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Of the Great Rabi-Al-Awal Days and Hollowed Ghat

 

Of Hollowed Ghat and Boat Rides

ZGM

Those were the days of ‘innocent faith.’ Much before the goatherds, with their flock of ewes and goats passed through our lane and their tinkling bells made me toss aside warm quilt, it would be sound of wooden clogs (Khraw) and chants of elderly Kashmiri Hindu men and women on the way to the Parbat that woke me up. Many an elderly Brahmans on the way to a temple at the foothill of a hillock, out of devoutness some of them did not wear leather boots, used the wooden clogs. The tick-tock sounds of the wooden clogs, many times made me curious if it was not the supernatural being paasickdar or passi-akhardar that was walking on the road outside and out of curiosity I peeped through latticed into the dark street.   Every one of us at home believed that the
paasickdar guarded our house and in the middle of the night came down from the attic of the house to the ground floor for ablution to perform the Tahajjud in the bhahtahk (drawing room). The belief had got strengthened after some devotional Persian couplets were scripted by a papier-mâché artist, on the walls of the drawing room. 
On some festive occasion, in wee hours, the low sounding incantations would get louder when a good number of middle-aged and young from the community would join the lonesome elderly Saraswat Brahmins, men, and women. Many of them carried a bouquet of marigold popularly carried Bhatta posh, and some took a brass pot called Gadawa in their hands. Despite, my curiosity, I never tried to know what was inside the bowl.   
Nonetheless, the street would start buzzing with hymns in praise of God and Prophet Mohammad (SAW) during two months of Islamic calendar much before the Blue whistling thrush accompanied by other birds began singing songs. From 11th Safar, the second month of the Islamic calendar hundreds of Muslims, in wee hours started pouring into our street on the way to the Astana of the native saint Sultan-Ul-Arifeen Hazrat Sheikh Hamza Makhdum, for saying congregational Fajr prayers. In chilly winters, when icicles from thatched roofs touched the ground, I have seen devotees walking two to three miles on the icy roads as good as good as glass braving the freezing mornings climbing hundred and sixty stairs up to the Khanaqah in the precincts of the Astana for saying the prayers.  The journey continued for thirteen days till 24th of Safar- day of the Urs of the saint. I remember, my elder sibling and I, even in very classes of schooling used to be part of the morning caravan. 
The sighting of Rabi -Al -Awwal moon, used to be as joyous as spotting crescents of Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, and of the holy month of Ramadan. From, first of Rabi- Al –Awwal the street outside our home once again came to life, hours before it would be dawn, with devotees on the way to the Hazratbal humming the religious hymns. Some of them boarded the Kashmir Motor Driver (KMD) buses at the Nowhatta crossing. The fare from Nowhatta was initially two annas then four annas. Three to four buses remained parked for the entire night for till 12th Rabi -Al –Awwal, the day of birth of the last messenger of God. But, a more significant number of the Muslims, men, women, young and old from all parts of the city walked to Dargah- as the Hazratbal was popularly known. Some broke, the journey at Khoja Yarabal – a Ghat one of the clear stream that on the side connected the Nageen Lake via Nawapora to the Mar Canal and on another side via Nageen to Hazratbal for embarking on a boat. Some boats carried as many thirty passengers and some lesser number. Like many other children of our Mohalla, I loved to accompany my grandmother on the boat journey and being part of the massive gathering in the morning prayers. Some devotees, before embarking on the boat performed ablution, and along the journey send Salaam to Prophet.  Besides being an embarking point for Hazratbal for its connection to Khoja Saib as Khawaja Syed Bha-u-Deen Naqsaband was known to us, the Ghat had become a consecrated place for us.  

 

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