A symbol of divine love and compassion, the marvellous marble mausoleum of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti attracts devotees of different faiths and beliefs in great numbers not only during the annual Urs which marks his death anniversary but all through the year. Pilgrims from all walks of life and from all parts of the world consider it to be their great privilege to offer their homage and pray at the shrine.
Born around 1143, at a small village Sanjar in the area of Sistan in Iran, Moinuddin lived a life of deep devotion and great austerity. Even at an early age of nine years he had commited to memory the holy Quran. He got a flour mill and a garden at the age of 15, when his father Ghjayas-ud-din died. His mother’s name was Mah-e-noor. His coming in contact with Hazrat Ibrahim Kandozi made him renounce all wordly desires and he sold all that he possessed. During his stay at Samarkand, he studied holy scriptures till he was 20. Khwaja travelled to several places and met Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harun. While in Meeca, he got a divine order to go to
India and spread the message of Sufism there. This brought him to India where he stayed till he left for his heavenly abode. In between, Khwaja visited plaes like Gazni, Bagdad, Lahore and Delhi.
Khwaja’s great emphasis on the humanitarian aspect of Islam had a great appeal for persons of all castes, creeds and conviction. The aim of his life was to get divine knowledge through prayer and meditation and then educate the masses about true religion, the core of which was to love man and tend to his needs. For him it was not enough for a Sufi saint just to pray, so he strived hard for ameliorating the lot of suffering human beings, especially the poor. This earned him the name of Gareeb Nawaz, the protector of the poor. He believed in the wise dictum of a Sufi poet who had said that to please the heart of an unhappy person was an act like going on Haj. Following the tenets of Sufism which are very close to some Indian religions, earned him great reverence of different sections of the society.
A great believer in simple living, Khwaja had brought with him to India just two set of clothes, a stick, a bow and arrow, a salt case and a ‘datoon’. And these were his only possessions through out his life. He
never bought a third set of clothes. He himself would wash his clothes and put patches on patches when they were torn. It is said that this made his clothes weigh as much as twelve kilos at the end. He would not waste ‘chapatis’ and soak dried ones in water and eat them. He would spend a lot of time reading the Quran and was so lost in prayer that he would not do anything else for several days.
The Urs is held from the 1st to 6th day of the Islamic month of Rajjab. The exact date of his death is not known as he had shut himself up in his cell for prayer and meditation and was found dead by his disciples when they opened it after six days. So the celebrations take place for six days.
The Urs ceremonies commence with the hoisting of a flag at the Buland Darwaza. The privilege of bringing the flag now belongs to the Gauri family of Bhilwara in Rajasthan, whereas during pre-partition days it was brought from Lal Shah Baba across the border. With this ceremony, the time of the afternoon service at the main shrine changes to 7.30 p.m. The sandal paste that had deposited on the shrine during the year is peeled off and it is then distributed among the pilgrims. The Jannati Darwaza in the east of the shrine remains open all through the six days of the Urs. In
the evening, it is fascinating to watch the presentation of the ‘chhadi’ by the Kalandars.
A great attraction of the Urs fair is the visit of a class-by-itself set of pilgrims called Kalandars who come here not for the fulfilment of any desire of their own or their family, but to keep up the old tradition of their ancestors. Their prayer to the Khwaja is for the health, peace and prosperity of every citizen of the country. They are always in search for opportunities to serve humanity and also enthuse others to do so. By no means, they are beggars. The Kalandars love to spend their lives in serving at big and small ‘dargahs’ all over the country. They give up all wordly relations and only then are initiated into their sect. Their participation in various ceremonies during Urs adds colour to the festival.
At several places in the Dargah premises can be enjoyed the singing of lilting ‘qawwalis’. The Shahi Mehfil of ‘qawwals’ takes place in the ‘mehfilkhana’. On the sixth day, before the Qul ceremony, the pilgrims wash the outer walls of the shrine with rose and lavender water, collect the holy liquid in bottles and carry it home as ‘tarbarruk’. One special feature of the last day is the closing of Jannati Darwaza and another one is the holding of a mass prayer.
A highly interesting sight in the shrine is the looting of rice cooked in two large ‘degs’ (cauldrons) with a capacity of 40 quintals and 30 quintals each Rich devotees pay for this. Cooking goes on all through the night. At dawn with the firing of a cannon, ‘pirzadas’ with their bodies wrapped in rags plung into the steaming food and scoop out the contents in buckets, as they have hereditary right to do so. The looted rice is then sold as ‘tabarruk’.
After the morning prayer, people start gathering at the holy tomb. Celebrating the Qul Day devotees recite Quran, Darood, Shigra-e-Chistia and other verses. They also tie small turbans on each other’s head and pray for peace and prosperity.
Thus falls the final curtain on an event at the great Sufi saint’s resting place which had been bustling with people from all over the sub-continent for a week and the site of fascinating ceremonies.