Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Between Marhi and Math: The Temple of Veer Nath and Rato Kot (Sindh, Pakistan)

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Between Marhi and Math: The Temple of Veer Nath and Rato Kot (Sindh, Pakistan)

Article excerpt

If you want to become a yogi

then observe the tradition of the yogis

Forget adab, ikhläs, sabr shukr enmity and sorrows,

'Inäyat says you should spend every moment of your time

buried within yourself,

When you have learned this undertaking,

then you will come nearer to Veer Nath

- Shah 'Inayat

Introduction

As apparent from the above verse of the Süfï poet Shah 'Inayat*, Veer Nath was an eminent Nath Yogi. He was also the founder of the Veernathi Sampräday. Veer Nath Ji Marhi near Umarkot, once an important centre of Nath Jogis of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Sindh, still attracts both ascetics and common people. Veer Nath was a seventeenth-century Nâth Jogï. This paper discusses the role played by Veer Nath in converting several people to "Näthism" and his disciples whose "Samâdhîs" are still sources of solace for the lower Hindu castes.

Before discussing the history associated with the role of Veer Nath and his disciples, it is necessary to first define the terms marhi and math. The term marhi refers to the centre or a monastery of the Naths. The followers of Veer Nath further define the term marhi as the centre or place of worship of grihastis or householder Naths whereas the term math is used for the ästän (place of worship) of the Naga Naths. But this explanation is not very convincing as there are marhis which were founded by the Kanphata Jogis*. Moreover, the term math is also used for the burial place of an ascetic. To aviod sectarian affliation, I will be using the term marhi for the monastery of Veer Nath as it is locally called by the people. There are several marhis in many districts of Sindh, the prominent of which include: the marhi of Ratan Nath at Taung, the Jogi marhi near Islamkot, the Balakram marhi, the Dwärkänäth marhi and the Jumnadas marhi in Shikarpur. A marhi serves as the place of worship for the Nath Jogis. The Veer Nath marhi is believed to have been founded by Veer Nath himself early in the seventeenth century. This marhi became the main centre for the Nath Jogis of Sindh who spread the teachings of Veer Nath. Over a period of time, this group of Nath Jogis became so powerful that they were even involved in the political decisions of the Sodha Rajputs in settling disputes between the various lineages of the tribe. Veer Nath's followers played a very instrumental role in resolving the family disputes of the Sodha Rajputs of Tharparkar. Their advice was always sought by the Sodhas during times of crisis and war in Tharparkar.

The information presented in this paper comes from interviews that were conducted with the caretaker of Veer Nath marhi and the disciples of Veer Nath. Some interviews were also carried out with members of the Charan, Sodha and Maghanhar castes of Umarkot, Kharerio Charan, Chhor, Pabuhar and Densi. Both in-depth and focussed interviews were undertaken to acquire knowledge about the history, role and rituals of the Veer Nath sect of Nath Jogis. As well, all of the samädhis, shrines, temples and marhis that were associated with the Veernathi Sampräday were visited.

Temples and dhünis (campfires)** of world-renouncers (Nath Jogis, Tyagis, Sannyâsîs, Bairâgîs, Sâdhüs, Babas and Udhâsîs) exist in almost every important town and village of Sindh. At present, very few towns and villages in Sindh boast of such temples, maths (also called matha) marhis and dhünis of Hindu and Sikh ascetics. Among such temples, marhis and dhünis, the marhi of Veer Nath at Rato Kot, which is located about 70 km north-east of Umarkot, is quite prominent.

As discussed earlier, the marhi is believed to have been established by Veer Nath himself who came from Haryana in India and first settled in Umarkot. Veeso Sodho, the then ruler of Rato Kot, took him to his town and built a temple for him and his disciples. After his coming to Rato Kot, the town's name and fame spread far and wide and ascetics came from Rajasthan and other parts of India to enroll themselves as his chelas (disciples). …

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