Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Looting of the Deg – Urs fair

Dargah Sharif at Ajmer, in central Rajasthan, is the most popular pilgrimage of Muslims. It is the place where the mortal remains of Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti lie buried. He is popularly known as Garib Nawaz (protector of the poor) due to the devotion of his entire life in the service of mankind. The largest muslim fair of India called Urs (the death anniversary of Khawaja Sahib) is celebrated at the tomb of this sufi saint every year. This fair is organized during the seventh month of the Islamic calendar. More than five lakh people of almost every community from all over the world gather here to pay their homage to the Khwaja.

It is said that he embraced death in solitude when he was withdrawn to his cell for six days. He directed everyone not to disturb him. These days are celebrated as the days of Raj The pilgrims who are visiting here to seek the blessings of Khwaja offers rich offerings called ’nazrana’ at this holy spot. These include rose and jasmine flowers, sandalwood paste, perfumes and the most important Chadar, Ghilaph and Neema. The devotees bring the ‘nazrana’ on their head and inside the sanctum sanctorum it is handed over to the khadims present there.

The fair begins when Sajjada Nashin (successor representative of Chistis) hoists a white flag at Dargah. The fair begins with the ritual called ‘Ghusal’. According to this ceremony on the 1st of Rajab, the tomb is washed with rose water and then covered by embroided silk cloth. On the last day of the sixth month the Jannati Darwaja (gateway of heaven) is opened early in morning. It is believed that crossing this gate seven times assure a place in heaven so people cross this gate seven times.

The other interesting ritual is the looting of the Kheer (a sweet pudding of milk, rice and sugar). It is a unique practice during Urs at the Dargah Sharif. The Kheer is cooked in two large cauldrons called degs, gifted by Emperor Akbar, which can hold 4,482 kg or 2,240 kg of Kheer. This is then distributed amongst the pilgrims as ‘blessed food’.

This ceremony is also performed on the fulfillment of a wish. If any of the wishes of devotees get fulfilled, they offer rice here. When enough rice has been donated, Kheer (a sweet pudding of rice, milk and sugar) is prepared in one of the two cauldrons or degs. It is cooked the whole night. In the morning, professional looters empty the cauldron with lightning speed even jumping into the boiling pot to scrape it. The Kheer is then distributed among the pilgrims.

Many other programs are organized to create a festive mood such as Mehfils (religious assemblies) and Qawwallis (songs in praise of the saint) are sung each night. More than five lakh devotees gather here during this fair. The fair ends with Qul (end-all) on the 6th of Rajab. As Dargah is located at the middle of three markets so a wide variety of articles for shopping, as carpets, rosaries, textiles, prayer mates could be found here. Besides this a number of restaurants and guesthouses for residing purpose are also available.


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