Category Archives: RAJASTHAN

अजमेर-Ceremonies from The Holy Shrines of Ajmer-اجمير

Naubat_ Khana Gate, Fatehpur Sikri



Ancient  naubat is basically a music played over a gateway to mark the hours and is sysnonymous with playing pairs of naqqāra, kettle-drums struck with sticks—the tablā, struck with the fingers, is the naqqāra’s smaller brother. Other percussion, double-reed and brass instruments are usually added, and since the melody in that case is played on the shahnā’ī, the North Indian oboe, the combination is known as naubat shahnā’ī. The full band with brass and cymbals is seldom heard today, but the basic band survives. Naubat shahnā’ī is also played over the gateways to princely palaces and to Hindu temples, but in no case can the tradition last much longer.

Suleiman Jumma & Sumar Jumani, Abdullah Ramatulla

Few of the best gateway musicians are less than 60 years of age, and they virtually have no successors—money is very short nowadays in these establishments. The popular naubat is more likely to survive, being played by independent groups who are in constant demand for weddings and other auspicious occasions; popular naubat has nothing to to with the formal marking of hours.


Naqqara & Shahnai


Mashak  players – bagpipers from  Thikarda village

Mashak  players – bagpipers from  Thikarda village


From dawn to dusk, the Dargah remains alive and radiant by the passionate involvement and devotional fervour of the devotees. They feel pride, gratitude and graced in participating in the various ceremonies which take place at the Dargah, daily and on special days and dates, throughout the year, going on with unbroken continuity for centuries.

Every day about two hours before the morning prayers (Namaz-e-Fajr), devotees respectfully congregate at the eastern gate near Begumi Dalan, when the doors of the Tomb are opened. One of the khadims calls the Azan in front of the Tomb and Holder of the Key unlocks the doors. Khadims then, sweep the Mazar with a Morchhal, replace the night-old flowers by fresh ones and burn Lauban embers.

After the noon prayers (Namaj-e-Zohr) the khadims offer flowers and sandal. At 3.00 p.m. naubat is played at the Naqqarkhana and qawwalis held near the left gate.

About 15 minutes before the evening prayers (Namaj-e-Maghrib) a huge drum (danka) is beaten. The devotees, in response to it, flock to the Mazar where the Khadims light up specially prepared candles. The devotees have these candles put on their heads, believing their hearts too would thus be enlightened. Verses of Khwaja Husain are also recited.

After the night prayers (Namaj-e-lsha), qawwalis are held at the left gate and Begumi Dalan. Khadims then come out of the Mazar and the traditional verses, the Karhka, are recited with the accompaniment of the dholak. Naubat is played at the Nizam gate between 11.30 p.m. till midnight hour.


Ajmer Sharif Dargah***

Rituals and Customary Practices at the Holy Shrine of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (R.A.)

Undoubtedly, the Khadims, who have been attached to the Shrine since its inception, played a key role in the smooth functioning and in keeping strict discipline in the performances of these rituals and ceremonies. As a result, they often invited the ill-will and wrath of pilgrims and other officials. But their genuine concern and enforcement of established customs and rituals, showing strict adherence to the humanitarian approach of the Saint, was always upheld by the authorities.

Daily Rituals
Three important rites are regularly performed every day per schedule: (i) Khidmat (service routine), twice a day; (ii) Roshni (lighting ceremony); (iii)Karka/Kadka (closing of the main doors of the Shrine)
Khidmat literally means service, which is the exclusive privilege of the Khadims.

First, in the morning before dawn, the Baridar (who happens to be Khadim) of the day unlocks the silver plated main gate of the main Shrine. One of the elderly Khadims recites Azan (call for prayer), performs Taslim and Salam, and followed by some of the Khadims, enters the Shrine and closes the doors from inside. Some more candles are lit within the dome, and then again one of the pious and elderly Khadims moves closer to the inner circle of the Shrine, delicately removes the well-knitted floral garland called Sej from the Mazar (Shrine), and puts it in a large basket covered with cloth. Then they start sweeping flowers from both sides towards the foot end of the grave, where some of the waiting Khadims collect these flowers in huge Jhabs, and carry them out into a courtyard to be collected there.

