Taki-e-Sangresh, a pearl of hospitality

  • Auqib Salam
  • Publish Date: Mar 11 2019 5:49AM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Mar 11 2019 5:58AM
Taki-e-Sangresh, a pearl of hospitalityPhoto: Kashmir Ink

On the foothills of majestic Khimbar mountains on the outskirts of the ancient city of Srinagar, decedents of Reshis who had arrived centuries ago with a saint named Samad Reshi, locally Know as Sang Resh, are upholding their traditions of hospitality and simple old school lifestyle.

Living in a village in lap of the Khimber mountains, the Reshis have preserved their way of life all through the centuries. They are known for their simplicity, traditions and an annual Urs where everyone is welcomed with open arms.Every year at the end of February, the secluded hamlet known as Taki-e-Sangresh hosts hundreds of devotees on the eve of the Urs. As part of the Reshi culture, the Urs begins with an open invitation to all.

Arranging to put up the hundreds of guests who come from all over Kashmir and serve them food is an activity the villagers consider a sacred duty.

 

The village:

 

Comprising all of around two dozen households, the village Taki-e-Sangresh, some 30 kilometers from Srinagar is dotted with old style mud houses. The village sits at the very end of Srinagar district, secluded and away from other hamlets.A motorable road connected the village only a few years back. Before that, people used to travel on foot all the way to other villages in the plains. Even today, this Srinagar village is without a shop.“We usually bring food supplies in bulk. It got easier since the village road became motorable,” a resident said. The location of the village had a serious impact on its literacy. The locals say that most of the students would abandon studies after passing 8th grade as they needed to walk miles downhill for the nearest high school.

"I remember a few decades back our primary school was abandoned as no teacher was ready to come here,” Nazir Reshi, the village head said, explaining why the literacy rate of the village was less than 30 percent.

Moreover, the village is yet to begin partaking in the internet revolution as most of the cellular networks do not reach here given the high altitude and mountainous terrain. The members of Reshi clan are predominantly farmers, craftsmen and labourers. "Only around 4 to 5 people are associated with menial government jobs, rest of us do farming and other things for livelihood,” said another villager, Irfan Reshi.

 

The origin:

 

The Reshis of Taki-e-Sangresh say that during the era of Sufi saints like Makhdoom Sahab, a saint named Samad Reshi came to the mountains of Khimber. He was followed by two disciples who were a couple. The saint asked them to settle at the place that came to be known as Taki-e-Sangresh.

“I have heard from my grandparents that the saint who had roots in Ganderbal came here for worshiping in isolation. He lived here along with his disciples and with time brought more followers from different places of Kashmir,” Ghulam Mohiuddin Reshi, an elderly villager said.

The villager share a common belief that the saint was spotted by a shepherd when the whole area used to be a dense forest.

“Although it was all dense forest around but no one was ever harmed. Even today, our faith and our way of life has kept us at bay from wild animals. You will find no incidents of snake bites or bear attacks, even though the place is full of wild animals,” Habibullah Reshi, an octogenarian villager said.

Residents of the closest villages consider this Reshi clan the custodian of the Shrine of Tak-i-Sangresh as the later have been hosting people from centuries at their humble village.

 

The annual Urs:

Every year hundreds of devotees visit the place during the annual Urs which is celebrated end of February. This annual festival has become the real identity of Reshis in the area. It is the time when they get in touch with the people of other villages and Srinagar. “It is the time people get to know us and what we are known for. We get to host them and show them our hospitality and way of living. It is like worship for us,” said Qayoom Reshi, a resident.

The villagers say that the number of devotees on annual Urs has increased since a road a couple of years back connected the village. But the village with little population still doesn’t have any transport service for its residents.The elders of the village are a repository of tales surrounding the Urs and the Reshis. It is said that the resident saint once helped one of the devotees find his rooster that was lost in the woods. The villager offered the bird to the saint as a gift.

