Shrine of Pir Chotay Shah

K D Maini
The famous Shrine of Hazrat Pir Chotay Shah is located in the village Sakhi Madain near the Zairat of Pir Sakhi Sarvar.  This sacred place is four kms in the south of Mendhar town and 49 Kms from Poonch town via Krishna Ghatti road. Presently there is a Khanqah of Pir Chotay Shah, Mazarof his sister and an old tree. It is said that this tree  erupted miraculously from the grave of this spiritual saint after his burial.  The shrine is connected with road and all necessary facilities are available for the pilgrims. In 1979 Aquaf trust had taken over this Dargha and started systematic development. Presently, the shrine complex is spread over five Kanal land and comprises of Darga Shrif, Madarsa building, office building, Masjid Sharif, administrative wing, Langer Khana and Mehman Khana. Tourism department is also planning to construct a guest house for the convenience of  tourists.
A large numbers of devotees  visit the shrine every day to pay obeisance but on every thursday the number of visitors increases and there remains more hustle and bustle in the Shrine. The pilgrims come  from every nook and corner of the country and abroad. With the opening of Poonch-Rawalakote road, the pilgrims from the other parts of  Kashmir have also started visiting this Shrine after about 68 years. The Shrine committee has made proper arrangements for convenience of guests, 24 hours Langer is run by the trust. The main attraction of the Langer is typical Maize bread which is known as Todha and baked in the manual oven (Tandoor). The pieces of this baked Todha are served among the devotees.  This shrine can play a great role in bringing the people  of two parts of Kashmir closer to each other because a large population of Kotli and Thakhyala area was a devotee to this Shrine before 1947.
It is said that about 350 years back a Sayed family resided in a hamlet Saagi Daab of the village Chajlla. The head of this family was a religious and spiritual personality who always remained busy in meditation. He possessed only a small piece of land holding, and a Kacha house. He had no other source of income except the production of Maize from his landholding and he was not in the position to purchase cattle to supplement his income, because the head of the family was not taking interest in domestic matters due to which the economic condition of the family was very weak. This religious personality had two sons namely Sayed Nazir Hussaian Shah, Sayed Masoom Shah and a daughter. Sayed Nazir Hussaian Shah was also inclined towards spiritual deeds and meditation from his childhood and had become popular among the natives as Pir Chotay Shah because the people had  benefitted due to his blessings.
During childhood when the friends and young relatives of Pir Chotay Shah were grazing cattle in the pastures and riding buffalos to amuse themselves, Pir Chotay Shah, his brother and sister were only watching them because they were not having cattle to graze and ride. One day when the other children were grazing the cattle   Pir Chotay Shah, his sister and brother plucked wild Annars from nearby forest and started playing with them presuming that these wild fruits are their cattle. When the buffalos of other children took bath in Saagi Daab (pond) and some children enjoyed by sitting on the back of buffalos, Pir Chotay Shah  prayed for spiritual power for conversion of wild annars into cattle so that they could also give bath to their Buffalos and ride on them. Therefore they threw their wild fruit in the pond and within twinkling of eyes these wild fruits were converted into Buffalos who also started swimming on the surface of the pond like the buffalos of other children. Pir Chtay Shah, his brother and sister were astonished to see this miracle.   The other people and children standing near the pond were stunned this. They rushed towards the house of Pir Chotay Shah and told his father about this happening. The father turned furious on children for revealing the spiritual power. Therefore the angry father moved towards pond, reached near the pond and saw that his two sons and daughter  riding on the back of the buffalos. He tried to beat them by saying that he was passing his days in meditation and prayers but now they had disclosed the spiritual power before the public and people would disturb him and hinder  meditation.
Due to the  anger of father Pir Chatay Shah and his sister ran away towards present Ziariat Shrif area while Pir Masoom Shah ran towards his house in the village Chajlla. Seeing father chasing them,  Pir Chotay Shah and his sister reached at present Ziarat Sharief  they prayed to God for shelter because they were not in a position to face their father. It is said that at that very time a part of earth was broken in the shape of grave and Pir Chotay Shah and his sister buried themselves in the grave. Then the father realized the spiritual power of  Pir Chotay Shah. Therefore he constructed a small shed at that place in memory of his son Pir Chotay Shah and daughter. With the passage of time this place took the shape of a shrine and turned into a center of religious tourism.
The Sakhi Maidan village where the Shrine of Pir Chotay Shah is located is also known for the Bathak of Pir Sakhi Sarver who had come from Multan and stayed at this place for  preaching of Islamic thoughts. On his name the village is known as Sakhi Maidan. The Bathak of Pir Sakhi Sarvar near the shrine of Pir Chotay Shah is also famous in Mander valley. Every year on 13th day of moon in the month of July a Mela is organized near the Bathak in memory of Pir Sakhi Sarver. In this Mela apart from religious ceremony local games like Dungal, Beeni and Kabadhi were organized in the past. This Mela was a symbol of composite culture  in which Muslims Hindu and Sikhs were jointly participating. However after militancy, the old glory of this Mela  vanished. Now only religious flag is hoisted, a goat is sacrificed and Khatam Sharif is organized by the local devotees on this day.
Near the Shrine of Pir Chotay Shah and Pir Sakhi Server, the ruins of Pandav Mehal exist. The natives believe  that this monument was constructed by the Pandvas during exile period. The Pandav complex was also supported with a proper water channel which was brought from the village Kalaban area. Historically, it is said that this monument was constructed by a Greek king Manindra of Punjab who had a religious discourse with a Buddhist monk and embraced Buddhism at this place. On the name of King Manindra, the whole valley came to be   known as Manindra and with the passage of time the name Manindra changed to Mendhar.  It is possible that originally there was a Pandavas Mehal which latter on might have been converted in to a Buddhist monument after the discussion of King Manindra and Buddhist monk. Renowned writer Krishan Chander passed his childhood in Mendhar where his father Goori Shanker was posted as doctor in Mendhar hospital. He wrote in his book ‘Mitti Ke Sanam’  that some important idols of Pandvas time and a Bawli was recovered by a Muslim cultivator near the Bathak of Pir Sakhi Sarver in this village. The Hindu population of the area lateron started visiting this place and converted it into a religious spot.