What is Urs festival?
The Urs festival is an annual festival held at Ajmer, Rajasthan, India which commemorates the anniversary of the death of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti. It is held over six days and features night-long dhikr(zikr) qawwali singing. The anniversary is celebrated in the seventh month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Thousands of pilgrims visit the shrine from all over the globe.
The Dargah Shareef of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is situated at the foot of the Taragarh hill. Emperor Akbar, with his queen, performed pilgrimage on foot from Agra every year in observance of a vow he had taken when praying for a son.
Moinuddin Chishti or Khawaja Ghareeb Nawaz was a Persian Muslim preacher, ascetic, religious scholar, philosopher, and mystic from Sistan who eventually ended up settling in the Indian Subcontinent in the early 13th-century, where he promulgated the famous Chishtiyya order of Sunni mysticism. This particular tariqa(order) became the dominant Muslim spiritual group in medieval India and many of the most beloved and venerated Indian Sunni saints were Chishti in their affiliation, including Nizamuddin Awliya(d. 1325) and Amir Khusrow(d. 1325).
Although little is known of Moinuddin’s early life, it is probable that he traveled from Sistan to India to seek refuge from the increasing prevalence of Mongol military action in Central Asia at that point in time. Having arrived in Delhi during the reign of the sultan Iltutmish (d. 1236), Moinuddin moved from Delhi to Ajmer shortly thereafter, at which point he became increasingly influenced by the writings of the famous Sunni Hanbali scholar and mystic Abdallah Ansari(d. 1088), whose famous work on the lives of the early Islamic saints, the Ṭabaqat al-sufiyya, may have played a role in shaping Muʿīn al-Dīn’s worldview. It was during his time in Ajmer that Moinuddin acquired the reputation of being a charismatic and compassionate spiritual preacher and teacher; and biographical accounts of his life written after his death report that he received the gifts of many “spiritual marvels (karamat), such as miraculous travel, clairvoyance, and visions of angels” in these years of his life. Mouinuddin seems to have been unanimously regarded as a great saint after his passing.
This year the 808th Urs festival was celebrated. The first moonlight of the seventh month according to the Islamic calendar marks the beginning of Urs. The first day, kalandar’s offer chadar to spread over the tomb after a long march to Dargah, dancing and torturing themselves with knife and long thick wires piercing in their body. Millions of people from all around the globe come to worship. They read namaz and shed tears remembering the Khawaja and praying for good fortunes.
The sixth day of the Urs is regarded as the most special and auspicious. It is called “Chhati Sharif”. It is celebrated on the 6th Rajab between 10:00 A.M. and 1:30 p.m. inside the Mazaar Sharif or shrine complex. Shijra, or the genealogical tree associated with the Chishti order is read by duty bound Khadims of Moinuddin Chishti, and then there is Fariyad (prayers). Just before the Qul (conclusion of Chhati Sharif), Badhaawa (a poem of praise) is sung at the main entrance of the shrine by Qawwals. Badhaawa is a recitation accompanied only by clapping; no musical instrument is played. After its recitation, the ceremony of the Qu’l comes to an end, and Fatiha is recited. The end of the ceremony is marked by firing a cannon at 1:30 p.m. And with the end of Qu’l, Jannati Darwaza is also closed.
This was the first time I have covered Urs. It’s hard to put the emotions and energy into words. It gave me goosebumps, after seeing millions of people gathered all around, hearing everyone chanting one name. For the first time ever, a photo exhibition was also organized by the Dargah Committee at the vishram sthali (a place for pilgrims to live). It was to promote the photojournalist of Ajmer. On the last day of the exhibition, I saw devotees touching the photographs and taking blessing home before leaving. It was a very humbling sight and experience for me. The qawwali’s, the decoration and the devotion of pilgrims filled my soul with a peaceful energy.
Photographer- Girish Bindal- Follow him on- https://www.facebook.com/girish.bindal.1
Instagram profile- https://www.instagram.com/girish_bindal/
For more blogs- follow- Mind4scape.com