Volume 56 Number 1, September 2004
Dargahs: Abodes of the Saints (Reprint 2011)
|Specifications:||152 pages, 150 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
The dargahs of India are testaments to the widespread belief in the spiritual teachings and supernatural powers of Muslim saints. Known most commonly as shaykhs, these saints belonged to various mystical Sufi orders that traced their origins to Iran and Central Asia, some going back as far as the 9th–10th centuries. Devotees regularly visit the tombs of these shaykhs, known as dargahs, to seek solace and fulfilment of their personal needs. At the urs festivities marking the death anniversaries of individual saints, the dargahs become the destination of huge crowds of pilgrims. Dargahs are popular sites that appeal to all levels of society, from sultans and powerful elites to ordinary people, Muslim and non-Muslim. Today, many thousands of dargahs are in active worship in India. However, the authors focus on 11 of the most historically significant of them. The articles are illustrated with evocative photographs by Karoki Lewis.
Mumtaz Currim, an independent research scholar, writes and lectures on Islam in India to emphasize its religious, artistic, and intellectual traditions. Her background includes a study of Islamic cultures and societies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and journeys to Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Syria, Jordon, Egypt, Turkey, Spain, and Indonesia to explore their Islamic heritage. She is currently editing a Marg volume in a little known area of Indo-Islamic art, thought, and culture.
George Michell trained as an architect and then studied Indian archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has edited numerous Marg volumes, including Temple Towns of Tamil Nadu, New Light on Hampi, Banaras: The City Revealed, and recently co-authored The Great Temple at Thanjavur: One Thousand Years, 1010–2010.
Mumtaz Currim and George Michell
Introduction: Dargahs, The Abodes of Peace
Bruce B. Lawrence
Delhi: Dargah of Shaykh Nizamuddin Awliya
Abdur Rahman Momin
Fatehpur Sikri: Dargah of Shaykh Salim Chishti
Ajmer: Dargah of Muin ad-Din Chishti
Ali S. Asani
Bihar Sharif: Dargah of Shakyh Sharafuddin Maneri
Ahmadabad: Dargahs of Shakyh Ahmad Khattu and Hazrat Shah Alam
Mahim: Dargah of Makhdum Ali Mahimi
Abdus Sattar Dalvi
Khuldabad: Dargahs of Shaykh Burhan ad-Din Gharib and Shaykh Zayin ad-Din Shirazi
Carl W. Ernst
Gulbarga: Dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Bandanawaz Gisudaraz
Syed Shah Khusro Hussaini
Nagore: Dargah of Shahul Hamid
A photo-essay depicting people at dargahs across India.
Shaykhs or Muslim saints belonging to the Sufi orders are widely revered in India. Their tombs or dargahs are visited regularly by devotees. This chapter outlines Sufi teachings and practices, and introduces the 11 dargahs included in the book.
Shaykh Nizamuddin Awliya (d.1325) belonged to the Chishtiya order, one of the major Sufi brotherhoods in South Asia. He grew up in Badaun near Delhi, and travelled to Ajodhan (now in Pakistan) to join Baba Farid’s circle of disciples. He became known in Delhi as an erudite scholar with a passionate concern for human suffering and his Khanqah drew large numbers of people. His dargah complex in Delhi also houses the grave of his favourite disciple Amir Khusrau and the Mughal princess Jahanara, Shah Jahan’s elder daughter who was an ardent devotee of the Chishti order.
Shaykh Salim Chishti (1479–1572) was born in Delhi but moved at a young age to the town of Sikri. When the Mughal Emperor Akbar, desperate for a male heir, visited the saint, he prophesied that the emperor would have three sons. The future emperor Jahangir was born in 1569 and was given the name Salim. Akbar began to build a capital at Sikri, renaming the city Fatehpur Sikri. Shaykh Salim died very early in the development of Fatehpur Sikri, and an exquisite white marble tomb was built for him in the courtyard of the Jami Masjid. Visitors even today leave flowers on his cenotaph and tie votary strips to the famous pierced marble screens.
