Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Festivals of India in the month of June

Urs Festival

Tomb of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti

The Urs festival is held at Ajmer, Rajasthan every year at the tomb of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, commemorating his symbolic union with God. The Urs, commemorative celebration is held in the solemn memory of Khwaja Muin-nddin Chisti, a sprightly respected Sufi saint fondly revered as the benefactor of the poor, popularly known as Gareeb Nawaz. The Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is the place where the Saints mortal remains lie buried and is the site of the largest Muslim Fair in India.

The Khwaja came from Persia and established the Chishtia order of fakirs in India. He is popularly known as Gharib Nawaz (protector of the poor) because he dedicated his entire life to the service of mankind. His spartan life spanned almost a hundred years and he embraced death in solitude while he had withdrawn to his cell for six days, asking not to be disturbed.

The shrine

The Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is the site of the largest Muslim fair in India. More than five lakh devotees belonging to different communities gather from all parts of the subcontinent to pay homage to the Khwaja on his Urs (death anniversary) during the first six days of Rajab (seventh month of the Islamic calendar.) Pilgrims from all over the world gather to pay homage. Qawalis (poems) are presented in the saint's honor and religious assemblies (mehfils) and 'fatihas' (mass prayers) are held. The lakeside town of Ajmer also called Ajmer Sharif (holy) comes alive during the Urs which attracts thousands of devotees irrespective of caste, religion etc. The largest Muslim fair in India that springs up at this time displays religious objects, books, rosaries, embroidered carpets and silver ornaments and much more.

Pilgrimages are carrying Chadar to the shrine

The Urs is initiated with the hoisting of a white flag on the dargah by the Sajjada Nashin (successor representative) of Chishtis. It is done on the 25th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir (sixth lunar month), with the accompaniment of music. On the last day of the sixth month, the Jannati-Darwaza (gateway of heaven) is flung open early in the morning. People cross this gate seven times with the belief that they will be assured a place in heaven. On the 1st of Rajab, the tomb is washed with rose water and sandalwood paste and anointed with perfumes. This ritual is called ghusal. The Sajjada Nashin then covers the tomb with an embroidered silk cloth.

The shrine receives a number of Chadars, Ghilaph and Neema, which are votive offerings from several hundred thousand devotees. These are brought by devotees on their heads and handed over to the khadims inside the sanctum. Outside the sanctum of the dargah, professional singers called qawwals in groups sing the praises of the saint in a characteristic high-pitched voice. People gather around them and listen attentively, sometimes clapping to the rhythm of their instruments.

Flow of devotees

Ajmer is 132 kms. Southwest of Jaipur and 198 kms. East of Jodhpur. It is connected by road to Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Udaipur and Kota. Ajmer is a railway junction on the Delhi-Ahmedabad section of the Western Railway. During the Urs, special buses ply from cities all over India carrying people to Ajmer and back.

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