From there other Khadims take these flowers and distribute them among pilgrims and devotees. In between the sweeping of flowers from the Shrine, some of the Khadims standing outside the inner railings, assisted by long handle Chanwar and Farrashas, thoroughly clean the Shrine from all sides, leaving nothing on the lower circle. Then, led again by the same elderly Khadim, they all recite the Fatiha, thus invoking the blessings of the Almighty in the name of the great Saint, and place the cloth sheet in the usual manner. Then they put upon it a fresh floral Sej and sprinkle Attar. At the same time, one of the Khadims cleans the Shrine when the service of cleaning the Shrine over the doors are opened. Except Khadims of the Shrine no one is allowed to enter inside the Shrine precincts.

At about 3:00 P.M. the doors of the Shrine are again closed for the afternoon Khidmat and almost the whole process described above is repeated. On this occasion the upper part of the Mazar is pasted with Sandal, the Ghilaf is changed. The duty of Baridar Changes (every Khadim turn comes after 24 hours). This process lasts for about an hour.

In the period between the two services, pilgrims gather inside the Shrine to pay homage to the Saint, pray and recite the Fatiha, offer flowers and cloth sheets (Chadar) and invoke the blessings of the Almighty through Wasila of Khwaja Sahib.

Roshni literally means light, and refers to the ceremony of illuminating the Shrine at dusk with elaborate arrangements and a well-defined procedure. It is held daily in the evening, just before the maghrib prayer. The rituals followed in this ceremony may be summarized as follows: first, a plate/censer (agardani) containing aloe-scented sticks and small round pieces of aloe-wood (‘ud) is brought and placed by a Khadim in the middle of the (Western) outer railings of the Shrine. At the same time, four large candle-holders (shama dans) are also kept in a corner, nearly facing the agardani.

Soon, four Khadims, one by one occupy the vacant place near these shama dans, facing the Shrine indicating that they have reserved the right to lift these shama dans on their heads for the coming ceremony. Outside the Shrine three other Khadims with candles in their hands, start walking one after another from a place near the langar khana where specially prepared candles are kept. As they start walking from this place, on their way to the shrine the drum beating begins at naubat khana. Slowly moving they pass by the pilgrims, standing in two rows, expecting to have these candles moved-and touched over their heads. Passing through the sandal khana mosque, these Khadims enter the shrine from its eastern door, and from the doorstep of the shrine they start reciting Persian verses in praise of Khwaja Sahib. In the shrine a huge crowd gathers, all male pilgrims being allowed to attend it.

Then the first Khadim who holds a single lit candle in his hand, lights the four candles of the shamadan, which are raised above their heads by the waiting Khadims. The first Khadim from the left then starts reciting Persian verses in praise of Gharib Nawaz after which the whole Shrine is illuminated.

Persian verses are recited daily at dusk by a Khadim when the Roshni ceremony (candle lighting) is performed within the sanctum-sanctorum.



Master (Khwaja) of Masters (Khwajgan) Moinuddin (is);
Noblest (ashraf) of all saints (auliya) of the world,.
Sun of sphere that Lords the Universe (kon-o makan).
Emperor who graces the throne of the dominion of faith and certitude (yaqin),
What can be uttered about your beauty (jamal) and perfection (kamal);
For, it is evident from the impregnable(Spiritual) fortification (hasn-o-hasin).
An opening verse (matla) in praise of your attributes I offer;
which in purity is like a precious pearl (durr-i samin).
Oh ye, whose threshold is an altar (qiblah) for the faithful; (ahl-i-yaqin).
Where the sun and the moon rub their forehead.
It is thy royal threshold that faces are in reverence rubbed;
By hundreds of Kings (maliks) of the stature of the Emperors (khusro) of China.
The attendants (Khadiman) at thy shrine are all like the keeper of Paradise (Ridwan);
As is your mausoleum (roza) in sanctity certainly a sublime Paradise.
(where) A particle of dust is ambergies (abir) in nature;
And a drop of water transparent and pure (maen)
Oh, Almighty as the Sun and the Moon endure;
May the Chishti lamp resplendently sparkle.