The dargah of the great Sufi master Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti (d. 1236) is the most famous of all Sufi shrines in India, and one of the most sacred sites in the whole of South Asia. According to popular tradition, if a pious person could not undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca, the equivalent spiritual reward could be got by making seven pilgrimages to Ajmer. The Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan all patronized the dargah. Shah Jahan’s white marble mosque is the finest monument in the complex. This dargah is a major centre of pilgrimage attracting thousands, and has an established and elaborate hierarchy of set rituals and ceremonies regulated by its officials, custodian, and hereditary sajjada nashin.
Makhdum al-Mulk Sharafuddin Maneri, the principal Muslim saint of Bihar, was born in Maner in 1263, and died at the age of 117. His Khanqah was built with an endowment by Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq (r. 1325-51). At Rajgir, 25 kilometres south of the imposing dargah complex in Bihar Sharif is the cave where the saint meditated and where he realized that he had a duty to be of service to people who needed him.
The city of Ahmadabad was founded in 1411 on the advice of Shaykh Ahmad Khattu (1338-1446), a Sufi of the Maghribi order who was friend and mentor to Sultan Ahmad Shah (r. 1411-42). The Sufi shaykhs exerted a benign influence on Ahmadabad's rulers, and Sufis came to settle in Gujarat in large numbers. The dargahs in Ahmadabad are acclaimed for their architectural beauty as well as their libraries, schools, mosques, and open courtyards. This chapter profiles two of the saints and their dargahs, Shaykh Ahmad Khattu and Hazrat Shah Alam (1415-75). The latter belonged to the Suhrawardi order, and his mausoleum is among the most famous and beautiful in Ahmadabad.
Makhdum Ali Mahimi (1372-1431) was born in Mahim (Mumbai) and belonged to a Sufi group named Uwaysi (or those who have not received a formal initiation by a living master and are not affiliated to any known order). He is also called Qutb-e Konkan for his spiritual eminence and large following along the Konkan coast, and Faqih Ali Mahimi for his knowledge of jurisprudence, having served as qadi for the Muslims of Thana district. His dargah situated on the Mahim bay draws larger crowds on Thursdays and over a period of ten days between December 13 and 22. Another important annual event is the display of a highly treasured Quran believed to have been copied by the saint himself.
When Sultan Muhammed bin Tughluq (r. 1325-51) moved his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad, a number of eminent Sufi saints were transplanted from north India to the heart of the Deccan. The Sufis settled in a beautiful valley in the hills above Daulatabad, now called Khuldabad. The two principal Sufi shaykhs here were Shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib (d. 1337) of the Chishti order, and his disciple Shaykh Jaynuddin Shirazi (d. 1369). The writer traces the history and development of their shrines, and present-day-rituals and festivals held there.
Khwaja Bandanawaz Gisudaraz was born in 1321 in Delhi. His father Sayyid Yusuf al-Husayni, a disciple of Nizamuddin Awliya, had moved to Khuldabad in the Deccan. After his death, his family went back to Delhi, where Sayyid Muhummad Husayni gave him the title Gisudaraz by his spiritual preceptor, the Chishti Shaykh Nasiruddin Mahmud (also known as Chirag-i Dilli). After several decades in Delhi intending to settle in Khuldabad, he moved to Gulbarga (Ahsanabad) instead at the invitation of the Bahmani Sultan Firuz Shah (r. 1397-1422). An erudite scholar and profound thinker, Gisudaraz was a prolific writer and contributed many commentaries on classical works. His dargah is an important destination in the religious life of the Deccan.
Hazrat Shahul Hamid (1491-1558) is said to be a 13th-generation descendant of Muhiyuddin Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani of Baghdad, the Sufi saint who founded the Qadiri order. After ten years in Gwalior with his teacher Sayyid Muhammad Kavud (Ghaus), he travelled to Lahore and extensively in West Asia before settling in Nagore at the age of 44. The ruler of Thanjavur Achyutappa Nayakar donated the land where the main dargah complex is now. Two kilometres away at Vanjur is an underground cave where Shahul Hamid is said to have meditated for forty days. About one kilometre from Nagore, also on the seashore is Silladi where the saint is said to have rescued ships from sinking. These three sites comprise the pilgrimage to Nagore, drawing Muslim and Hindu devotees alike.
This appendix gives a brief background to the major Sufi orders, a list of titles of the saints and dargahs in India, and a table listing the chronology of the saints and dates of their urs.