Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer Part 1

The massive mausoleum, the final resting place of the great Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, the bestower of boons, attracts lakhs of pilgrims of all castes and creeds on the occasion of his annual Urs. Pilgrims not only from distant parts of the country but also several foreign lands congregate at the ‘mazar’ (tomb) during the ‘urs’, a word derived from ‘urooj’ meaning the union of man with God.

          Khwaja’s parents, Hazrat Gayasuddin Chisti and Bibi Mahenoor, lived in Sistan in Iran, where he was born in 1143. At a very early age, he lost his parents and came in contact with Hazrat Ibrahim Kannauji. This meeting changed his life for ever. He sold his worldly possessions, a garden and a small flour mill, distributed the proceeds among the poor and set out on his spiritual journey. He met Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harwani who initiated him into the Chisti order. Moinuddin remained under the guidance of Usman Harwani for 20 years and then became a Khalifa. He toured Muslim countries such as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Afganistan. Finally, he reached Ajmer town in Rajasthan.

As there were not many means of travel those days, Khwaja and his team rode  on horses. The Peer who has ordered Khwaja to go to Ajmer had also told him about the geographical location of the town. So when he reached the bank of the famous Anasagar lake, Khwaja had an inner feeling that that was the place where he had to settle down. So he asked his followers to tie the camels there. All of them camped in a sort of a cave in a hillock near the lake that came to be known as Khwaja Saheb Ka Chilla. Khwaja Saheb liked the place so much that he spent a long period at this place before moving on to worship in a small cell near Jhalra, at the foot of  the famous Taragarh fort. Gradually, the latter developed as the abode of the great Sufi Saint.

          Khwaja Saheb spent all his life among the common men and the poor. He taught them how to worship God properly. He did not take the support of any king or Sultan. He led a very simple life. When he came to India he had only a few things with him- two sets of clothes, a stick, a bow and arrow etc. to which nothing else was added. When his clothes were torn, he would put a patch on them. So much so that they weighed 121/2 kilos in the end. The whole day long he read the Quran. He was so busy in

worship that he would forget  to eat or drink anything and would fast for 4-5 days at a stretch. He would not throw away dry bread but eat it after soaking it in water.                                                                           

          Khwaja Saheb came to India to extend his knowlege of the  divine and to disseminate it among the masses. He was a believer of Islam and at the same time his emphasis was on the  humanitarian aspect of Islam and the Quran. According to Sufism, a Sufi Derwesh followed not only the principles of Shariat but was also deeply engaged in prayers and worship. Not satisfied with fasting with fasting only during Ramdhan, he ate very little throughout the year. He believed that serving the poor and making them happy was real worship. He did not believe in empty rituals but in complete surrender to God. He had great respect for all religions and loved all human beings. There is much similarity between Sufism and oneness of God in Hinduism. As Khwaja lived in Ajmer and preached Sufism from there, he is also called Khwaja-e-Ajmer. His another name Hindal Wali means the  saint and protecter of Hindustan.  Even during his life time, people came to know about his divinity and those following different faiths also visited him to get his blessings.

From the first to sixth day of the Islami month of Rajab,  a huge Urs fair is held at the Dargah in Ajmer. It is said that  in the year 1233 at the age of 91 his in last days, Khwaja called his elder son Fakhruddin and told him that the world is perishable.  One should face the difficulties with courage. To befriend God, one should be generous as the ocean, compassionate as the sun and benevolent as the earth. On 1st of Rajab, he told his disciples that he was going to shut himself up in his cell for intensive worship and nobody should disturb him. For five days, the door did not open. On the sixth day when the door was broken open, it was found that Khwaja had left for his heavenly abode. As the exact date of this event is not known, his Urs is celebrated for six days.

          In fact, the Urs celebrations start about 5 days earlier than 1st of Rajab, with the hoisting of a flag at the Buland Darwaja before the evening Magreeq Namaj in the presence of a large gathering of devotees. In 1912 the flag was first of all brought by an elderly person named Lal Badshah from Peshawar. The flag at the highest point of Dargah not only guides the pilgrims coming to the fair from a long distance but also those in the town to get ready for the big event. In 1942, the responsiblity of bringing the flag was given to Fakhruddin Gauri the grandson of Lal Badshah who has been coming to the Dargah with his family since then.            

          As soon as the moon of the Rajab month is sighted, the Shahi Mehfil is held in the Mehfilkhana at night after the Isha Namaj. Presided by the Dargah Diwan, it is attended among others by the Khadims. The event starts with a presentation of qawwalis by the Shahi Chouki party of Asrar Hussain. Only then others get a chance to do so. It is mandatory for the qawwals to know Persian language. These ‘mehfils’ that have a unique charm continue throughout the Urs. The final programme is held two hours before the Kul ceremony on the sixth day.

          At midnight the ‘gusl’ ceremony, bathing of the grave, starts in which only the Diwan and the Khadim can take part. The Diwan enters the main ‘mazar’ through Jannati Darwaja that is kept open through out the Urs. On the final day, before the ‘gusl’ ceremony, the pilgrims begin washing the walls and the whole premises with rose water and then collecting it in bottles to take it home as a special ‘tabarrukak’ (‘prasad’).

          The water from the ‘gusl’ on the final day is sprinkled on the pilgrims and the ceremony is called ‘Kul Ke Chinte’. Before this ceremony a special Fatha ceremony is performed at Ahata Noor by the Khadims. In the Kul ‘mehfil’ ‘rang’ and ‘badhawa’ are sung. Then the Diwan goes to the ‘mazar’

through Jannati Darwaza which is then closed. Before this the Kalandars and Malangs led by their chief reach Mehfilkhana and perform Dagol ceremony. Later in the day the Khadims do Dastarbandi to honour the pilgrims. After that all the ceremonies in the Dargah begin to be performed in the routine way. On the ninth of Rajab is held the ‘Bade Kul Ki Rasam’.

          As the Urs concludes, the pilgrims leave the Dargah with a heavy heart, praying to Khwaja to call them back soon.