Karka is the term for the ceremony which is connected with the closing of the doors of the shrine for the night. It takes place generally between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. Except the inner part of the first railings, the whole Shrine is cleansed by three Khadims. Pilgrims are not permitted to enter the shrine but are allowed to stand in the corridor of Beghmi Dalan (built by Princess Jehan Ara) in two rows, giving way to the Khadim who come out from the Shrine, one by one, at short intervals. They carry farrashas in their hands and touch them over the heads of the devotees while moving towards the sandal Khana mosque, where in a permanently fixed small dustbin they put all the flowers, dust etc. gathered from the shrine in a duster. When the Khadims are engaged in cleaning the floor of the shrine, outside in the courtyard, the groups (chauki) of musicians (qawwals) performqawwalis.

As soon as the third and last Khadim comes out with the Farrasha (broom made up of peacock feathers) in his hand, the ghariyali (time keeper) loudly announces that six gharis (each ghari of a duration of 24 minutes in the medieval days) have passed.

The qawwals and all the people within the campus at once get up, and the qawwals start reciting karka verses in Bhojpuri and local dialect, composed by Roora Mithu, who was a musician during the reign of Jahangir. After that the doors of the shrine are closed, people perform taslim, and the ceremony comes to an end.

Karka is sung by the Hereditary qawwals of the shrine daily at night at the time of closing of the doors of Khwaja’s mazar (Shrine).
Karka means folklore (lokdhwani) or verse (pad) or cantos (charan). Its ragni (musical mode) is Gidara/Kidara and tal (musical measure) isjhap, in musical terminology, which is generally sung during moonlit nights.

It is called Karka and is sung, to motivate the devotees always to keep on the path of Truth. It is also the final or last ceremony of the day at the Shrine.

However, in one of the verses of Karka, Khwaja Moinuddin has been referred to as Khwaja Hassan Dan. Hassan being Khwaja’s real name, whileDan most probably appears to be his title (abbreviation of Dana i.e. ariff Gnostic or Dani/generous or indicates the abbreviated form of Danani, (person possessing divine wisdom) or of his full name Moinuddin, and also seems his nom-de-plum


Oh ye Moinuddin, truly Lord Protector who graces fortunes.
You have lit the Chishti lamp (of spirituality) the world over,
Oh ye Moinuddin, truly Lord Protector who graces fortunes.
The cunning (Jogi Ajaipal) tried many a magician’s trick;
52 practices in all, but failed and was himself ultimately vanquished! As at the orders of Pir (Khwaja} flew his wooden sandals in the air;
(and forced Jogi’s) throne to land on earth head bowed with shame.
Oh ye, Moinuddin truly Lord Protector who graces fortunes.
You, the strong pillar for both here and the hereafter (duniya-o din).
The saint (wali) of India, the light (noor) and beloved of Allah (huda), door to Him (Hardawara).
When Ajmer was besieged by the Raja (who also harassed you)
You spread Islam and ended polytheism;
Oh ye, Moinuddin truly Lord Protector who graces fortunes.
Polytheism was ended and Islam spread;
Such a Master of masters (Jagat Guru) whose shrine (darhar) his unique splendor and fame.
Reaches the four corners – North, South, East as well as the West.
Whose Pir’s prayer was accepted at Makkah.
Moinuddin Khwaja, the pillar of din (righteousness).
Cast but a glance and bestow gnosis at me! Oh! Pillar of din, Moinuddin Khwaja!
Khwaja Hassan Dan i.e. Khwaja Moinuddin became bridegroom, (chatar-dulah).
Performing only a single miracle (defeated Ajaipal) and established himself (great);
Oh! Khwaja the pillar of din, Moinuddin Khwaja;
The Great Emperor (Sultan) Oh! Hazrat-i Chishti.
A throne and dominion befit only you;
Mercy on Roora Mithu. Relieve him of all pain of life and heart!
Oh Moinuddin Khwaja, the pillar of din.
Besides these rituals, naubat is played twice a day, i.e. in the morning, and at sunset. Langar (a free meal consisting of soup of barley) is also prepared daily at the langar-khana and distributed twice (after Fajr and after Asr prayers) among the general public including pilgrims and the poor.

