Folklores and Legends Associated with Mata Roop Bhawani of Kashmir

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On her Nirvaan Day and Shraad (Sahibi Satam), Kheer is offered to Mata Roop Bhawani

Mata Roop Bhawani (1621-1721 CE), born as Alakheshwari, has been one of Kashmir’s most revered saints and savants. Considered an Avtar of Goddess Sharika herself, Rup  Dyed, as she is colloquially referred to in Kashmiri, was a great mystic saint and tapaswini;  her teachings and sayings, in the form of ‘vaakhs’ bear the imprint of Vedanta, Shaivism, and Sufi Islam, so peculiar to Kashmir. Her ‘vaakhs’ have the purity that emanates from the depths of the heart, a simple and sincere expression of thought and knowledge. Her father,  knowing the truth about her birth, handled her with extraordinary care and reverence and put her feet on the way to gaining knowledge and attaining self-realization. It is said that from a young age, she started accompanying her father for the circumambulation of Hari Parvat every morning.

A number of legends and folklore are associated with Mata. These include:
Her Birth: Legend has it that her father, Pt Madhav Joo Dhar was an ardent devotee of Devi Sharika and would perform circumambulation of the legendary Hari Parbat daily. Pleased with his devotion, Devi appeared before him and asked him to name his wish. The devout and learned pandit asked for an unusual boon – that the Devi herself be born as his daughter. Mata Sharika granted his wish and was born as Alakheshwari on Jyesth Poornima, Vikrami Samvat 1681, corresponding to the year 1621 CE.

Married life episodes: Alakheshwari, as per the contemporary social practice, was married off to Pt Hiranand Sapru, a well-educated young man at an early age. Her married life, however, suffered due to a lack of perception of her ‘real self’ by her in-laws. Her mother-in-law was upset about her leaving the house in the wee hours of the night (for visiting Hari Parvat). It is said that she sent some family members to follow Roop Bhawani and was shocked to learn that a lion (considered the ‘vahan’ of Mata Sharika) was accompanying the young bride on her journey to the temple. Even after learning about her ‘divine’ personality, her Mother-in-law continued to ill-treat and harass her.

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An artist’s imagination: Mata Roop Bhawani symbolically playing with Lion cubs. A painting by Pt Ravi Dhar. In the background, Hari Parbat can be seen.

Kul-Guru Insult episode: It is said that during a yagnya performed by her in-laws, Kulguru of the Dhar Family was humiliated by her in-laws and the learned Brahmin got up to leave, without having any food. Roop Bhawani is said to have pacified the Kulguru and requested him to perform a snan in River Vitasta (Jhelum) flowing nearby. As the Kulguru returned, Roop Bhawani gave him a glance that transformed him; Kulguru spontaneously burst out reciting a poem in honor of the Devi. This transformation stunned into silence the audience,  particularly her haughty in-laws.

Kheer Episode: Legend has it that Pt Madhav Joo Dhar, her father had performed some religious ‘anushthan’ and sent a ‘degchi’ full of Kheer to Roop Bhawani’s in-laws as prasad. Typically, her mother-in-law criticized the quantity of Kheer as inadequate since she had, in her words, a large family and neighborhood’ amongst whom the prasad was to be distributed. Calmly, Roop Bhawani is said to have assured her that she would call for more (from her father’s house) once the present ‘degchi’ got empty. Kashmiri folklore has it that out of vengeance, her wicked MIL distributed extra-large portions amongst all her relatives and neighbors but the kheer in the ‘degchi’ refused to get 
exhausted. Tired but infuriated, the MIL finally gave up and asked her to consume the remaining portion of kheer. Roop Bhawani is said to have put a spoonful of kheer on her tongue and behold – the remaining kheer vanished from the ‘degchi’. This has given rise to a saying in Kashmiri,” Rup Dyed henz barkath’, implying that the grace of Rup Dyed was ensuring that the household stocks become inexhaustible! The practice of preparing kheer and offering it to relatives, neighbors, and friends on Shraad days( Sahibi Satam in Ashwin and Magh Krishna Paksh) of Mata Roop Bhawani continues to this day in KP Community.

