Mayank Austen Soofi Fri, Feb 03 2012. (Archive) On entering, the white dome attracts your attention. It’s not the architecture or the gold centrepiec
Fri, Feb 03 2012. (Archive)
Four months later, when Rajasthan’s desert winter has given way to the heat of June, the dargah will be filled with lamps. Its assembly hall, resounding with the sound of the qawwals’ harmoniums, will herald the 800th urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. Smaller groups of musicians will draw their own listeners within the various courtyards and sama (a gathering listening to mystical verse) music will echo in the streets. The terraces surrounding thedargah will come alive with their own qawwali gatherings and the last melodic strains will die only when the early morning prayer is called by the muezzin.
“Moinuddin Chishti’s dwelling place became a nucleus for the Islamization of the central and southern parts of India,” noted the late Annemarie Schimmel, an expert on Islam, in her book Mystical Dimensions of Islam. South Asia’s most revered Muslim, Moinuddin Chishti occupies a principal position in Sufism, the mystical aspect of Islam. He established the Chishti silsila (order) in the subcontinent; its spiritual successors were Sufis like Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki of Mehrauli, Baba Farid of Pakpattan in Pakistan, and Hazrat Nizamuddin of Delhi. Known as Sultan-e-Hind and Gharib Nawaz, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti—khwaja meaning “master” in Persian—is visited by millions each year. Since no contemporary account of him has survived, Moinuddin Chishti’s life is depicted through a series of legends.
“Considering that these orthodox seminaries are opposed to the dargahs,” says Dehlvi, “one only has to look at the sheer number of Muslims from India’s villages and towns who descend on Ajmer, particularly during urs, to recognize how irrelevant they (the orthodox seminaries) really are. Their fatwas have little or no relevance in the community.”
While the aforementioned list might reflect a present-day curiosity for Sufism, throughout its history Ajmer has been a star attraction. The Mughals, particularly, attributed their success in India to the blessings of Moinuddin Chishti. Emperor Akbar visited the dargah 14 times, once walking all the way from Agra. Jehangir lived in Ajmer for almost three years. Shah Jahan built a marble mosque in the dargah. Princess Jahanara raised the marble porch Begumi Dalaan (Begum’s courtyard), opposite the entrance to the durbar. Even the orthodox Aurangzeb, who did not believe in the Sufi doctrine, was seen paying his respects at this dargah.
Fifteen minutes away from the dargah is the majestic Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra mosque situated in the foothills of Taragarh. One of South Asia’s earliest Islamic structures, its outer walls are sculptured with theKalimah (“the word of Islam”). The monument, now overlaid with graffiti, includes crude sketches of peacocks on the stone floor. Indifferent to the discords of the past, goats meander along with pilgrims who stray from the dargah to sightsee. Only a few offer prayers at the mosque here.
During urs, the durbar is closed at a later hour. One week earlier, a green and red flag is hoisted on the Buland Darwaza gateway to signal the arrival of the festival. By thenmalangs (non-conformist Sufis), fakirs (ascetics) and qalandar s (non-conformist Sufis) from all over India are midway to Ajmer, walking. They assemble at thedargah of Khwaja Qutubuddin Kaki in Mehrauli, Delhi and from there walk to Ajmer Sharif, a journey that takes 17 days.