“We have heard from our elders that the humble offering to the saint marked the beginning of the annual Urs,” said an elderly villager.

Given the background, the main dish served during the Urs is rooster cooked with a green leaf called ‘Wapal haak’ in Kashmiri. Interestingly, it grows wild on the foothills of Taki-e-Sangresh.

A few days before the Urs, the whole Reshi clan gets ready to host the devotees. Each house hosts dozens of people daily, mostly unknown to them.

“We start the preparation a week before. Although we have a very humble house but we feel delighted to host hundreds of people and serve them our traditional meals,” said Nazir Ahmed Reshi, the village head whose family serves at least 80 people during the Urs.The Urs goes on for around two days with people from whole adjoining areas of Burzahama, Khimber, Syedpora, Chatrahama coming to the annual gathering. During the period, the villagers also arrange for the stay of the devotees. Several groups of youth engage themselves in planning for the Urs a week before.“There is no restriction or any formal invitation needed, we take as many as friends as possible and everyone is welcomed,” said Bilal Ahmad, who is a regular visitor to the Urs.

The people living in nearby areas have also inculcated the traditions and the dish of ‘Wapal Haak’ and rooster is cooked during the Urs as a mark of devotion to the saint of Taki-e-Sangresh.

Traditional way of Life:

“I am already in my 90’s and I have never visited a doctor from my childhood till my hair turned grey. In my childhood, our faith and home remedies used to be our best doctors,” said Rahti Reshi, an elder lady of the village.

Rahti says that she gave birth to all her children here in mountains without going to any hospital.

“Our young generation are dependent on medicines because of the adulteration of food,” she said.

The elders say that the area used to be rich in maize and other crops and everything they ate was pure.

“Even today we eat from our own farms as more than 90% of our working people are dependent on farming," a villager said.

While talking about their traditional food, Rahti recalls Pinga, Ganhaar, Waat and some other items they used to eat decades ago. Almost all of them are vanished now.

The village used to be a hub of herbal medicines used locally for healing. Many among these medicinal herbs are still grow in the hills of Taki-e-Sangresh.

“The area used to be known for its homegrown pure eatables like eggs, butter, ghee and honey. Not a single item was sold in the market, but stored up for the guests that visited the shrine,” Rahti said.

The elderly lady while talking about the tradition of hospitality and the giving nature of the villagers recalled a village tradition.

“When I was a child, hosting people and celebrating was not limited to the Urs, the agricultural class of our village used to arrange a feast know as Bandaar before going for annual harvest,” she said. The village has no modern filtration plan and gets its water directly from springs through pipes.

The area also acts as a gateway to many trekking routes to spots like Badi-Marg in the mountains of Khimber. For centuries, the Reshi youth have acted as guides for nature loving trekkers who come here to explore the area.

“I have trekked a lot through this area and I remember when we would reach the village, they would always amaze us with their hospitality,” Mudasir Ahmad, a trekking enthusiast from Harwan said.“At times, they would accompany us without charging us a single penny. Such is the hospitality of the people of this village.”

Embracing change:

But the village may not stay the same for long, as its youth have begun embracing change.

Members of the Reshi clan say that the lifestyle in the isolated village is changing now receiving influences from the fast changing world outside.Some residents are planning to settle downhill and youth are getting more into technology slowly giving up their traditions.

The Mud houses are getting replaced with that of concrete since the village got road connectivity and easy access to construction material. People of Taki-e-Sangresh who mostly used to be cut-off from other populations are getting mixed up with people through education and business. This contact has hugely impacted the lifestyle of the Reshi youth.

“We are not sure if our kids will uphold this Reshi tradition as they are getting into different things now. Their priorities are different and they want different way of life,” said Habibulla Reshi.

This village that used to be cutoff from outside world and used to dwell in its own ethos and culture is beginning to open up to outside world. Its unique way of life and traditions have begun to erode with time.