Monday, September 17, 2012

How Maharaja Met Krishna Joo Razdan

The two were poles apart. Maharaja Pratap Singh was the king of the state of Jammu & Kashmir hailing from the famous Jamwal Rajput clan. Krishna Joo Razdan was a small landlord in a small village of Kashmir, born and brought up in a Kashmiri Pandit family. The only commonality about them was that both were born in the year 1850, the former at Reasi and the latter at Vanpoh. The other related commonality was that in both the cases, some regard 1948 as the real year of birth. One was a wise ruler with great concern for the people and a keen interest in the development of the state. The other was a village head that had blossomed into a poetic genius and was also prone to saintliness. How the two met and became instant admirers of each other is obviously a matter of chance. 

Krishna Joo Razdan, the renowned saint-poet of Kashmir, was married into the well-known Kaul family of Vessu, a small village off the National Highway leading to Srinagar, roughly midway between Quazigund and Khannabal, two tiny townships again on the National Highway leading to Srinagar. The well-known Kauls had traditional access to the durbar of Maharaja Pratap Singh. Kauls were prone to flaunt the poetic genius and the astrological prowess of their son-in-law, among the king's courtiers in the durbar.

Once it so happened that a cousin of Maharaja Pratap Singh, himself a ruler of Poonch, fell seriously ill. The Maharaja was, naturally, very worried. A pall of gloom fell upon the durbar in Srinagar. Kauls were summoned from Vessu and dispatched to Krishna Joo Razdan (KJR for short) to give his astrological advice. KJR thought for a while after making some calculations and advised that the king be advised to do "anna daan", (offering of food) indicating that his days were numbered. By the time this message was carried to the Maharaja, he had received a telegram stating that the health of his cousin King had shown signs of improvement. The Kauls went back to KJR for consultation. KJR reiterated his earlier advice of "anna daan" and when they reached Srinagar again, the Maharaja had received another telegram stating that his cousin and King of Poonch was no more.

When this story reached the ears of Maharaja some weeks later, he expressed his desire to see KJR, who, as stated earlier, was also a landlord and doubled up as the village head of Khirmani-Ganesh Raina, the landed jaagir named after his father, Ganesh Raina, in the state revenue records. Since the annual festival of Mata Khir Bhawani was round the corner and KJR was an ardent devotee of Maej Raagnya Bhagwati, as Kashmiri Pandits would call her, a meeting was arranged on the sidelines between His Excellency, Maharaja Pratap Singh and Krishna Joo Razdan. Formalities over, the first question that the Maharaja is said to have asked of KJR was as to whose pooja would the king perform as a morning ritual. Pat came the reply, "Shiver" - a bird whose worship is believed to bring good luck to the rulers. Surprised though, but without looking so, the shrewd Maharaja told KJR that he would accept him as a saint if the colour of the water of the spring holding the statue of Mata Khir Bhawani would change there and then. It is said that KJR instantly won the respect of the Maharaja; because the water changed its colours as His Excellency, the Maharaja had wished.

Having put to test the spiritual prowess of KJR, the Maharaja told him that the former had been writing bhakti poetry in Kashmiri and that he would accept his poetic genius if he would compose a a bhakti bhajan in Dogri, again, there and then. KJR had passed such trials by fire even before his Guru when other disciples had alleged that KJR only fiddled with the poetry written by others and that he could not write on his own. To silence his detractors, there and then, the Guru had asked him in the very presence of his disciples to sing a bhajan on dal lake because the entourage was enjoying the scenic beauty of the lake in a boat. And thus was born the famous Kashmiri bhajan that reads thus:

"Sara kor samsaar nadurui draav,
Dal ma hasha tseta kiya pamposh chhaaw"

This bhajan described the entire Kashmiri advait shaivite philosophy while drawing parallels between the spiritual terminology and the names of the things that abounded in and around the dal lake. The instant use of the sweet metaphors, similes, alliterations and assonances in the musical quatrains devised on the spot had gone a long way in establishing not only his spiritual authority but also in regarding him as a "poet of poets" for the simplicity of language that demystified the Kashmiri shaivism and his style started being copied by his contemporaries and his juniors.

And now it was the Maharaja's turn, in a way, to baptize KJR by the same fire! His honour and prestige were at stake. How could KJR not dispose when the King himself had proposed? And after a brief moment of contemplation, KJR composed the following Dogri bhajan, there and then, to the delight of the Maharaja:
Shiv Shiv kariyo jeeta mariyo
Man mein phiriyo Shiv simran
Shiv Shiv kar ke din raat bhariyo
Man mein phiriyo Shiv simran
Man ke Shiv shivalay mein jayiyo
Us mein paayiyo Shiv Keshav
Us Shivji ko kariyo pratikshan
Man mein phiriyo Shiv simran

It is said that KJR never visited the Maharaja in his durbar. Nor did he ever ask for any favour from the King. This was apparently because KJR was a firm believer in "Prarabdha" or what we, in common parlance, call destiny, about which he has written eloquently in so many of his beautiful poems. Only when the Maharaja would travel from Jammu to Srinagar or vice-versa, would he either visit KJR at his home at Vanpoh, KJR's native village on way to Srinagar; or simply send for him a "Nazrana" as a token of respect, that, as they say, was usually an amount of Rs.11/- accompanying a basket of the seasonal fresh fruit or almonds and cardamom.

By B L Razdan

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