Travelling – at first it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller’ – Ibn Battuta
I feel incomplete and yet there is this immense sense of inner peace that I am carrying within since I returned from the dargah of Hazrat khwaja Moinuddin Chishti , lovingly addressed as Gareeb Nawaz (Benefactor of the Poor) . The wish to tie the mannat ka dhaga (the thread of wish) took eighteen long years to get fulfilled and the whole visit was like a spiritual trance. Before I knew I was there inside the dargah filled with the combined fragrance of crimson roses and white mogra (jasmin) blossoms.
The kind Khadim (Duwago) of Huzoor Khwaja who was guiding us made sure that we weren’t jostled around by large gathering of devotees from all over the world. These Khadims have maintained and preserved the secular and glorious culture of the holy place alive for more than 800 years now. We bought the flower basket and the Gilaf or chadar to offer at the Mazar and he made sure we could do our prayer in peace and hand over the offerings at the mazar. The sea of devotees was swelling as it was not just Sunday but also a full moon night. Once the ritual of offering was done it was time to do a parikrama of the shrine and tie the thread of wish (mannat ka dhaga). The orange and yellow thread was separated in three strands of which two were put around our necks and the remaining third one I tied to the laced marble lattice that covered the courtyard of the shrine.
This is the entrance to the mazar The exquisite craftsmanship of the shrine and the colorful gold inlay work is breathtakingly beautiful. The porch known as Begami Daalan was built in 1643 AD by Princess Jahan Ara Begam, daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan. The stunningly beautiful marble pillars and the ornamental detailing apeaks highly of the Mughal architecture. The door of the entrance to the mazar are mounted with heavy silver plate .and look gorgeous in the shimmering lights of the huge chandeliers. The gumbad mubarak ( the white marble dome) buit in 1464 AD is another specimen of craft one can gaze at for hours together.
Inside the dome there is silver canopy inlaid with mother of pearl which was presented by emperor Jahangeer. The ceiling is covered with exquisite velvet chatgiri . The place totally enthralls you once you are inside. I felt as if I was removed from my earthly body and became one with the cosmic divinity.
Cameras are prohibited inside the shrine and I could take a few pictures with my mobile phone as a token of memory.
There is a strange pull in this place which holds you captive. Something engulfs you completely as all your masks are shed in total surrender to the the sufi saint. One can feel the love , compassion and the inner peace that flows from the mazar and lingers all around the compound. The feeling can’t be described in words, it can just be felt.
Once I tied the thread it was time to quietly sit and absorb the serenity and spiritual fragrance of the place. We were hard pressed for time and something within me did not want to go from there. I decided to shut myself off from the cares of the world and connect with the benevolent khwaja hazoor.
with moist eyes and hands folded in prayer I listened to the Qawallis sung in the courtyard facing the shrine. Sama (spiritual music) or Qawalli singing is one of the practices of chishtiya order of sufism. The beauty of the harmonious blend of voices, musical instruments and the rhythm of the spiritual songs rendered for the love of the creator leave you spellbound. They take you to another level. Music is the food of soul that connects a person to self and the creator. There is a certain kashish a pull in those melodious voices of the qawaals or the singers as they sing in praise of allah and their love for him.
I was reminded of the famous and one of my favorite qawallis chap tilak sab cheeni re mose naina milayeke .. In every song the relationship between the supreme creator and the devotee is that of a beloved. A spiritual love that is unconditional and giving.
Kid 2 with Syed Kalimuddin Niyazi urf chotu miyan khadim huzoor gareeb nawaz . We were blessed to have him as our duwago. Our heartfelt thanks to him for making our visit a smooth one.
Now that we are taking of Kid 2 let me tell you a story. I was pregnant with my second baby and almost everyday I would dream of visiting dargah Ajmer Sharif . It wasn’t clear who was with me but I saw myself carrying the gilaf to the shrine and actually felt the presence with all its sounds, scents and sights. The whole experience was so overwhelming that I kept yearning to go to Ajmer shrif but somehow every time I planned the visit just did not happen.
It was destined to be at this time and with my son. It was a calling for him and me. Kid 1 had been to dargah many times but he could not accompany us. Maybe it was a mother son bond which was to be strengthened here at the door of gareeb nawaz. It is said you visit only when he calls. I had wept at the mazar of nizammudin aulia, a spiritual cleansing and the khadim there had told me the visit will take place around one year from then. ( we visited it in May2012) Sometimes one has to believe in the miracles of life and the universal energies.
After the prayers we saw the two degs (cauldrons) which are used to cook niaz (kheer or pudding made of rice, ghee, nuts, saffron & sugar)
The niaz is cooked twice from the offerings made by the devotees and this small deg gifted by emperor Akbar can cook 2,400 kg of food at one time. The big deg can cook 4,800 kg of food. The food is cooked by the zaireen (devotees) and distributed after morning and evening prayers. The blessed food is called tabarruk if I am right.
We did not wait till night so missed many things. A visit is due again in winter and this time just to the city of Ajmer. A longer stay in the city of faith. I want to experience the magic of evening prayers and the roshni (lighting ceremony at dusk).
Our time at the dargah was limited and soon it our duwago led us out of main gate. With a heart filled with prayers I promised to return to the shrine.
This is the picture of Nizam Gate which was erected by the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1911 AD.
We strolled around the narrow streets of dargah bazaar taking in the colors and aromas drifting in the air from the tiny shops. I bought the famous Sohan Halwa from one of the shops recommended by our khadim. It was amazingly delicious. Sohan Halwa is specialty of Ajmer.
Unfortunately the mobile battery died and our camera was locked up in the car far away from where we were so we could not take more pictures.
Once you visit the dargah of gareeb nawaz with a prayer in your heart it is always answered. I am not a religious person but I believe in the power of meditation and reverence to the universal energies, in love and compassion, forgiveness, gratitude and releasing all that is negative, all those basic human qualities that seem to be slowly fading away.
I will go back there when there is a calling but I am humbled by this spiritual quest that took away so much that I was carrying within me, for the for kadambosi and hazari at the heart of the shrine. One day I want to attend the annual urs of Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti at Ajmer. I am carrying the intoxicating whiff of rose petals and mogra mixed with itr and incense sticks in my heart.
I have returned to the hustle bustle of daily grind but a part of me in deeply saturated in prayers at the feet of khwaja gareeb nawaz and I know I am safe and blessed.