Rishi’s Mystic Poetry: Ouvre of the ‘Flag-bearer of Kashmir’ (Alamdār-e Kashmir)
Shonaleeka Kaul
NUND RISHI: POETRY AND POLITICS IN MEDIEVAL KASHMIR by By Abir Bazaz Cambridge University Press, 2024, 258 pp., INR 1095.00
July 2024, volume 48, No 7

To the perceptive reader, Nund Rishi: Poetry and Politics in Medieval Kashmir is a sombre book. This impression starts to build right from the rather symbolic jacket, which bears a photograph of a gloomy Charar-e Sharif mausoleum on an overcast winter day. This monument, belonging to that solitary strand of Kashmiri Sufism which once drew deeply on Hindu and Buddhist traditions, was burnt down by terrorists in 1995, signifying, some would say, the loss of a great deal more than just the shrine.

The sombre quality carries over to the book’s argument, which presents ‘negative theology’ or an emphasis on death and apocalypse as lying at the heart of its saint-protagonist’s philosophy. This runs a risk of becoming defining of the message of Kashmir’s greatest Sufi teacher, despite the fact that, as the author himself admits, these doleful motifs were not the only or even the ultimate point of the saint’s redemptive mission. Other themes such as nafs (ego), ishq (love), ilm (knowledge), sahaj (spontaneous realization) and faqr (asceticism) are not discussed here.

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