JAIPUR: Not many people know but Narhar Dargah, also known as Sharif Hazrat Hajib Shakarbar Dargah has been celebrating Janmashtami for the past 300-400 years.
“Its very hard to say the exact time and reason from when this festival is celebrated in the dargah but this marks an important event for national and communal unity. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs stay together and organiZe the event.” says dargah secretary Usman Ali Pathan.
“Thousands of Hindus come here and offer coconuts and flowers to the shrine and stay together. The idea behind organiZing this festival is to increase the love and unity among different religions in the country,” added Pathan. Devotees visiting the Dargah are surprised by such an event and the way it is smoothly organised and run from almost 400 years.
LAHORE: During recent travels, I happened upon the shrine of renowned Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir of the Qadariyyah Sufi order in Lahore.
The goal of human life, according to Sufis, is to realise the divinity within; irrespective of cast, creed and religion. Harminder Sahib, in this sense, is more of a cultural hub for the people of Punjab; it is a place where self-actualisation is promoted. It is also marked as a Gurdawar — literally meaning Lord’s door or the door of the Guru.
When AS Dileep Kumar decided to shed the faith he was born into and adopt a new one, the reasons were several.
“Sometime before we started on our journey on the path of Sufism, we went to an astrologer to show him my younger sister’s horoscope because my mother wanted to get her married. This was around the same time when I was keen to change my name and have a new identity. The astrologer looked at me and said, ‘This chap is very interesting.” He suggested the names: “Abdul Rahman” and “Abdul Rahim” and said that either name would be good for me. I instantly loved the name “Rahman.” It was a Hindu astrologer who gave me my Muslim name.”
The tomb of the Sufi saint Daud Bandagi Kirmani is a typical Mughal construction with an octagonal base and a round bulbous white dome. The shrine is covered by a protective wall and there are several other graves in this courtyard, some of his descendants and others of rich people from the city who paid or vied to be buried close to the saint, hoping to achieve salvation through their proximity.
The shrine is located in the centre of this city of Shergarh, a historical city located about 100 kilometers south of Lahore. The city as well is protected by a fort like wall. Whereas such walls of larger cities in India were razed down by the British after 1857, they remained untouched in smaller cities. The entire city was celebrating the annual 3 day celebration of the urs of the saint. All streets and roads in here had been converted into a makeshift bazaar. Smell of freshly prepared samosa lingered in the air. Some were selling eatables to those who did not want to partake in the langaar at the shrine. Most of the shops were selling religious paraphernalia – sacred threads, bangles, rings with special stones, items one is likely to encounter outside major Hindu temples. In fact to an unacquainted visitor this might as well be the threshold of a Hindu temple. The only difference would be the posters. All the posters here represented iconic Muslim saints like Daud Bandagi, Baba Farid, and Shahbaz Qalandar, while posters outside Hindu temples sell Hindu images. Women, men, children, old and young, all throng to the shrine for these festivities.
The Sufi and Bhakti tradition in Pakistan and India are two such trends from within Islam and Hinduism respectively, that are focused more on the unity of humanity as a whole, overcoming sectarian divides.
The saints from these traditions had massive appeal among people of different religions and they were away from the centers of power, unlike the clergy. We have seen rich traditions of people like Kabir, Tukaram, Narsi Mehta, Shankar Dev, Lal Dedh, clearly from within the Hindu tradition, while Nizamuddin Auliya, Moinuddin Chishti, Tajuddin Baba Auliya Ajan Pir, Nooruddin Noorani (also known as Nund Rishi) coming from a clear Sufi tradition and Satya Pir, Ramdev Baba Pir, having a mixed lineage, where Bhakti and Sufi themselves are deeply intertwined.
Sant Guru Nanak did try a conscious mixing of the two major religions of India. He traveled up to Makkah to learn the wisdom of Islam and went to Kashi to unravel the spiritual moral aspects of Hinduism. His first follower was Mardan; and Miyan Mir was the one who was respectfully invited to lay the foundations of the Golden Temple of the holy Sikh Shrine. Guru Granth Sahib has an inclusive approach to religious wisdom. No wonder people referred to him as, ‘Baba Nanak Sant Fakir, Hindu ka Guru Musalman ka Pir’ (Saint Nanak is a saint for Hindus and a pir for Muslims).
MITHI: A small town where both Hindus and Muslims have lived together since the creation of Pakistan enjoys cooperation and harmony.
“I am a Hindu from Sindh, but throughout my life I have lived with Muslims and this is why during Ramazan, we fast along with them; and when it is Muharram, us Hindu boys lead the procession because this is the culture which Sufism has given us” one Hindu resident said
It is a town where Muslims, out of respect for Hindus, do not slaughter cows; and where Hindus, out of respect for Muslim rites, have never organised any marriage ceremonies or celebrations during the month of Muharram. Not only that, the Hindus of Mithi also happily participate in providing food and drinks for Muslims during Ramazan, and both groups exchange sweets on Eid and Diwali. The crime rate in Mithi is at two per cent and never has anyone witnessed any incident of religious intolerance.
KARACHI: A night full of bhajans, sufi songs and qawwalis is what the Karachi-based Hindu NGO Pakistan Hindu Seva Welfare Trust (PHSWT) has planned for the New Year eve while carrying forward the message of peace, promoting interfaith harmony and dialogue for a peaceful coexistence.
Such functions in Pakistan would help create awareness about Hindu community and provided cooperative, constructive and positive interaction between different communities, he said. “That’s what we aim through our bhajan and qawwali night on New Year.”
KILLAI: A tradition of over 150 years in Killai, a coastal village in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, delivers lessons in communal amity when parts of the country have betrayed vulnerability to intolerance.
