Friday, October 12, 2007

Gareeb Nawaz

Today’s newspaper carried a little more bad news than it normally does. On the front page glared in bold fonts ‘Hit on Secular Symbol’. Yesterday, that is October 11, 2007; a bomb blasted in the ‘Gareeb Nawaz’ dargah premises in Ajmer, Rajasthan.

If you have been to Gareeb Nawaz, perhaps you will also share this feeling of sorrow and indignation with me. There’s some mysterious spiritual aura in the surroundings of this dargah. Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti was a 12th century Sufi saint. Believers still put faith in this man, fondly called as Gareeb Nawaz, the benefactor of the poor. To imagine a plot charged at harming the quiet and the sanctity of this place is saddening.

How is The Ajmer Dargah like? I have beautiful memories of the times I went there…

A narrow street leads you to the entrance. On both sides of this street are road-side peddlers, selling handkerchiefs, salwar suits, photo frames with dargah pictures, surma, shops of puja stuff- which sell flowers, beautifully embroidered chaddar and incense to be offered in the dargah. You will also be thronged by countless number of beggars urging you to give alms in the name of Gareeb Nawaz, and also a number of ‘Khadims’ who will make themselves available to assist you in your prayers at the dargah for a sum.

After you pass through all this bustle of life and business, after you have asked some khadim to accompany you inside and managed to survive the coaxing of flower and incense dealers, you pass through two large cooking bowls on each side of the entrance. The ‘Chhoti Daig’ is about four feet in diameter, the other; ‘Bari Daig’ is a slightly bigger. The Bari Daig and the Chhoti Daig remind one of the grandeur of old times, when the poor or hungry, visitors from far away places or old- anyone was fed food cooked in the huge bari and chhoti daigs.

In the courtyard are huge borsalli trees, beneath which believers sing sufiana songs in praise of Gareeb Nawaz. Just outside the Dargah building, inside the premises, you come across an 'uruz', a common area with water taps. It’s here that you are supposed to clean your hands with water before visiting the dargah.

The newspaper article rightly reports Gareeb Nawaz dargah to be ‘one of the most secular shrines in the country’. Let us all get together and condemn such acts of cowardice.

-Gauri Gharpure