Hindus’ Lord Shiva Shrine in Amarnath and Muslims’ Zain-ud-din Wali’s Shrine in Aishmuqam stand tall at a common place in Himalayas of Kashmir, Anantnag. What will you call it mere coincidence or more?
Kashmir is a land of many religions cohesively bidden together in fibers of Kashmiriyat since centuries. The history holds witness to the land being synonymous to supreme faith in power of righteousness, peace and miracle of love. Many great kings and poets refer to Kashmir valley as Jannat or Paradise on earth, did they meant that God lived here? Maybe , but what is for sure is the divinity of Kashmir Valley. The story of a top tourist spot, Hazrat Sheikh Zain -ud-din Wali’s shrine explores just that.
Hazrat Sheikh Zain-ud-din Wali’s Shrine, Aishmuqam is one of the most prominent tourist and religious spot in district Anantnag of UT of Jammu and Kashmir, which was built in the 15 th century A.D. This shrine was constructed in the honour of Sheikh Zain-ud-din, who was one of the chief disciples of the renowned Reshi, Shiekh Nur-ud- din. The hills in the Aishmuqam town were once home to Hazrat Zain-ud-din Wali.
Therefore, this place is considered to be sacred by people belonging to different religion. The Aishmuqam shrine complex built in Kashmiri traditional architecture by Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin has been improved and redesigned by different governments thereafter. According to popular belief, Hazrat Zain ud din Wali was born as Zia Singh in Rajput family in the Kishtwar district of UT of J&K. Zia Singh’s father Yesh Singh, the then Kishtwar ruler, is said to have been assassinated when Zia Singh was only 13 years old. Zia Singh was believed to have been suffering from some disease which took a serious turn leaving no chance of his recovery. Sheikh Nur-ud-din who said to have passed through Kishtwar just at that time and having heard of his miraculous performances, Zia Singh’s mother begged the sheikh to visit her son and pray for his recovery. The Sheikh agreed but on a promise that Zia Singh would meet him in Kashmir after his recovery.
However, as the legend goes, Zia Singh did not keep his promise. As a result, after sometime he was again confined to bed. His mother kept on crying day and night until she had a dream about her unfulfilled promise. She then promised again that she would fulfill her obligation this time if her son would recover. With the restoration of his normal health, Zia Singh proceeded to Kashmir to meet Sheikh Nur-ud -din.
The mother and the son under took the hazardous journey from Kishtwar to Bumzua, a village about 8 miles south of Aishmuqam, where Sheikh Nur – ud – din was staying at that time. Zia Singh was named Zain – ud – din and his mother as Zoon Ded. Zain – ud – din formally took oath of allegiance to him in the Reshi order and was left in the care of Baba Bam – ud – din Reshi. Among the local inhabitants the legend goes that Zain – ud – din meditated for a long time in village Mandjan of Tehsil Sopore where he attained spiritual perfection.
It was at this stage that Sheikh Nur-ud-din advised him to migrate to the cave at Aishmuqam and to meditate there for the remaining period of his life. On arrival, Sheikh Zain- ud-din found the entrance to the cave blocked by snakes, cobras and scorpions. It is said that the saint carried with him a club which he had received from his master. Seeing the serpents, he placed the club on the ground and it was instantaneously transformed into a dreadful cobra. The snakes in the cave got awe stricken and not only surrendered to the Sheikh but also vacated it and migrated to the village Phuurpujan which is about 16 miles to the east of Aishmuqam. After cleansing the cave Baba spent many years here in stern meditation surviving only on dry wild walnut kernels.
The Festival Zain – ud – din Reshi led a life with great simplicity and always spread the message of social equality. The exact date of death of the Saint is not known, but it is said to have occurred sometime in the year 1440-41. There are many stories related to his life as well as death. He was given a symbolic burial in Rozabal, Aishmuqam where the 24 graves of his closest disciples lay aside his grave. His urs or anniversary is, however, being celebrated on the 13 th day of Baisakh (falling normally in mid April). Some people say that this was the day when Sufi Saint entered the cave for the first time for the purpose of meditation, bearing a torch to guide him.
On this day congregational prayers are held which are attended by no less that 20,000 people. The devotees celebrate the occasion by burning ‘Mashals’ on the hillocks. But beyond the festive torch celebrations lies the riveting legend of the place and the event. The age-old tradition of burning Mashals called Zool in Kashmiri – is followed by religious processions. People in large numbers, irrespective of religion, caste and creed, gather inside the vicinity of the shrine to pay homage to the saint.
Contribution of Shrine to the economy of Aishmuqam is phenomenal. Economically half of the population of this township depends directly or indirectly on the pilgrim tourism. People come here to pray for their wishes to be fulfilled and they tie a sacred thread for that at the shrine. Generally followers of the Sufi sect of Islam tie such knots at shrines while making a wish. If their wish is fulfilled, they return to untie thread. Around the shrine, a makeshift village fair or sorts crops up, with vendors setting up stalls to sell merchandise.
The shrine attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of the valley every year. The shrine of Zain – ud – din is respected by all communities and they actively participate in the celebration of the anniversary. There is no restriction to the entry into the shrine which is open to visit by persons of either sex or of any community.