B L Jalali
Rupa Bhawani (1621 AD – 1721 AD), daughter of Pandit Madho Joo Dhar of Khanqahi Sokhta (Safa Kadal), Srinagar, shines as a bright star in the galaxy of mystic saints and sufis who have adorned the firmament of the Reshiwari (Kashmir). Rupa Bhawani’s devotees, have carried her message and memory forward. They have been observing her nirvaan ceremony with great piety and devotion to the date of mass exodus of KPs from Valley, both at Safa Kadal, the place where she was born and also attained nirvaan, and at Waskura in Baramulla district which she graced for many years after the initial tapasya at Khanqahi Sokhta, Chashma-i-Sahibi, Wutshan near Ganderbal, Manigam and Laar . After migration, Nirvan diwas and Prakash Utsav is celebrated in Mata Shree Roopbhawani Temple, Tirath Nagar, Talab Tilloo, Jammu and other places across the country.
Pandit Madho Joo Dhar, himself a devout Shree Sharika Devi-Bhakta, performed Parikarma of Hari Parbat regularly for years, praying to the Mother to fulfill his aspirations. The Mata, pleased with his devotion, appeared to him one day saying “speak out your wish”. Madho Joo, prostrated himself at the Mata’s feet, imploring,” Great Mother, Creator of the entire Universe; you are so kind to me, I wish you are born as my daughter”. The wish as granted, and Rupa Bhawani graced Madho Joo Dhar’s home on Zaishta Pooranmashi in Samvat 1681 (1621 AD).
Brought up with affection, and respect, Rupa Bhawani was married to a learned youngman, Pandit Hiranand Sapru, at an early age with great pomp and show. As the legend goes Mata Shree Roopa Bhawani , however, renounced Grihast as her in-laws, including Pandit Hiranand, could not reconcile to her spiritual bent of mind and the meditative spells she had got used to at her father’s abode. Thereafter, Pandit Madho Joo although knowing that Ruph Ded, in materialistic form was his daughter, is actually Mata Sharika Bhagwati incarnated in his home. Unmoved by abandoning the Grahasta by Ruph Ded, Shri Madhoo Joo played the role of Guru for completion of her spiritual journey . To pay obeisance at the feet of Param Guru Pandit Madho Joo and Disciple Mata Shree Roopbhawani , of late Shri Alalkh Sahiba Trust performs a Grand Yagnya at Cheshma sahibi, Srinagar. Mata Shree Roopbhawani popularly known as Ruph Ded has meditated, undergone penance for the period of 12 and a half year at her each Taposthal at Cheshmasahibi, Vutshan,Manigarm, Laar and Waskur.
Th Miracles of Mata Shree Roopbhawani also known as Alkeshwari:
Her estrangement with the in-laws accentuated after a miracle which her mother-in-law failed to comprehend. It is recorded that at a special yagnya performed at the Sapru’s place, the kulguru of Dhar’s could somehow not give a satisfactory account of his capabilities. Not that he was not learned, but the other Brahmins present made fun of him. He could not put up with this. Feeling humiliated, he wanted to leave unnoticed without partaking of the prashad. And that is why and how the Mata’s first miracle took place. While the kulguru was trying to get away, he was accosted by Rupa Bhawani. She requested him not to go away like that. “It is not appropriate to go away without taking food” she told him adding “you, Sir, seem to be very tired. Why don’t you have a bath in the river (Vitasta) and feel fresh and then take food?” The kulguru could not refuse. He had the bath as advised, and while coming back he was accosted again by Rupa Bhawani. She gave him a full glance, welcoming him to the dinner. This glance transformed The Brahmin into a well-versed and confident guru. Bowing to the Bhawani, he partook of the food, and after that recited a full poem in praise of the Mother spontaneously, winning applause from one and all, including those who had tried to humiliate him only a few hours earlier.
This miracle of the Bhawani invited strong reaction. Her mother-in-law got infuriated, she provoked her son and made it impossbile for Rupa Bhawani to live in her house. And this brought about the Sanyas of the Mata. She returned to her father’s place, bared her heart to him. Consoled and encouraged by the father Rupa Bhawani started her meditation in right earnest. However, finding regular meditation somewhat difficult in a grahast, she shifted to Wutshan, Manigam, Waskura, Chashma- i-Sahibi, etc. , creating ashrams at every spot holding spititual discourses, attracting devotees, Hindus and Muslims alike, and performing miracles. A real sanyasin, she was the mother to all irrespective of caste or creed.
The great old chinar tree on the bank of Sindh river in Manigam, the culmination of a half-burnt branch planted by the Mata with her benign hands is still standing as a mute but living witness to her spirituality. A devastating fire in Manigam was extinguished by her, through a mere glance. Fish cooked for Shivaratri in the house of Pandit Lal Chand in Manigam started crawling over to the wall when it was learnt 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.
Mata Rupa Bhawani attained mahanirvaan at her father’s place, where she spent her last days. It was the Saptami of Magha Krishna Pakshya in 1721 AD. The day is since known as Sahib Saptami, observed by all the Hindus in Kashmir.
On hearing that the Mata had breathed her last, Muslims of the locality demanded her burial according to Muslim rites as she was to them the Rupa Aarifa, a Muslim divine. They sought and obtained orders of the then Moghul Governor of Kashmir, and also any assistance to force the issue on the Mata’s kith and kin and the large number of the Hindu devotees. Perturbed, her brother Pandit Sansar Chand Dhar prostrated himself at the feet of her mortal remains, requesting her to intervene “to save me from embrrassment which would for ever stick to the clan as a black spot”. Lo and Behold, the Bhawani resurrected herself, and addressed all those present, including Muslims. To her brother, she said “stand firm by what you want to do and God will help you. Offer some bread and shirni (sugar balls used in Kashmir on impartant occasions) to the Muslim brethren and bid them good-bye.” Sansar Chand and others did as they were told. Completing all the rituals, the body was taken to the cremation ground on the usual woodan plank bedecked, of caruse, to suut the occasion. But when the time came to place the body on the funeral pyre, it was only the shroud and a few flowers. Rupa Bhawani had merged with the Supreme, Mother Sharika.
Mata Shree spoke extempore WAKHS ( Sacred narrations) which were subsequently noted by her devotees on Burj ( bhojpatra leaves) in manuscript form in Sharda Script. Some Wakhs are in an uncommon language which appears to be mix of Sharda, Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi & Punjabi. Only the learned and elated souls could attempt its translation and give the simple meaning . Various scholars in different countries and different places in India are working on it for which the Shri Alakh Sahiba Trust, registered in 1934 and managing the affairs of all the Taposthals in the State as per the annals of the Trust, is doing pioneering job of roping various Universities for establishment of Ruph Ded Chair , Scholarship and the subject of Research.
(The author is member Executive Committee Sast (Regd.)