by Dr Nisar Farhad

Over the past millennium, Kashmir has been home to a distinguished array of saints, seers, and scholars, whose contributions have significantly influenced and refined the lives of the local populace. Many of these revered figures chose to pursue periods of meditation in caves, mountains, and forests.

Medieval Kashmir mystic Ruma Reshi’s cave is located at Rahmoo in Pulwama.

The Ruma Reshi Cave, situated in Rahmoo, derives its name from the esteemed Islamic saint Hazrat Ruma Reshi. Rahmoo, a sprawling village adorned with verdant orchards of apple, walnut, and almond trees, lies 7 kilometres to the west of Pulwama district.

The Kashmir Valley, celebrated for its scenic allure, holds a distinct position as a sacred land where the influential forces of Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism have intersected. In antiquity, before the advent of Islam in the medieval era, Kashmir was recognised as the land of Parvati or Rishi Bhumi. Over time, it came to be known as Pir Waer, signifying an abode of Sufis and saints. This spiritual presence manifests through the sanctified shrines and caves dedicated to these revered figures.

Historically, during Mahmud Ghaznavi’s invasions of India and Kashmir, numerous saints arrived in the region. Through their exemplary conduct, virtues, accomplishments, revelations, and miracles, they effectively facilitated the conversion of the local populace to Islam. The people bestowed upon them the title of Rishi. This transition is palpable in the enduring legacy of shrines and caves that stand as testaments to the spiritual transformation brought about by these influential figures.

Over the past millennium, Kashmir has been home to a distinguished array of saints, seers, and scholars, whose contributions have significantly influenced and refined the lives of the local populace. Many of these revered figures chose to pursue periods of meditation in caves, mountains, and forests. Among them is Ruma Reshi, acknowledged by Hazrat Sheikh Ul Aalam in the following verses:

Awal reshi ahmed reshi doyim owais qarni aow
Treyim reshi zulka reshi churim reshi pulaas aow
Panchim reshi ruma reshi sheyim hazrat miran aow
Satmis skerhum dish naheshi bo kuss reshi ti meh kiya naav

In interpreting Sheikh Ul Aalam Nooruddin Rishi’s, also known as Nunda Reshi, speech, it becomes evident that Ahmed Reshi refers to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and Owais Reshi pertains to Hazrat Owais Qarni. The remaining five Rishis, with Hazrat Sheikh Ul Aalam being the fifth, are distinctly Kashmiri. Zulka Reshi is linked to Dandak Van Kamraj, a forest in the Hamal area, where Hazrat Sheikh Ul Aalam locates Zulka Reshi’s abode.

Regarding Miran Reshi, Sheikh Ul Aalam describes his incessant struggle with the nafs, providing it with minimal sustenance solely for dental hygiene. Ruma Reshi is attributed to creating a place in paradise, leading some scholars to equate him with Hazrat Khidr (as).

However, this correlation is dismissed, as Hazrat Khidr (as) is believed to persist until the Day of Judgement, making the concept of a place in heaven irrelevant. Hazrat Sheikh Ul Aalam pays homage to these Reshis, asserting their devotion to Allah in the bygone era, and expressing his deep reverence for their spiritual legacy.

Hazrat Ruma Rishi’s historical origins trace back to the era of Kashmir’s last Queen, Kota Rani, reigning from 1323 to 1338. Legend has it that during Raja Jaishankar’s conquest of India, Ruma Reshi accompanied his army on a tour of Kashmir. He sought seclusion in a cave in Rahmoo Pulwama, a village that still bears his name. Preferring a diet of wild herbs and greens, he abstained from meat and grains, maintaining a silent and solitary existence.

As his life ended, Ruma Rishi consumed only milk, reducing his once-blessed frame to mere skin and bones. Dawar Reshi, Sheeban Reshi, and Angun Reshi served him until their passing, after which he lived in solitude, with mountain goats seemingly providing milk as needed. Miraculously, when a fire was required, moisture on a tree branch would ignite upon blowing, ready to kindle a flame, thus goes the legend.

During his wanderings in the Yaron forests, wild animals would accompany him. A stint in the Nagarkot area saw him embrace a reclusive life for numerous years. His encounter with a thorn led to a painful injury, and his exclamation, “It’s a very bad thorn, its seed is lost,” resulted in the disappearance of thorns from Punjab for sixteen years by divine intervention, goes another legend.

In his later years, Lederman Reshi attended to Hazrat Ruma Rishi, who, having heard of his feats, was approached by Mahmud Ghaznavi during his encampment in Kashmir in 1021 CE. The sage provided the king with a piece from his saddle, asserting that attaching it to his flag would keep his sword sharp throughout the war.

Once, suffering from severe winter cold, Ruma Reshi exclaimed about the hidden sun, prompting its appearance and the subsequent absence of snow and cold in Kashmir for six years. Legend holds that Ruma Reshi lived to be 322 years old, with each passing year bringing forth new teeth. It is believed that he entered the cave, never to return, spending his lengthy life in meditation.

Kashmiris, when bestowing blessings upon the younger generation, often recite the words, Gaach Aasinay Ruma Reshyuon Aay. Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor, in his renowned poem Volla Karayo Lolamata Laay Madno, eloquently captures the enduring legacy of Ruma Rishi’s lengthy existence:

chashmi bad door aesinayi husnuk bosh
(you are beautiful…the evil eye is spared!
but your beauty makes you vain!youforget )
Tharri akkis aeyi chhi folimaet isaasbaedi posh
(each bush bears a thousand identical flowers)
rum reyshina eyilogyoaayimadno
(may you live as long as ruma rishi)

The revered Sufi Mystic poet Shamas Fakir from the 19th century referenced Hazrat Ruma Reshi (RA) in his speech, expressing admiration for the spiritual qualities associated with him:

“shamas faqeerun karsa pai,
(do a favour to Shamas Faqeer)
Rum Reshunde ta saai,
(like you granted to Rumreshi)
ishqeh tangal peyemtatiyeh
(oh! my friend convey this to my beloved)
(my beloved take me too lightly)
(oh! my friend convey this to my beloved)”

The cave, measuring approximately five meters in width and three meters in height, is believed to have multiple rooms, extending beyond reach. Due to its historical, mystic, and religious significance, devotees visit the cave to seek blessings, tying threads in niches and offering prayers for granted boons. Despite its profound historical and spiritual importance, the neglect from both the administration and the Archaeological Department has left the sacred cave in disrepair, with only a small mosque remaining inside.

Dr Nisar Farhad (Chemistry)

Preserving this holy site, along with others in the valley, is not solely a cultural or spiritual concern; it is recognised as a human right under international law. Article 25 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples asserts that “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.”

(The author teaches Chemistry in the Department of School Education. Details in the write-up have not been fact-checked by the editor. Ideas are personal.)


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