The age-old harmony will be seen when Muslims of the village receive Hindu deity Bhoo Varahaswamy (the boar avatar of Vishnu) from his temple at Srimushnam, 60 km away. Every year, Bhoo Varahaswamy is taken out in a procession for the Brahmotsatava festival between February and March. The procession receives a grand welcome in Killai where it halts at a dargah built for Sufi saint Hazrath Syed Sha Rahmathullah Vali Shuttary.
The Imam offers prayers, a garland and oblation of 11 kg of rice, five coconuts and Rs. 501 to the deity. Later, a silk shawl on the deity is offered at the dargah and a chaddar is offered for the deity in return. The practice is linked to varying versions of land gifted to the temple by either the Sufi saint or one of his descendants.
Tracing the origins of this practice, Saqaf said that one of his predecessors had given 26 acres of land to the then tehsildar, Uppu Venkatrao, on a long lease and at low rent to help him demarcate the Dargah lands and draw up the boundaries.
All these different scriptures and ways of worship and of contemplating God are given for one purpose: the realization of Unity.
~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
Originally a trained veena musician, Inayat Khan was initiated into the Chisti Sufi order while living in India. Before his master’s passing he was told to go West and use his musical talents to spread and establish centers that taught Universal Sufism in various countries.
Universal Sufism promoted religious unity and emphasized interfaith harmony. Inayat Khan spent much of his life traveling the world in the early 1900’s. He lectured in places such as Africa, Europe, and the Americas, promoting the benefits of meditation, spiritual practice through Sufism, and the oneness of all religions.
by Yoginder Sikand from Pakistan Christian Post, Oct. 31, 2005
`Shah Hussain! Shahadat Paye O Jo Maran Mitran De Age (Shah Hussain! He [alone] attains martyrdom who dies at the feet of his beloved)
Sufism has had a long and rich history in the Indian sub-continent. It is perhaps in Punjab, more than in any other part of this vast land, that Sufism has struck the deepest roots, producing many great exponents and exercising a pervasive influence on the minds of the common people. To this very day, the innumerable Sufis of this region are held in the highest esteem by millions of Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and Hindus of the province and beyond.
Shah Hussain is one such mystic who is still fondly remembered by millions of ordinary Punjabis four centuries after his death. He was born in Lahore in 1539 A.D. into a family of the Dhatha Rajput tribe. This tribe had recently converted to Islam, hence the epithet “Shah” attached to his name. Even as a child Hussain showed a marked preference for red clothes, which explains why he was also called Lal (Persian for “red”) Hussain. Hussain`s strong mystical inclinations were apparent very early in his life. In childhood itself he managed to memorize the entire Qur`an under the guidance of his teacher, Shaikh Abu Bakr. Then, at the age of ten he was initiated into the Oadiriyah Sufi order by the renowned saint Bahlul Shah Daryai of Chiniot. For the next twenty-six years he lived under the strict supervision of his Pir (spiritual master), faithfully following all the rites and practices of orthodox Islam, and leading a life of great austerity.
Renunciation Sufi Muslim Devotee at the Mela Charagan (Lamp Festival) Celebration of Madho Lal Hussain
At the age of thirty-six an incident occurred that was to completely change Hussain`s life. One day while at a madrasa studying a tafsir (commentary) on the Our`an under the tutelage of Shaikh Sadullah of Lahore, he came across the Qur`anic verse: “The life of this world is nothing but a game and a sport.” He asked the Shaikh to explain the verse and was told that it meant that the world should be shunned. Hussain refused to accept this interpretation and asserted, instead, that the words of the verse must be taken literally. He told his teacher that, in accordance with his understanding of this verse, he would spend the rest of his life in enjoyment. It was during this period of his life that Hussain met Madho, a Brahmin lad. The two men became so closely associated that in the popular mind the saint is most commonly known as Madho Lal Hussain, as if the two had been fused into one. The intensely close relationship that blossomed between them has been the subject of much speculation and controversy, starting in their very lifetime. John Subhan, an expert on Indian Sufism, writes that their contemporaries saw this intimate connection between a Hindu boy and a Muslim faqir of “questionable character” as “a disgrace”, though he himself sees this
“irresistible attraction” between the two men in terms of “fervent love”. Like wise, the Punjabi historian Shafi Aquil speaks of the relationship between Madho and Hussayn as one of “boundless love” and for this employs language generally used to describe male-female relationships. Thus, he writes, “Shah Hussayn was in love with Madho and Madho himself, too, desired him” (Madho se Shah Hussayn ko pyar tho aur khud Madho bhi unko chahte the). He goes on to add that, “Under no condition could Shah Hussayn bear to be separated from Madho”.
MUMBAI: Constructing a concrete example of communal harmony, a city-based Muslim businessman has funded the revamp of a massive Hindu temple at Ranthambore near Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan. The Ganesh Dham Mandir, built on the sole funding of businessman Ashiqali Nathani, will be opened on January 27 amid chanting of sacred mantras, speeches, followed by distribution of prasad and lunch. Nathani, founder of Tiana group of companies which has stakes in power, shipping, infrastructure, leasing and finance, said, ” The only motive was to set up an example of communal harmony and build bridges with our Hindu brethren,” said 58-year-old Nathani before leaving for Ranthambore to oversee the inaugural function of the mandir.
Nathani said that it was his “dream” to reconstruct the temple after one of his directors suggested to him that he visit it. “The small temple was in ruins. There was no proper ashram for the chief priest, revered Prabhudasji Maharaj and other devotees who flocked to the mandir. I decided to get it construct it all over again,” said Nathani.