Pandit Peer

The age-old tradition of faith-healing has survived both modernity and conflict. Faith-healers cutting across religious lines still command following that baffle professionals. Bilal Handoo profiles one of the last surviving Pandit faith-healer who stayed back for sake of his followers

pandit peer (2)

Kaloosa in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district is relatively quiet contrary to the main buzzing bazaar. At the fringe of the locality—planted with leafless walnut trees, scores of desolated Pandit houses make their palpable presence. Many of these Pandit abodes in Ahangar Mohalla have been weathered down into rubbles over the period of time. But one house is still bursting with life, laughter and love. The house belongs to Moti Lal Bhat, 80, a pandit faith-healer.

Other than faith-healing, Bhat is also discharging his duties as the village watchman. Being an elder, he is regarded with reverence by all. “He is altogether a different person,” says a local bread-maker, just outside Bhat’s residence in Ahangar Mohalla. “He is god-fearing, good-natured and above all, a community man.”

A traditional wooden door of Bhat residence opens into the compound dotted with typical rural backdrop. There is a heap of pale yellow grass stacked at one corner, while rest of the space is planted with trees. Bhat is sitting at the window in the front room of his medieval house. And inside the room, he is busy attending a Muslim lady—his follower. His smiling wife and brooding grandchild are quietly sitting at the corner of the room, listening to the concerns whispered by the lady. In this poorly-lit room, portraits of Bhat clicked in his young age are hung at the ceiling above his head. A sweet aroma has filled the room.

As the lady details how her prospecting son-in-law’s heart has changed, Bhat responds by turning bead after bead on rosary. After sometime, he breaks his thoughtful stance. “My Sultan [Makhdoom Sahab] will take care of everything,” he assures. He recites some religious hymns and hands over some folded paper to the lady. “Don’t worry. Use it. Everything will be fine.”

Bhat is known faith-healer in Bandipora, whose followers cut across the religious lines. He says, most of his followers are Muslim, who frequently visit him to seek help in fate-related matters. Retired as a mid-level official in Bandipora Post Office, Bhat is father of two sons and three daughters. One of his sons works in Kashmir University, while other is a College lecturer.

Kaloosa used to house nearby 60 odd Pandit families till 1990. As scores in minority community migrated to Jammu, Bhat stayed back and lived a “peaceful life” with his Muslim neighbours all these years. “I was never allowed to go,” he says. “At one point of time, I also followed the footsteps of my Pandit brethren, but my Muslim neighbours stopped me by saying, ‘we will sacrifice our own lives if anyone touches you.’ And yes, they really stood with me and my family like a rock. Let me tell you, in Kaloosa, no Pandit household was ever torched, no provocative slogans were ever pitched against Pandits and no Pandit was touched or assaulted.”

As Bhat stayed put, five other Pandit families in Ahangar Mohalla gave up the idea of migration. Most of them have dispersed in different states of India for livelihood now. During the peaked militancy, Bhat married off his elder son in south Kashmir. Time was challenging, he says, and very critical for public movement, “but nobody touched us. We were given a safe passage.” And soon, he married off all his daughters in New Delhi, and his Muslim neighbours helped him during such occasions.

But attending followers isn’t a post-retirement engagement for him. He is into faith-healing for almost 50 years now. His mother was a saintly lady who, he says, was a known faith-healer in the area. “After my mother passed away, I became a default heir of the legacy she left behind,” he says, in a calm, but deep voice.

A sudden buzz on his cell phone breaks his speaking flow. On the other side of phone, one of his followers is informing him about certain problem. After giving him a patient hearing, Bhat replies, “Don’t worry, it is a small problem. Do one thing, visit me tomorrow.” And then, he resumes talk.

He doesn’t give credit to himself for making things happening for his followers. “I am no one to make things workable for people who visit me,” he says. “It is almighty who is doing it. I consult religious literatures which offer solutions as how to tackle ill phase of life, misfortune, mental imbalances and other behavioural issues. Rest, almighty is the supreme healer!”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here