimsen Aikadashi in front of the Yogi’s cottage. After some time, the “bran” tree grew on this spot. It is a big tree now with long and shady branches, a symbol of the Yogi where devotees come to seek blessings.
It is said that Maharaja Gulab Singh got annoyed with Ram Krishen for not informing him about the passing away of the Yogi. The Maharaja left the throne in 1856 and passed away in 1858. Maharaja Gulab Singh had settled some Kashmiri Pandit families at Harapora and Deeri. The Harapora Pandits were called Babus (They were Kouls). They served the Ashram during the days of the Yogi and continued till the migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley. The Yogi himself settled some Muslim families in Harapora and handed over to them the land granted to Ashram by the Maharaja. After the migration of the Pandits from the valley and surrounding villages of Harapora, only a few Pandit families of village Murran and some Muslim families of Harapora looked after the Yogi’s Ashram.
During the peak militancy years (1990 to 1996) the Yogi’s cottage suffered much damage. Pandit Badrinath Bhat with the active cooperation of some devotees from Murran renovated the cottage and brought it to its original shape in May 2007. They also raised beautiful fencing around the Ashram premises.
The Walnut sandals of the Yogi and his disciple were removed by Badrinath Bhat and put in his “pooja room” in 1996. He worships them there. The bigger and the older pairs belong to Yogi and the smaller one to his disciple Ram Krishen. The “wear” of the Yogi’s pair is longer and that of the disciple’s pair is very short.
It is said that Maharaja Hari Singh did not have any child for a long time after his marriage. Then one day a member of the Babu family saw a dream at Harapora. He saw a red flower abloom on the bank of the Hara-Nag. He was asked in the dream by the Yogi to present it to Maharaja Hari Singh. The next morning the Babu after his bath worshiped the sandals in the cottage as usual. When he came out, to his surprise, he found the red flower blooming on the bank of Hara-Nag. He plucked it, packed it, and left for the Maharaja’s palace in Srinagar. He sent the flower with a special message from the Yogi of Harapora to the Maharaja. The Maharaja was very pleased to get the flower. It is said that he sent the flower to his Rani and after some time Karan Singh was born.
Pandit Badrinath Bhat since his childhood days was devoted to Nidhan Kak. He says he learned from his elders like Govind Kak of Murran, Sham Lal Deeri, Maharaj Krishen Deeri, Mohd. Akram Harapora, Lassi Bhat of Harapora, and gathered information from many other elders of Murran, Harapora, and Deeri.
Govind Kak was an Ayurveda Vaidya of Murran who miraculously cured patients with the indigenous herbs. He was a saintly person, very much devoted to Nidhan Kak. He lived up to one hundred years, and passed away in 1948. It was he who shared the historical account of Maharaja Gulab Singh’s visit to Harapora and Murran to Badrinath Bhat.
(RC Ganjoo is a senior journalist and columnist having more than 30 years experience of covering issues concerning national security, particularly Kashmir. He has worked with several prominent media groups and his articles have been published in many national and international publications.)
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