All the mundane rituals at the Mazar-e-Aqdas (Holy Shrine) are performed by Khadims alone

Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (R.A.)’s Urs is celebrated every year in the first week of Rajab, on seeing the moon of Rajab, the seventh month of the Islamic calendar, drums are beaten to herald the commencement of the annual ceremony. The permanent Chauki (troupe) of qawwals arrive, and after Maghrib (sunset prayers) sit infront of the Shrine and sing the following verses:

“Bartui mehfil-shahana-mubarak-bashad
Saqia-badao-paimana mubarak bashad”
(Felicitation to thee for this blessed and majestic assembly; salutation, ‘Oh Saqi for your bountiful goblet of sacred wine).
“Ilahi ta-abd-astana-i-yar-rahe
Yeh-asra-hai-gharibon-ka-barqarar rahe”

(Oh God, may this Shrine of the beloved exist till the last day, may this refuge of the poor remain forever!)

The word Urs has been derived from “UROOS” which means “ultimate meeting of an individual with God” it is said that Huzoor Gharib Nawaz (R.A.) spent last six days of his life in Seclusion in a cell and the 6th day of Rajab, his noble soul left the corporeal body. Every year Urs fair is celebrated on his death anniversary.

Although Urs held for the first six days of Rajab. Yet the 6th day is regarded to be the most special and auspicious. It is called “Chhati Sharif”. It is celebrated on the 6th Rajab between 10:00 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. Inside the Mazar Sharif Shijra is read by Khadims then Fariyad (Prayers) start for people present at the Dargah and for the country and its people for the peace and prosperity and also those who are not present but have sent Nazar-o-Niyaz to the Khadims to mark their presence for their welfare and for the promotion of brotherhood amongst them. Khadims tie small turbans on each others head and present Nazar (offerings in cash).

Just before the Qul (conclusion of 6th Rajab Chhati Sharif) Bhadawa is sung at the main entrance of the Shrine by Qwwals which literally means a poem or verses in praise of Allah, His Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) or famous Sufis (Auliyas).

Bhadawa is the only recitation which is accompanied by talis (clapping) only, and no other instrument is played. It was composed by Behlol Chishti, one of the ancestor of Khadims who again refers to Khwaja Moinuddin Chishty as Khwaja Hasan Dan. After its recitation, the ceremony of the Qul comes to an end and Fatiha is recited. The ceremony is marked closed by firing a cannon at 1:30 P.M. in afternoon.

Both Universes (din-o duniya) be sacrificed,
At your Behest O! Khwajal
With Divine Attributes, O! Ye Pir Moinuddin
Lord of all Created beings : ajapati. gajpati, narpati, bhupati
(all earth, all animals and all mankind)
The sole Emir controlling the four corners (chowk) of the Universe.
I do rounds of thy four-walled (doored) dome in profound affection.
Oh! What ethereal splendour cascades from the balcony (jhajha)of thy abode
Poor petitioner Behlol Chishti pleads to Khwaja Hassan Dan
To protect and preserve his honour in this world as well as hereafter.
After this Khadim Hazrat distribute Tabarruk (Prasad) amongst the people present and post them for those who are not present, but have sent Nazar-o-Niyaz to the Khadims. The Mazar Sharif is washed by rose water by Khadims at night for six day from 1st Rajab to 6th Rajab during Urs period. On 9th Rajab at 9:00 A.M. the Mazar Sharif is washed with rose water by Khadims. Finally the Urs is marked closed.

These ceremonies are attended by members of all creeds, communities without the distinction of rank, region or religion and thereby subscribe to the ideals of universal love the Khwaja had preached and practised in his life time. This creates a sense of unity in that thinking which tends to break social and religious barriers and paves the way for emotional integration.

