Ded ' - The Saintly Mother

The saintly mother
(March 31, 1887-April 13, 1959)

(Recollections by an Octogenarian son)

*-Gopinath Raina

While remembering my blessed mother on her 49th death anniversary on the 13th of this month, a flashback of her life appeared on my memory screen and I strongly felt like sharing my cherished memories, which are still fresh in my mind, with the readers of Shehjar Magazine.

Like proverbial mothers, my mom whom I called “Ded was what one could say a truly saintly person; for she was free from I-ness and mine-ness and loved all beings as her own self. What is more, she was free from anger, greed and hatred and never spoke ill of others. Her face radiated calm, peace and poise.

Though not formally educated, she seemed to have imbibed the wisdom of the ages, as it were. If I developed any interest in things spiritual from my very childhood, I can easily trace it only to her.

Early Years
Born to a highly respected Brahmin family of Srinagar, my revered mother was the eldest child of her parents and was given the name of Ranimi. She was hardly five when she lost her mother. Her father remarried soon after, and in due course she had at least seven younger sisters and one brother.

However, in accordance with the custom those days to marry girls well before they attained the age of 10, my mother got married when she was just seven. She often recalled the childish quarrels she used to have with her husband over homemade toys etc. After marriage, my grandfather, Pandit Kawal Kak, gave her another name-Vishamali. Thereafter, she was known as both Vishamal Ded and Ranim Ded.

Beginning her marital life at 13, my mother gave birth to 17 children out of which only four survived due to high infant mortality rate of those times. Her surviving children were Sati, born in 1906, Badri Nath in 1914, Durga in 1916 and myself in 1924.

I have faint recollections of childhood days when my mother would spend late nights nursing the sickly child in me. In fact, I am told that I had been the cause of suffering to her at the time of my arrival in the world as well.

Despite her pronounced affection and weakness for me, I was more drawn to my father. And when at the age of four I fell seriously ill and did not respond very favorably to medical treatment, my father was called from the place of his posting. Within days of his arrival, I recovered. Based on this incident, a decision was taken that I should accompany my father.

It was a difficult moment for my mother to bear separation of her 4-year old child. But she made the supreme sacrifice of her love for she knew that I would be happier with my dad. Only she could do it, equipped as she was with the stoic approach to life as such.

I remember once after I returned from college, she gave me some snacks to eat and while I was munching the famous Kashmiri ‘kulcha’, she called me to the window overlooking the bedroom of a close neighbor. There a recently married couple were having evening tea in a jolly mood, laughing and coaxing each other. She told me that one day she wanted to see me and my wife in a similar happy and playful mood. Her day came when I was married in the fall of 1947 and her joy knew no bounds.

Out-of-Body Experience
My mother had what in Kashmiri is called “Naav Badli”. In modern scientific terminology, it is called ‘Near-death' or 'out-of-body' experience.

It was in 1939, one fine morning my mother was declared dead by the doctors following a brief illness. While funeral arrangements were in full swing, my dear mother regained consciousness within an hour of her so-called death. Later, when asked as to what had happened, she said that the messengers of death took her through meadows, flower-laid paths and rivers to a huge palace where a powerful sage with a huge flowing beard was sitting on the throne, who scanned a big register before her. The sage told Yamdhoots (the messengers of death): “Well you have brought a wrong person. Her time is not up yet. It is the other woman of a similar name a short distance away from her house who is to be brought to me.”

Wonder of wonders, the same evening in the same neighborhood another woman who also bore the name of Vishmali was reported dead. My mother passed away only 20 years after this incident.

Her Passing Away
Happily married, she passed into eternity at the age of 72 in the early hours of the most auspicious day of Baisakhi, a popular festival that marks the arrival of spring and is usually a day of fun and frolic for both young and old.

A great Yogini that she was, her end came so peacefully within an hour of returning from her usual visit to Hari Parbhat, the abode of goddess Sharika. In that one hour before she left for her heavenly abode, she laid puja samagri for her husband’s morning worship, visited the neighbors as part of her daily routine to inquire about their welfare and then did her kitchen chores to prepare breakfast and food for the lunch.

As soon as she finished her morning tea, she left her mortal coil in a sitting posture in presence of my father, my brother and his family. Shocked beyond words at the sudden and unexpected turn of events, they simply marveled the way my dear mother literally walked into death in a completely relaxed manner. The neighbors, who had talked and chatted with her, only a few minutes earlier, refused to believe that she was no more.

