For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser.

Aishmuqam: Revisiting History

The historic shrine of Hazrat Zain-ud-Din Wali, who led a life of simplicity spreading the messages of social equality
12:00 AM Jun 07, 2024 IST | Prof Upendra Kaul
aishmuqam  revisiting history

One of the very famous places in Kashmir which one passes through about 20 kms before reaching the touristic place Pahalgam, is Aishmuqam. It is located on the right side of the Srinagar-Anantnag-Pahalgam road on the top of a  hillock.


It cannot be missed as a structure with a pyramidal type of roofing in four tiers finally culminating into the rising steeple of the pagoda. At present it is a beautiful village, a bustling market with friendly and helpful people and the area has become a major stop for tourists, who are on their way to the scenic Pahalgam, besides getting a glimpse of the historic shrine. The shrine can be reached by climbing 272 steps from the road.


The place has a very rich past and was the abode of Rishi Baba Zain ud Din. Zain ud Din was one of the important disciples of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din (Nund rishi) ‘Alamdar e Kashmir”, a great spiritual personality who focused on the cultural aspects of Kashmir valley in 14th and 15th century.


The childhood name of Baba Zain ud Din who was the son of Jai Singh a Rajput ruler of Rukan near Bandakot in Kishtwar was Zia Singh or Zaina Singh. He was brought up by his mother because his father had been killed by his enemies. As the legend goes the child became very sick and doctors could not cure him.


This left his mother crying and praying to the Almighty. Nund Rishi is said to be travelling in Kishtwar that time and met her. Seeing the wailing mother, he cured the child with his spiritual healing powers but asked her to bring him to Charar-i Sharief which was his  abode. The mother in the joy of seeing her child cured and playing around, forgot the advice of the Rishi.


The child again became very sick and mother remembered the words of Nund Rishi. This time she took him to Kashmir and finally got to meet him in Bamzu a place near Mattan (District Anantnag) in presence of Baba Bam ud Din Rishi. He received the blessings of Sheikh ul Alam and got a spiritual status after teachings. He then started his meditations and preaching of Islam.


The young Zain ud Din led a life of simplicity spreading the messages of social equality. This was the time when he was instructed to settle in a cave at Aishmuqam, where he could meditate in search of the truth. When he reached the cave, he saw it full of snakes and pythons.


He told them in his spiritual language that the cave has to be vacated since it had been allotted to him. Snakes left the cave for the Baba who entered there and meditated for years and attained the enlightenment. From thence, he became known as Baba Zain ud Din, Rishi.

Sultan Zain ul Abdin the ruler of Kashmir hearing about the Baba, decided to meet the Saint at Aishmuqam. He, however, was not given any special reception and was made to wait. Feeling insulted the king left in a huff and issued an order evicting him from the cave and sent to Tibet.

While in Tibet, Baba continued his preaching of Islam, making lot of people to join the Rishi order. Meanwhile the Sultan became very sick and the royal doctors could not cure him. The king thus realised his mistake and sent his son, Haidar Khan to go to Tibet to meet the Baba and plead for mercy. Baba returned and forgave the king who recovered soon.

Baba Zain ud Din while in the cave used to eat only small quantity of vegetables and walnut kernels, being a total vegetarian. He had made Aishmuqam a major centre for propagation of Islam and maintained a free Langar (Kitchen) for the poor, earning him the title of Sakhi – “the Generous”. Sufi devotees believe that no one goes empty handed from the Baba’s shrine. One can see lot of devotees singing hymns and loudly asking for his blessings and even crying, while in a queue to enter the cave.

At the entry of the main cave, they tie coloured threads (Dasshie) after asking for a wish. When the wish is fulfilled, it is expected that the devotees would return and untie the thread. The shrine is always full of people from all over the valley and outside coming to have a glimpse of the cave, seeking their problems to be solved.

The priests of the Ziarat say that there is a wooden bread which is preserved in the shrine. It is believed that the Baba used to tie it around his belly when he had nothing to eat during the extremes of weather. In addition, there are a few more relics - a wooden rod which is believed to pull you up if held in the hand, a bow and arrow, a coffin and skull of a lamb. All these are not shown to the pilgrims and their existence is written in some of the historic documents regarding the shrine.

Baba left his human body in 1440, when he ordered all his disciples to go out for ablutions for his last funeral prayers. When they returned, they were aghast to see the coffin empty. He was then given a symbolic burial in Rozabal Aishmuqam.

As the saying goes Baba came in a dream to one of his friends and told him to dig the grave, at the spot where the coffin was kept. This was done accordingly. There are several of his disciples who are also buried in designated areas around the entry to the cave. A Bollywood hit movie “Bajrangi Bhaijan” starring Salman Khan had an important “Qawwali- Bhar de Jholi…”  shot at this popular venue around the Ziarat in 2015.

The Aishmuqam shrine complex was built in a typical Kashmiri architecture by Sultan Zain ul Abdin. It has since been improved and redesigned first by Auqaf Trust and then Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Waqf Board along with successive governments.

Prof Upendra Kaul, Founder Director Gauri Kaul Foundation