This system of Baridari/Kalidbardari settled the issue that only Khadims are the real custodians of the Mazar-e-Aqdas (Shrine) as they perform all rituals, and do Khidmat, kept the keys of the Shrine, open and close the Mazar, receive pilgrims and guide them in performance of Ziyarat as their Vakil and thus have sole right to collect all Nazar offered by them. It appears that the system of Haft Baridar is based on the Haft Chowki pattern of the Mughals, by which every important noble was given a day of the week to look after the place and patrol around it at night. Moreover, Baridari (Rota) system has also been prevalent in many famous Hindu temples of India, and is still in practice at the famous Vishnu Devi temple at Katra. It should also be kept in view that the Prophet of Islam, after the occupation of Makkah, did not disturb the prevailing practice of the key keeping (Baridari) and custodianship of Kaba which was held by a particular tribe (clan) of Quraish since time immemorial and was known as Hijaba or Sidana. The times of India dt. Wednesday 15, January 1997, Asanid-us-Sanadid, pp. 210-4, M.H. Haykal: The life of Muhammad: (tr Reprint, Delhi, 1976), pp. 407, 413. A short history of Aurangzeb’s Reign, op. cit; Mughal administration, op. cit.

Certainly it was due to the extra ordinary grass root work of our ancestors (Hereditary Khadims) who carried the mission of Khwaja Sahib at his Shrine, vigorously, against all odds, that we are still attached to the Shrine and are held in high esteem by pilgrims, duly respected and offered Nazar (offering).
People all over the world respect us (Khadims) because of our Nizbat to Huzoor Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (R.A.). Whatever we eat & wear whatsoever privilege we enjoy is a Sadqa of our Aaqa (master) Huzoor Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (R.A.)
‘Agar har-mui-tan gardad zubanam’
Adai shukr-i-o-ke-me-tavanam.
If every hair of my body were given voice, yet I won’t be able to express my thanks for my Khwaja.




Heliocentrism of The Spiritual World


With every breath, my restlessness increases; Why does the bud of my heart not blossom? Grant you my wishes, for the sake of Ali (radiallahu anhu). Salutations to you, O Khwaja, the saint of Hind! May this devotee’s aspirations be fulfilled.

The small town of Ajmer, 400 kilometres south and west of Delhi, is unremarkable to the eye at first glance. However, on closer inspection, one beholds the reason that it stands out; pilgrims. In thousands upon thousands they come, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, of all nationalities; raising their voices in celebration and prayer, in praise and remembrance of one of the greatest saints ever produced in the long and illustrious history of Islam. The deservedly titled Sultan of India, the Qutb or spiritual axis of the eastern Islamic world; he is the fountain from whose spiritual light have sprung all the beautiful, mighty saints of the Chishtiyya silsila: Hazrat Khwaja Moinudeen Hassan Chishti Gharibun-Nawaaz Ajmeri (rahmtullahi alaihi).

The chieftain and founder of the Chishtiyya silsila, one of the four great orders that radiate throughout the world, Khwaja Gharibun-Nawaaz (radiallahu anhu) is one of the most respected and universally recognised figures in Sufism and Islam. He stands tall as a great spiritual leader; a reformer and purifier of hearts at the most turbulent of times. Most of the saints before his time had been concentrated around the lands of the Middle East, but he was a pioneer, a missionary who was responsible for spreading the Sufi and Islamic sphere of influence to the remotest regions of polytheistic India. His pious character was a true picture of Islam; his practice exactly in accordance with the dictates of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, and his teachings beautiful lessons in godliness, truthfulness, and equality which enlightened the hearts of multitudes. Authentic estimates place the number of people he guided to the path of Islam at nine million. It is a historical fact that his Chishtiyya silsila wielded a direct and crucial influence on the course of Indian history, the development of the embryonic Bhakti Consciousness Movement of Hinduism, and modern (pantheistic) Buddhism.

Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu) was born in the year 536 AH in Sijistan, the son of Khwaja Ghyasuddin Chishti, a pious and influential man of what is now Iran. He was a direct descendant through both his parents of Hazrat Ali (radiallahu anhu). It was a time of chaos and great upheavals in both India and the Muslim Empire as a whole. In the year of his birth, Sultan Sanjari was finally defeated before the implacable advance of the Mughals, spelling the beginning of the end of the Sultanate; and in Khurasan, where he was brought up, religious sects and barbarism had lain waste a once civilised country. He was orphaned at the tender age of fourteen, and was thus raised in the same condition as Rasulallah (sallalahu alaihi wasallam).

But social evils, moral degradations and personal tragedy stirred something deep within the young man, and he began to turn towards the spiritual life. Once when watering his father’s garden, he came across a dervish, Hazrat Ibrahim Qanduzi (radiallahu anhu). He was deeply affected by the saint’s holy manner, and Hazrat Ibrahim (radiallahu anhu) for his part transformed Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu)’s inner being. His eyes became opened to the ultimate realities of the spiritual world. Renouncing all material things, he sold his father’s garden, all his possessions and distributed the money among the poor.

Still at a young age, he arrived at the great centres of learning in Samarkand and Bokhara, where he swiftly became a hafiz and distinguished alim, fully conversant in all aspects of Islamic thought. Unsatisfied with this, he began a strict regime of prayers, meditations, fasting and self-renunciation which continued for years and grew more intense and vigorous until Allah granted him the exalted rank of sainthood. He used to fast for seven days and nights, breaking fast on the eighth with a small crust of bread soaked in water. At this point, he felt the need for a shaykh, or spiritual guide, feeling the truth of the Qur’anic injunction,

O ye who believe! Be mindful of your duty towards Allah, and seek a means of approach unto Him, and strive in his way in order that ye may succeed. (5:35)

He himself used to state, “success is not possible without a guide.” He travelled extensively throughout the near East, finally finding a spiritual guide in Hazrat Khwaja Uthman Haruni (radiallahu anhu). In twenty years he spent under his murshid’s guidance, he attained perfection in tasawwuf and was awarded the khilafat-e-azam by Khwaja Uthman (radiallahu anhu). He offered many pilgrimages both with his murshid and alone. It was during one of these, while in Madinah Sharif, that he was directed spiritually by Rasulallah (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) to go to India and spread Islam there. He left immediately with 40 of his disciples, on the long and arduous journey.

Along the way, he stopped in several places including Baghdad, Isfahan and Balkh. In Baghdad Sharif, he was the guest of Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani (radiallahu anhu), the greatest of saints and founder of the Qadriyya silsila. Hazrat Ghaus-ul Azam (radiallahu anhu) organised a qawwali in his own house for the visitors, and he himself stood outside that night, with eyes closed and his staff tightly held against the ground. When asked the reason for his actions, he replied, “I needed to stop the ground shaking, such was the power of Khawja’s wajd.”

In Sabzwar, he came across a ruler of such corruption that he would not even hesitate to denigrate the holy sahaabi of the Holy Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wasallam). Yet one glance from the great saint sufficed to render the man unconscious. When he awoke, his personality had changed completely; he gave up his kingdom, renounced all his possessions and became a mureed of Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu).

Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu) and his disciples were in a cave in the mountains of the Hindu Kush when one of the most famous events in sufi history occurred. Hundreds of miles away, in Baghdad Sharif, Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani (radiallahu anhu) pronounced his chieftainship of all auliya-allah by saying, “My foot is on the neck of all walis.” Spiritually hearing the great saint’s statement, Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu) immediately threw himself down and stretched his neck against the floor, signifying his submission to that truth.

It was because of this type of humble obedience that Allah granted him the title, “Sultan-e-Hind”, for he is the leader and spiritual head to all the hundreds of walis that have blessed India in after-times. So it was that Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu) arrived in India at a time of tremendous upheaval and moral decay. The Ghaznavi dynasty was in its death throes, and the Rajput kings were gaining power. Tyrannical rulers were making life unbearable for common people, especially the muslims whose numbers were diminishing day by day.

