The Sage of Manigaam
"All found solace and comfort in his presence"
Known as rish v^ar (the land of rishis), Kashmir has produced a galaxy of saints and sages from times immemorial. In recent past, we have had a number of them, who have left an indelible impression on the minds of the people.
As one crossed VAYIL bridge, about two kilometers from Nunar village on Srinagar-Leh highway to set foot on the silent sleepy village of Manigaam (Mangom in the adjacent sattelite map), one came across a well-built, thinly dressed peasant engaged in plowing the field. This was none other than the divine figure of the mystic-saint popularly known as Kashkak.
Manigaam is situated at a distance of 25 kilometers from Srinagar, the summer capital of the northern Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir.
A mastana of a very high order
A married man (grahasti), Kashkak led a very simple, normal life of an ordinary householder, earning his daily bread by toiling in the fields and by tilling whatever little land he possessed till the end of his life.
He shunned publicity of any kind; he was even averse to being photographed. His spirit of renunciation and the other worldliness was exemplary.
Initiated into the Yogic discipline (Sadhana) by his guru, Narayan Bhan, a Siddha Yogi of his time, Kashkak attained Siddhi (realization) at a very young age. Once in a trance, the precocious disciple is said to have climbed a tree wearing Khadaoon, (wooden slippers). The Guru, however, cautioned restraint.
Millions thronged the tiny village
In spite of being a poor farmer, he displayed keen sense of hospitality by treating as special guests all those coming from far-off places for his darshan and opting to stay overnight. His saintly wife and children usually served all the guests a simple meal of rice, lentils, vegetables and yogurt. Also, arrangements were made for their comfortable stay at night.
Kashkak never accepted any gifts, cash or kind, from anyone. All the admirers and devotees who brought gifts were advised to either take them back or throw them in river Sindh that flowed nearby.
To be simple, to be contented, to earn one’s livelihood by honest means, to speak truth, to be good, kind and noble, and to alleviate the suffering of people around you—these were the few lessons one could learn from the open book of Kashkak’s life. His mere glance or the healing touch was enough to induce parmaarth (spirituality) and naitikta (moral fiber) in an aspirant.
One could learn a lot about his philosophy of life from whatever flowed from his lips occasionally in reply to pleas by those who sought his blessings. He laid emphasis on devotion as the chief method not only to know God but also to overcome pain and sorrow in one’s life. I very well remember the advice he gave my nephew in my presence in1958 to pay daily visit to the seat of Mother Sharika at Hari Parbat, for mitigation of his physical suffering. And when my nephew argued by saying “What will that visit achieve?” Kashkah chided him by pointing out: ”If a visit to Manigaam would not go in waste, imagine the benefit that would accrue by praying at the source of Supreme Power, Mother Sharika”. He added, worldly pain and pleasures come and go; they are evanescent. The only way to overcome suffering is to surrender to Mother Goddess.
Treated friends & foes alike
It is so true of great souls of the caliber of Kashkak, who was often heard muttering the names of China in the East, England and US in the west and so on. The spiritual domain of such great spiritual luminaries has no geographic boundaries. They belong to the whole of humanity and silently work for the good of entire mankind.
For Kashkak, there was no friend or foe, no rich or poor, no young or old and no distinction of color, caste or creed. He showered his blessings on all alike and never discriminated between members of different faiths.
Cared Little for Self
Many a time, some doubting Thomases would subject Kashkak’s bare skin to pinpricks on the pretext of massaging his legs, ostensibly to test the level of his body consciousness. Being usually engrossed in deep meditation, he had absolutely no body consciousness. That perhaps explains why the 2-inch deep sore on his leg never bothered him. The sage remained unperturbed despite the sore oozing permanently.
Here one is reminded of the great sage of Tiruvannamalai, Sri Ramana Maharishi, who allowed four-hour surgery on his cancerous arm without taking any anesthesia.
Saints and Seers visited him
Two of the contemporary saints of Kashmir- Swami Lakshman Joo and Swami Nandlalji (popularly known as Nanda Bub) also visited Manigaam to pay their respects to Kashkak.
In the first week of August 1953, Swami Nandlalji, attired as usual in a military uniform with a toy gun in hand, stationed himself in the State Secretariat just outside the office of the then State Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. The visitors to the Secretariat bore witness to the fact that the bizarre mystic had his gun pointed toward Sheikh Abdullah’s office all the while.
Meanwhile, he sent one of his devotees to Kashkak with an envelope, as if to seek his approval for something about which one could not make even the slightest guess at that time. It was, perhaps, one of the many ‘mysterious Consultations’, Nandla Bub would often hold with Kashkak on matters of grave importance to the State and the country as a whole.
What happened on August 9, 1953 is now a matter of history. Sheikh Abdullah was unceremoniously deposed on that day.
Kashkak exercised his healing touch whenever and wherever necessary. He wielded his spiritual powers (ashta siddhis) not out of any egoistic ambition to show off but only to serve God's creatures and provide succor and solace to the afflicted souls. It was said of him that he fulfilled everyone’s wishes and never disappointed anyone.
