Those were 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 asidewarm quilt, it would be the sound of wooden clogs (Khraw) and chants of elderly Kashmiri Hindu men and women on the way tothe Parbat that woke me up. On the way to a temple at the foothill of a hillock, some Brahmans did not wear leather boots but used wooden clogs. The wooden clogs’ tick-tock sounds often 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 paasickdarguarded our house. And, in the middle of the night, he came down from the atticto the ground floor for ablution to perform the Tahajjud in the bhahtahk (drawing room).
On some festive occasion, the low sounding incantations of Brahmans would get louder in wee hours when a good number of middle-aged and young from the community would join the lonesome elderly Saraswat Brahmins, men, and women. Many carried a bouquet of marigolds, popularly known Bhatta posh, and some tooka brass pot called Gadawa in their hands. Despite my curiosity, I never tried to understand what was inside the bowl.
Nonetheless, the street would start buzzing with hymns praising God and Prophet Mohammad (SAW) during two months of the Islamic calendar, much before the Blue whistling thrush accompanied by other birds begansinging songs. From 11th Safar, the secondmonth 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 to reach the mausoleum of the saint. On the icy roads as good as glass braving the freezing mornings climbing hundred and sixty stairs up to the Khanaqah to say Fajar prayers. The journey continued for thirteen days till the 24th of Safar- the day of the Urs of the saint. Even in primary schooling classes, I remember my elder sibling and I 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 streams that 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. Before embarking on the boat, some devotees performed ablution, and along the journey, send Salaamto 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.
Z.G.Muhammad is a noted writer and columnist