Yet India is not named for no reason, “the land of saints and sufis”; its people had inherited a wealth of spirituality that yearned for expression. It was into such an arena that Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu) stepped, a torch to India’s tinder. First he went to Lahore, a centre of learning where resided a great number of Muslim theologians, philosophers and sufis. Yet he soon left this place, for his divinely guided mission was not to men such as these, but rather to those who were deprived of the light of Islam.

Thus he arrived in Delhi, which was to become the seat of his most famous successors. At the time, the city was a place of much fear and mutual hatred between Hindus and Muslims, but Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu) began delivering his sermons in a soft tongue, dipped in honey. As a result of this kindness and forbearance, both Hindus and Muslims were turned towards the path of truth. The great wali was revered and loved by those of both religions, a trend which, was to be the hallmark of Sufism in India.

Soon, however, he left Delhi too, heading instead for the remote city of Ajmer, deep within the kingdom of the most powerful Rajput prince in Northern India, Raj Prithviraj.

This city was completely alien to Islam; no muslims at all lived within its bounds. It was in this hostile environment that Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu) and his forty disciples settled and began the bulk of his teaching. Very soon, however, he changed the entire civic atmosphere, gathering people of all races, castes and stations to the shining truth of Islam. His high morals and frugal lifestyle deeply impressed the Hindus and all the while, the beautiful messages of the Qur’an and Sunnah entered deep into their hearts. Soon they started to convert, in multitudes upon multitudes, and the raja became alarmed as even his courtiers and high-ranking servants took up Islam.

It is interesting here to note that the raja’s mother had predicted the arrival of Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu), and had warned her son not to interfere with him lest he suffer total destruction. Whether Raj Prithviraj forgot this prophecy or ignored it is unknown, but he began to harass the shaykh and trouble his followers. But Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu), holding firm to the Islamic doctrine that, “Allah is with those who patiently persevere,” steadfastly carried on his peaceful mission. One day, however, he said, “The raja will be captured alive, and his kingdom snatched away.” This prophecy was proven true not months later. The raja, was defeated by Sultan Shahabuddin, was captured alive and brought into the presence of the sultan, who ordered him executed. The power of the Rajputs was thus broken for more than three hundred years.

Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti (radiallahu anhu) carried on his work in Ajmer for 45 years, and millions entered Islam through his spiritual light and endeavours. Besides this great service, he also established permanent sufi centres which were run by such mighty disciples as Khwaja Qutbudeen Khaki, Hazrat Nizamudeen Auliya, Hazrat Baba Farid Ganj Shakar and Khwaja Nasiruddeen Chiragh Delhawi (rahmatullahi ta’aala ajmaeen).

On the 29th Jamaad-us-Saani, before entering his bare cell for his usual meditations, he advised his attendants that he should not be disturbed until his khalifa-e-azam, Khwaja Qutbuddeen Khaki (radiallahu anhu), arrived from Delhi. On the 6th Rajab, 633 AH, his khalifa arrived and, receiving no answer to his polite knocking, the mureeds broke down the door. There they found that their beloved murshid had already left the world, at the ripe old age of ninety-six. To the wonder and amazement of all, upon his forehead was inscribed in letters of light: He was a lover of Allah, and he died in the love of Allah.

Such was the passing of one of the greatest saints in Islamic history. Undoubtedly, if not for him and his enormous sacrifices, many of those who read this would not have been born into the mercy of this beautiful religion. One can only imagine the hardship he endured in his early years in Ajmer, in the kingdom of a hostile king, surrounded by a nation of polytheists, a people even whose native tongue – Sanskrit – was foreign to him.

How similar was his situation, and his conduct under adversity, to the Holy Prophet (saw) himself! How he managed to convert so many Hindus to Islam, working from the heart of their own kingdom, at a time when the only words that the two religions could address each other with were hatred and war, is a miracle in itself. He not only moulded the character of a people, but also led them to a more prosperous, nobler way of living, and cultivated in them the qualities of humanity and truth. Through him and his immediate successors, the entire culture and civilisation of India underwent a profound change.

