Nund Reshi or Sheikh Noor ud-Din Wali, also popularly known as Sheikh ul-Alam, was a Kashmiri mystic. He is oft regarded as the patron saint of Kashmiris.
It is said that Nund Reshi spent over 12 years meditating in a cave having given up worldly life and turned ascetic – a seemingly Buddhist path to enlightenment. However, it was during his lifetime that Kashmir transitioned from Hinduism to Islam and having witnessed this conversion, he wrote about it to spread the message as well as knowledge of the new religion. His syncretic background and life however, led him to be equally revered across religions in the valley. Till date, his shrine in Kashmir is thronged with devotees from diverse backgrounds.
In line with the poetic device of his time, he wrote shruik – philosophical and spiritual poetic couplets, either with four or eight verses. Shrukh translates into ‘knot’ in Kashmiri and just like a tight knot, his verses need to be untangled to get their full essence. One of his most quoted couplets, especially in a world faced with climate change, is below,
“An poshi teli,
Yeli van poshi”
Food will thrive only
Till the woods survive
He also went around sharing verses of common wisdom that were later recorded by people; some of which we find even repeated across cultures.
“Yus kari gongul,
Sui kari kraw”
He who sows,
Shall be the one to harvest too.
“Kartal Phtrem ta garimas drati”
I broke the sword and molded sickles out of it.
He also talks of God’s omnipotence in this spiritual epithet.
“Yus chu yeti, Suei chu tati,
Suei chu prath jaaye ratith makaan,
Suei chu pyade, Suei chu Rathi,
Suei chu soruiy, Gapith paan.”
He who is here, is also there
For it is he who holds a home everywhere
He is the pawn, he is the chariot
He is everything, unseen and unknown.
But does not refrain from expressing his disdain for organized religion, in a humorous and lighthearted manner.
“Malla vuchum moshi khywan
Haakas dapan chui kacch
Baekir khyavan daekir travaan
Mashidyan dapan yi chuv yacch”
I saw a preacher eat beef today,
Complaining all greens were weed.
Eating sweet breads, burping away,
Telling the mosque it was the ogre’s greed.