I vividly remember, during one of my visit, a Gujjar, who had sustained a fracture in his right arm came to Kashkak and implored, "Bub (father), take pity on me please; be kind and heal my arm. This is the harvesting season, and down and out as I am, my family will die of starvation if I am not alright”. The compassionate sage touched the fractured arm and, lo’ and behold, it was restored to normal health. The Gujjar sped away in joy.
One elderly Muslim, who too witnessed the healing drama was not at all happy. He made bold to ask Kashkak, "Why on earth should you have been so kind to a person who is known for his cunning?" Pat came the saint’s reply: "You won’t understand all this. We are here to help and serve those in trouble; we are here to simplify and not complicate matters. If the Gujjar’s arm was not cured immediately, his family, his innocent children, would have suffered for no fault of theirs. If, indeed, as you say, the Gujjar is a bad person, he cannot escape the fruit of his moral lapses. He will have to go through the hell after the harvesting season". As I learnt later, the Gujjar had to go through normal medical process long after the harvesting season.
In summer of 1942, my revered father asked Kashkak as to when would my mother’s maternal cousin who accompanied us to the saint on that occasion was going to get married. Kashkak replied, " Yora Gachhith ta Tora Yith", meaning "He will marry when he comes back after he goes from here”. The subtler meaning was that he would not get married in this life but only in his next birth. The said gentleman from downtown, Srinagar, remained unmarried till his death in the 84th year in 1997.
During our visit to the sage in August 1953, we prayed for his blessings to our first child, who was just one and a half year old but was sickly and could hardly digest food. He told us: “Do not worry about the child’s eating. He has had his full in his past life when he was in Vilayat (England). Once he goes back there, he will start eating again. We could not by any stretch of imagination think at that time that exactly 40 years later, the boy would be settling in the US.
On another occasion, while sitting in his presence under the shade of a huge banyan tree, a short distance from his house, two ladies were heard screaming at each other very loudly. A little later we learnt that it was the usual verbal fight between Kashkak’s two daughters-in-law. While the elder one was of a virtuous disposition, the younger one was shrewish in nature. After the screaming and shouting was over, the younger daughter-in-law passed by with an empty pitcher on her head on her way to the nearby Sindh river to fetch water. The silent unperturbed sage sighed and murmured to himself “ Have you finished the quarrel? How many more days of it now?”
One could not immediately gauge the significance of these remarks. During my next visit, however, I learnt that the lady had died within four months of that ugly incident.
Beyond the Starry Influence
On learning from my nephew that Kashkak knew about my interest in astrological sciences, a thought crossed my mind that I should try to procure the horoscope of the sage and examine its planetary combinations, if only to satisfy my research instinct. During the very next visit to Manigaam, I made bold to whisper into the ears of the great mystic my request for his horoscope.
Without showing any displeasure, the seer retorted, “Why do you want my astrological chart? What are your planets going to do to me?” For a moment, I was speechless. But before I could summon the courage to repeat my request, I thought to myself: “Well, Kashkak is right perhaps. Good or bad accruing from the favorable or unfavorable position of planets may affect small minds like me, but not men of Olympic spiritual heights like him.”
In the summer of 1938, one of my relations and a devotee of Kashkak went to Manigaam to seek his blessings for a male progeny. Kashkak in his usual cryptic manner said: The significance of the Kashmiri proverb was clear and the gentleman was blessed with yet another daughter soon after.
Yet another relation of mine visited Kashkak in 1946 to pray for the recovery of his arthritis in his knees. He was 27 at that time. Without mincing words, the sage said: “You will have to live with the disease till your end”. And the gentleman suffered the ailment till his death in his 82nd year.
Continues to Bless Devotees
One of my cousins, a teacher by profession and a woman of great faith and devotion, faced great hardship soon after she and her family had been forced out of their homeland in the wake of widespread terrorist menace in 1990. Living in Ajmer as a refugee, she was not able to draw her salary like other refugees in exile, because her official records had not been sent to Delhi, caught as they were in red tape. Though she had not seen Kashkak in person during her life time, she had heard a lot about his healing powers, In utter desperation, she posted a letter in Ajmer for Manigaam praying to Kashkak for divine help. Believe it or not, her prayer was answered within two to three weeks of the posting of the said letter to the great saint, almost 30 years after he had passed into the Beyond..
*G.N. Raina retired from Indian Information Service (I.I.S.) in 1983 after completing 35 years as a distinguished editor, correspondent, commentator and administrator; All India Radio; Editor, AICC Journal, Varnika, (Jan.'84-Dec.'90); Editor-in-Chief, Koshur Samachar (March'91-Oct.-'95; Editor-in-Chief, Sanatana Sandesh, an official publication of South Florida Hindu Temple, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1997-2005); Editor-in-Chief of KASHEER, magazine (2003-2004), He presently lives in Miami, and spends his time writing personal memoirs.
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