The wicked MIL now raised another issue,” Now, who shall carry this ‘degchi’ back to your father’s house? Ask your father to send someone,”. Calmly, Roop Bhawani took the ‘degchi’ to the river ghat, cleaned it, and then instructed it,” Go to the ghat of Safakadal. My father, Pt Madhav Joo shall be performing his ‘sandhya’ by the ghat. Go to him”. Legend has it that the metallic ‘degchi’ floated on the river and reached the spot where Pt Madhav Joo was performing his pooja! 

Mata is said to have blessed all girls belonging to the Dhar clan by saying, ”Dhar Kooryi Bajah” all Dhar Girls be prosperous!

End of Marriage and taking Deeksha: Such miracles infuriated her in-laws further and led to further alienation; Roop Bhawani returned to her father’s house who formally initiated her into ‘sanyas’ and yogic kriyas. He completed her formal initiation, giving her Deeksha. After a few years, she is said to have left the house at Khanqahi-Sokhta, Safakadal, and performed tapasya at several locations including Chashma-i-Sahibi(Zabarwan), Wutshan near Ganderbal, Manigam Waskur and Laar, creating ashrams, holding spiritual discourses, attracting devotees, Hindus and Muslims alike. All these places, including her Janambhoomi at Khanqahi Sokhta, are famous as Roop Bhawani Asthapans.

Miracles during her Sanyas period:

  • A devastating fire almost engulfed Manigam but the moment Mata became aware of it (she was engrossed in her tapasya), by a mere glance, she put out the fire. 
  • She planted a half-burnt branch of a Chinar tree on the banks of rivulet Syndh in Manigam and the same is flourishing to date.
  • Fish cooked for Shivaratri in the house of Pandit Lal Chand in Manigam started crawling over to the wall when it was learned that the fish had been cooked in spite of her presence in the house. 
  • A potter’s son got his eyesight back on completing the digging of a well at Waskura at her bidding.
  • A shankh-shaped spring in Chashma-i-Sahibi appeared in the Zabarwan hill area when Rupa Bhawani shifted there, giving the hillock its name.

Miracle associated with her demise: There are several legends associated with her Nirvan.

  • Mata Rupa Bhawani attained nirvana on the seventh day of the dark fortnight of the Month of Magh (mag gat’tu pachh satam) in 1721CE at her father’s home in Khanqahi Sokhta, Srinagar. This day is known as Sahib Saptami and is observed by KPs wherever they live! 
  • After her demise, Muslims of the locality demanded her body for burial as for them she was Roopa Aarifa, a divine person. They obtained orders from the Mogul Governor of Kashmir, a Muslim, to force the issue. Her brother, Sansar Chand Dhar is said to have prostrated himself before her mortal remains, asking for her intervention. Legend has it that Roop Bhawani resurrected herself, and addressed all those present, including Muslims. To her brother, she is said to have uttered “Stand firm by what you want to do and God will help you. Offer some bread and shirni (sugar balls used in Kashmir on important occasions) to the Muslim brethren and bid them goodbye.” Sansar Chand and others did as they were told. Completing all the rituals, her body was taken to the cremation ground but when the time came to place the body on the pyre, they found that her body had vanished, leaving behind just a few flowers under the shroud. Mata Roop Bhawani had merged with the Supreme! 

That three centuries after her Nirvana, Mata Roop Bhawani continues to be revered with love and devotion, worshiped, her special days observed with great faith, in itself is a miracle and a tribute to her stature as a spiritually evolved, emancipated soul. Post Exodus from Kashmir, her devotees constructed a Temple in her name at Talab Tiloo, Jammu. Her Vaakhs (sacred narrations of her teachings) have come to us in the usual oral tradition, later noted down by her devotees in Sharada script, on Bojh Patra (Burz in Kashmiri). It is believed that the Hindi text “Rupa Bhavani Rahasyopdesha” is the most detailed text available currently documenting her ‘vaakhs’ and teachings.

Comments

    • Suniel Kumar Dhar
      Suniel Kumar Dhar

      These articles on the life of famous Saints and Reshis of Kashmir will provide first hand knowledge to our younger generation and will give them an insight to look into our past! Thank you Munshi Jee for posting this content!🙏🙏

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