Monday, 24 May 2010
The saint of earthen pot
Matka Peer or the Saint of earthen pot is a well-known name in Delhi. True to the name, his shrine is quite a sight.
It is almost camouflaged with earthen pots resting on tree boughs and stumps, rooftops, parapets, you name it. Everyday, Summer or Winter, Spring, Autumn or Monsoon, people come to the mausoleum of the 12th century Muslim Sufi Saint to pray or to make a wish. When their prayers are answered, they thank by offering an earthen pot along with 1.25 kilogrmme each of black gram, jaggery (thickened sugarcane juice) and milk. By the number of earthen pots, one can gauge the number of people visiting the shrine to express their gratitude once their wishes are fulfilled.
People come in hundreds throughout the week but on Thursday and Fridays it increases manifolds. “This will give you an idea about the faith people have in the Saint Matka Peer who helps to answer their prayers,” says Shakeel Ahmed, Secretary, Matka Peer Dargah (mausoleum) Welfare Society.
The Sufi (mystic) Saint’s name was Hazrat Sheikh Abu Bakr Tusi Haidri Kalandari. Abu Bakr hailed from Iran’s Tusi district and belonged to the Kalandari family. “He had travelled to India in the 12th century to spread the message of peace and Islam,” says Ahmed.
The site of present mausoleum, then a thick forest, is where he lived and prayed to Allah away from humanity. “Legend has it that once the saint saw a man from a nearby village, Indrapath, was going to commit suicide by jumping into the Yamuna River. He was frail and depressed. He wanted to end his life to get rid of his suffering caused by an incurable disease.
“The saint intervened and calmed him down. Upon hearing his story, he gave him some water from his earthen pot. His health started improving. Lo and behold, he crossed the deadline beyond which the doctor had claimed he would not survive. He was a healthy man again and could earn a living for his family. He came back to the saint along with his family to express his gratitude for giving him another chance to live,” narrates Ahmed.
The resurrected man shared his story with fellow villagers and soon the word spread like a wild fire. When the then ruling Sultan of Delhi, Giyasuddin Balban, heard this he tried to test the Saint’s mystical power and sent a platter of black grams made of iron and jaggery made of clay. The royal platter caused curiosity and awe among the saint’s followers but when the cover was removed they got angry with the audacity of the Sultan.
“The Matka Peer sensed that the Sultan wanted to test him. So he pacified his followers, prayed to Allah and the platter of iron grams turned into edible roasted black grams and clay turned into jaggery. The saint ordered milk from the village, added jaggery in it to make a sweet drink and distributed it among people along with the grams.
“At that time he made an announcement that whosoever will go to him and if his wishes are fulfilled he should offer an earthen pot, black grams and jaggery,” says Ahmed.
The tradition continued.
Centuries later, the faith of people in him is intact. People irrespective of their religious backgrounds come here to pray and thank the saint in form of earthen pots. Praying here is quite democratic, anyone from anywhere belonging to any faith can come here any day to see the mausoleum and pray. Atop the mausoleum of the saint stands a structure erected by Balban in white marble stone, which has Islamic carvings, designs, architecture and couplets from the Quran engraved on the wall of the room. A photo of Mecca is also hanging on the wall.
Hindus, Muslims Christians, Buddhists all come here and pray in their own way without disturbing the peace and sanctity of place. While Muslims can be seen with opens hands asking for ‘dua’ or blessings and praying, Hindus and other faith followers can bee seen praying with folded hands.
Outside on the compound, oil lamps are lit and incenses are burnt the way Hindus and others would do in their temples. The things offered at the mausoleum represent elements of different faiths like an Islamic sheet with Quranic verses on it, Hindus way of offering flowers, red thread and some edibles sweet balls. Nothing clashes here with anything.
“Sufism shows its way of humanity. The philosophy preaches that whichever religion you belong to you should put humanity and harmony first,” said Ahmed whose family has been looking after the management of the mausoleum for 150 years. Part of his family resides on campus.
The Matka Peer’s mausoleum is perched on a hillock surrounded by an expanse of greenery. The quiet of this little corner in the midst of central Delhi is punctuated with the birds’ twitters or singers’ qawali (mystic songs in praise of God and the saint) and beats of drums.
There is some energy in the atmosphere which has a cathartic on quite a few. While they pray sitting by the ‘mazar’ or mausoleum, tears start rolling down their cheeks and their sobbing continues for a while after they finish their prayers. Perhaps, it has done some cleansing of soul and mind and has made their heart light. Their demeanor now looks calm and composed. It seems a day well invested in soul searching.
For many, coming here is the last hope to find answers and solutions to their problems and sufferings. Some seek the divine intervention to bring happiness in their lonely world. Babu Khan, 55, has traveled overnight from India’s northern city of Lucknow to make a wish for a family. He has lost all his family members to various diseases. He is poor and single. Stubbles cover his cheeks and despair cast gloom in his eyes.
“I have put an application in the ‘darbar’, mausoleum. I hope Matka Peer blesses me. All I want is a wife from a well-to-do family and some money to come in my bank account,” says Babu Khan with a hope.
Babu Khan will have to wait before he sees some miracle happening in his life but Naushar Ranee, 20, is happy. She along with her toddler son and family members has come here from a village on the outskirts of Delhi. She spread a sheet on the mausoleum and presented an earthen pot and other must-offer things, while a cleric chanted some Quranic verses and sought blessings for her.
“I’m very happy. One of my wishes has been fulfilled,” says Nausheer. She will not give a hint about her wish because “wishes are not meant to be shared”. “I’m still waiting for my one more wish to be fulfilled,” says she with a smile while hurrying her folks to leave as dusk descended on the hillock.
People from far and near come here to visit the shrine. It has an important place on Delhi’s map. During the Commonwealth Games, the shrine will be especially shown to visitors as the cultural and spiritual heritage of Delhi.