Pious and Kind
All those who came to our house to express their condolences described her as a “great and pious soul”. Undoubtedly she was a kind, benevolent, pious and truthful person.

Generous to the core, my mother helped all those who sought it and would never turn away anyone, even a beggar, empty-handed. Though unlettered, all our relations, neighbors and friends would invariably seek her advice and guidance for their day-to-day problems.

Her Philosophy of Life
An epitome of forbearance, she would always say that one should have the patience and the broadmindedness of a river like VITASTA which flowed through Srinagar city, quietly absorbing all the muck that was thrown in it. Extolling the virtue of patience, she would, more often than not, refer to the following couplet of the famous saint-poetess of Kashmir, Lal Ded:

“Sabur chuy zyur, march ta nunay
Khyana chuy tyuth ta khiyas kus
Sabur chuy suna sund tooray
Mul chuy thud ta hiyas kus.”

“Who will eat (practice) patience which is pungent, acrid and bitter like cumin seed, black pepper and salt; who will buy (cultivate) patience which is costly like the broad bowl platter of gold?
Doubtless, one has to endure and exert one’s strength of mind to cultivate patience and forbearance, rare virtues found in humans, particularly in this dark age.

In fact, it was my mother who first introduced me to Lalleshwari’s vakhs. I remember her muttering, not loudly though, Lalla Vakyas every now and then. I can recall two more couplets she was fond of reciting. One speaks of moderation:

“Khena khena malyo kun no watak
Na khena ha ghachak ahankari
Sumuy khe mali sumuy rozakh
Sami khena muchranay barnen tari”

“Eating too much will lead you nowhere; not eating will make you conceited. Moderation in eating and in all that you do will make you even-minded and unbolt the gates (of happiness).”
Another couplet, teaches us to treat pain and pleasure alike:

“Par ta pan yem somui monui
Yem hyuvui monui den kyoh raat
Yemis aduy man sapanui
Tami dhyuthui sur gurunath”

“He who deems others as his own self; He who deems the day (of joy) and the night (of sorrow) alike; He whose mind is free from duality; He and he alone has found the highest truth.”

Death & Rebirth
My mother would often say; “Remember death always.” She reminded me that this would help one cultivate a detached outlook and make one free from being arrogant and egoistic. Death, like birth, should be a celebration.

Approximately five months after her passing away her holy ashes were given the final release in the holy Ganges at Haridwar. And soon thereafter she appeared to me in a dream while crossing the bridge over Vitasta in Srinagar, saying that she would return very soon

A journalist by profession, a scholar by temperament and a writer by choice, Gopinath Raina was inclined to the study of religion from his very young age. It was Swami Vivekananda’s dynamic exposition of Hindu thought that fired his imagination while he was still at school, and by the time he entered college, he had been drawn to the writings of Gandhi, Aurobindo, Narayana Guru, Radhakrishnan and Bertrand Russel.

After retiring from Indian Information Service (I.I.S.) in 1983 where he distinguished himself as an editor, correspondent, commentator and administrator in All India Radio, he edited, AICC Journal, Varnika, (Jan.'84-Dec.'90), Koshur Samachar (March'91-Oct '95, Sanatana Sandesh,(1997-2005) and KASHEER (2003-2004),

He has been writing profusely on various aspects of Hindu thought. He enjoys writing, particularly on saints and sages, not only of Kashmir, but of the other parts of India as well. Presently he lives in Miami, and spends his time writing personal memoirs.

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Respected Mr. Raina, I felt so nice in reading the article. The divine power always is around us but we are so ignorant and busy in material world one cannot even understand such phenomena. You are fortunate to see the power and am sure must have lead your life also with all the qualities mentioned such as sacrifice, tolerance, perseverance etc. The prime question? How could the young generation be taught about the karmic affect and trust on GOD which can only deliver the bliss
Added By Pavan Raina
Steeped as we are in things material, we generally fail to realize that the divine power is WITHIN us and within every one of us, irrespective of any consideration of caste, creed or color. Swami Vivekananda, in his short and fruitful life of 39 years, rightly dinned into our ears the lofty Vedantic truth that ?we are all potentially divine?.
Added By Gopi Raina