Saturday, September 26, 2020
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A lesser known fact about Shreebhatt’s encounter with a Sadhu

Dr. Ramesh Raina

Kashmir has been a rich repository of folktales, folklore, myths and legends. The source of the such stories is human society itself. The basic moorings that are at the root of human society are sought to be illustrated in the tales.Most often we find these stories woven around wandering mystics, spiritual people and sadhus, impacting the social life of the place in a big way. It therefore constitutes a vital element of a living culture. The day today life of the common man finds its full depiction in the folktales. There are two types of stories that are often handed out by historians, here too we come across a similar situation in which the Political history of Kings which tells the story of Palace intrigues, wars, debauchery and royal habits is presented to us by the internationally acclaimed testament Rajtarangani and the other part is about the social history of society, its culture, food habits and religious practices. In this regard Shreebhatt’s incident of curing the dying King of his ailment has occupied a critical space of the history.It has drawn a wide public attention and has been avidly read. Randition of Kashmiri folktales captures the colloquial textures of the Kashmiri heritage and brings to the fore its embedded social history. The objective of this narration is to bring the lesser known fact behind the treatment of Sultan Zain-Ul-Abdein by Vaidacharya Shreebhatt.

At the time of ascending the throne, it was quite impossible to believe that Sultan Zain-Ul-Abdein son of an iconoclast Sikander Butshiken would turn out to be a genuinely benevolent and a truly secular ruler. This could only be explained as a divine intervention of some supernatural power affecting the King. This mystified story has come to us as a folktale which is embedded deep in the public memory and it provides an illuminating explanation of the story that proceeded thereafter.

The momentous events such as recovery of dying Sultan from a critical illness has a story attached to it. The common public perception is that Sultan’s deadly sicknees, was treated successfully and brought to life by Vaidacharya shreebhatt, but my story goes beyond that incident. Saying is that Sultan suffered yet another ailment after recovering from his initial sickness. This prolonged fever was sapping his life as royal Physicians including Shreebhatt were baffled and unable to cure him. His inability to treat Sultan this time was putting his reputation at stake. There was yet another dimension to his anxiety as the decrees issued by him regarding rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits were yet to be executed. In that eventuality his premature death would have dealt a body blow to his plans.

After spending a night by his bedside in the Palace,left at predawn with a heavy heart about the deteriorating condition of Sultan, Shreebhatt went straight for his routine morning prayers at Vitasta. While on his way back after performing prayers, he saw a tall figure approaching him, it was a Sadhu not seen in Kashmir for a long time. Receiving him respectfully with folded hands,his physical appearance with long flowing beard and bloodshot eyes gave him goosebumps. The Sadhu muttered “you are the first Brahman I have seen since yesterday. I have been roaming all day and night to find a temple for day’s rest but have not seen any. Have my eyes deceived me”? Shreebhatt in response offered and urged holy man to accept his hospitality by accompanying him to his home. The holy man was treated respectfully at his home and during the entire food session, Shreebhatt narrated him about the tragedy that would befall the State, Should Sultan die of this sickness which was quite a possibility and the emergent consequential situation would undo all his efforts about the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits and welfare of the Kingdom stands jeopardized in that eventuality. With his eyes closed, Holy man gave him a patient hearing . ”your King has finished with this world and there is nothing one can do now”, he quipped. It was earth shattering for him to hear the prophecy.

After Shreebhatt was finished, Holy man went into a deep thinking mode and opened his eyes not before a prolonged pause seemed,as if some idea had stuck him which indeed was the case but strange and unbelievable.While opening up slowly,he kept scratching his beard “,Listen carefully. I can animate your King by my own Atman for hundred days immediately after he breathes his last.I hope that much time should be enough to get your plans in action. During that time I shall be leaving my mortal shell here and you must promise to preserve it safely for me”.It was becoming increasingly difficult for Shreebhatt to digest the whole idea outlined by the holy man to rescue the Sultan from the condition he was in. The confident and reassuring voice of Sadhu had pushed him to a tight spot, not knowing exactly how to react. However,he mustered the courage to ask Sadhu “Am I not putting you to a great risk? What if something unusual happens? No no it is asking too much”.

Without waiting for him to respond,Sadhu went into a deep trans,breathing stopped gradually and soon he was lifeless. Shreebhatt bolted the door of the room from outside and without wasting anytime swiftly went to the King’s room in the Palace to witness the other part of the prophecy to unfold which indeed did take place.He saw life gradually being sniffed out of Sultan and he lay motionless.It was the time now for the soul of Sadhu to enter the mortal frame of King to complete rest of his prophecy. The situation unfolded accordingly, his soul had entered King’s body which became visible when he in a feeble voice asked for water,the face was coming to life.

With a weak King getting life back, the clinical instinct in Vaidacharya woke up to tell him that hundred days were too less for him to regain strength to execute his decrees for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. It was a time to ensure that the soul of holy man permanently stayed in the body of Sultan and that meant to cremate the body of Sadhu which indeed was against his conscious. But the force of circumstances and broad interests of the State overtook his conscious and the body was cremated in his presence with attendant religious ceremonies and it earned him a great deal of respect from the people.

As the funeral pyre was put to flames, he was heard saying to himself “Ater all in the end, it is nothing but the ashes for every one of us,tomorrow if not today. Why not today”?.

At the insistence of the readers to write about the full narration of Sadhu’s interface with Shreebhatt in the light of my brief mention of the incident in my previous article “ Hindu Dimension of Kashmir”, I have come out with the full details of the incident.

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