It could be other things. (It certainly was other things.) But it could quite as easily be its incomparable food and music that has drawn kings, foreign army generals, enlightened mystics and famous globe-trotters to ancient Sehwan. Standing on the west bank of the mighty Indus, Sehwan – or Siwasitan as Ibn Batuta describes it in his travel accounts – is most famous for being the place chosen by Hazrat Laal Shahbaz Qalandar to settle in in the 13th century. The shrine of the great sufi saint draws hundreds of thousands of people to its doors from all across Pakistan every year. The bazaar around the shrine plays host to a panoply of tongues and customs; the courtyard of the mazaar offering hospitality to visitors from out of town. The impressive gold dome of the shrine is the center from which all activity – cultural, social, religious, political – appears to emanate. Like many of Sindh’s other ancient towns, Sehwan is steeped in a history that continues to breathe.
Guest post by RIDDHI BHANDARI Photographs by SIDDHI BHANDARI
When I first reached Agra for fieldwork, one of the first things guides and shopkeepers around the Taj Mahal told me about was the Urs: “Urs ke liye zaroor rahiyega. You must stay for the Urs. The Taj is different and worth seeing.” Continue reading The Emperor’s Urs: Riddhi Bhandari→
Milange Babey Ratan De Mele Te (Let’s Meet At Baba Ratan’s Fair); Length: 95 minutes, Year 2012; Directed and Produced by Ajay Bhardwaj
Ajay Bhardwaj’s third documentary film based in East Punjab, India, takes us into a deeper exploration of some of the themes touched upon in his previous works: Kitte Mil Ve Mahi and Rabba Hun Ke Kariye. Indeed, at one level Milange Babe Ratan De Mele Te is about a journey of an impossible return to a pre-Partition Punjab in which religious identity was fluid and the sacred and profane intermingled and fused. Continue reading Let’s Meet – On Ajay Bharadwaj’s ‘Milange Babey Ratan De Mele Te’: Virinder S Kalra→
There is a sudden spurt of interest in Sufism among a section of our population that did not have such an interest a decade or two ago. Some were introduced to Sufism and its spiritual philosophical moorings through interactions with those who knew something about it, and realised that the ideas of Wahdat-ul-Wujood had parallels in the Adwait philosophy and it was this consonance that intrigued many to an extent that they got interested in exploring Sufism a little more. There were others who discovered Sufism through the west. Just as many had discovered Hindustani classical music when George Harrison began to learn the Sitar from Pandit Ravi Shankar in the ’60s, there are those who discovered Rumi when there was a spurt of interest in Jalal-ud-Din Rumi in the west, particularly in the US, with several translations appearing within a short span. Rumi has been known for centuries in our parts as Maulana Room; his poetry was quoted by Persian-knowing Indians till the 1950s and early 1960s, in conversations and writings, almost as often as Mir and Ghalib are quoted by the Urduwallas. An introduction to Rumi in the last decade or so has led eventually and inevitably to Sufism and a kindling of interest in our own indigenous Sufis. Continue reading Discordant notes: A review of Sadia Dehalvi’s “The Sufi Courtyard: Dargahs of Delhi”→
There is no point living in India if one cannot make spontaneous journeys, of all kinds and in all directions, for there is scarcely another country in which one can move so seamlessly and rapidly between such different worlds, both literal and metaphorical. It is the great charm of not residing in the bosom of the capitalised, industrialised west, with its clockwork uniform comforts. So when the serendipitous sighting of a photo of Ajmer Sharif, all lit up for Urs – celebrating the death anniversary of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti, in this case – prompted a yearning to be there, I decided for once to ignore the rational self with all its programmed misgivings, and just go. Continue reading A Pilgrimage to Ajmer: Kaveri Gill→