As alluded to before, apart from the millions of converts to Islam, the Bhakti Consciousness movement, modern Buddhism and Sikhism, all monotheistic or pantheistic in outlook emerged from the ancient religions of Hinduism and Buddhism due in great part to the Chishtiyya silsila’s efforts in the path of Islam. As is stated in Sura al-Nasr, When Allah’s succour and triumph cometh, and thou seest mankind entering the religion of Allah in troops, then hymn the praises of thy Lord, and seek. forgiveness of Him Lo! He is ever ready to show mercy.

(Courtesy of Chishti-Habibi Tariqa )


Dargah Shariff of Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti is indeed an ornament to the city of Ajmer. It is one of the holiest places of worship in India not only for the Muslims but also for the people of other faiths who hold the saint the high esteem and reverence. As mentioned previously. The Khwaja Saheb, as a ‘living spirit’ of peace and harmony, enjoys universal respect and devotion ever since he set his holy feet on the soil of Hindustan.

He has unquestionably been one of the greatest spiritual redeemers of human sufferings. To the faithful and afflicted souls invoking his blessing, he has ever been a never-failing source of moral strength and spiritual enlightenment. Apart from the common people, even the mighty kings of India, both Hindu and Muslim, have paid submissive homage to the great saint and have sought his miraculous aid to solve their problems. The precious buildings and various rich endowments dedicated to the Dargah of Khwaja Saheb are living memorials to and reminders of his continued patronage enjoyed by the people of India throughout the past 750 years.

The Dargah lies at the foot of the northern extremity of Taragarh hill. Its main attraction is the mausoleum containing the tomb of the saint which is the sanctum of the Dargah. Among its other prominent attractions which catch the eye of a visitor immediately he enters the Dargah, are the two mighty Buland Darwaza, which were built with the donations of Sultan Ghyasuddin Khilji of Mandoo who ruled Malwa from 1469 to 1500 A.D. The other Buland Darwaza in the north, which is now the main entrance of the Dargah, was built by H.E.H. Nisam Usman Ali Khan of Hyderabad Deccan in 1915 A.D. at a cost of Rs. 55,857/-. On the top of this gateway, there is the main Naqqar Khana (drum house) containing two pairs of huge naqqars (beating drums) which were presented by Emperor Akbar after his successful victory in a campaign of Bengal. They are sounded to the accompaniment of music played on Nafeeries and Shahnias at certain fixed hours of every day and night of the year by musicians permanently employed on the staff of the Dargah.

The Dargah includes many other attractive buildings, tombs, courtyards and Daalaans, some of which are exquisite specimens of the Moghul architecture and were erected during the Moghul period. Akbar was the first Moghul Emperor to visit the Dargah on foot when Ajmer came under his possession. He built the Akbari Masjid in the Dargah in 1571 A.d. which is a spacious mosque (140×140) feet. It was repaired by Nawab Ghafoor Ali of Danapur in 1901 A.D. One of its wings now accommodates the Moiniua Usmania Darul-Uloom, an Arabic and Persain School, for religious education which is run under the management of the Dargah.

Sultan-ul-Hind, Moinuddin Chishti (Urdu/Persian: معین الدین چشتی‎) (Persian: چشتی‎,Urdu: چشتی‎ – بiڑtī) (Arabic: ششتى‎ – Shishti) was born in 1141 and died in 1236 CE. Also known as Gharīb Nawāz “Benefactor of the Poor” (غریب نواز), he is the most famous Sufi saint of the Chishti Order of the Indian Subcontinent. Moinuddin Chishti introduced and established the order in the subcontinent. The initial spiritual chain or silsila  of the Chishti order in India, comprising Moinuddin Chishti, Bakhtiyar Kaki, Baba Farid, Nizamuddin Auliya, Ashraf Jahangir Semnani (each successive person being the disciple of the previous one), constitutes the great Sufi saints of Indian history.

Moinuddin Chishtī is said to have been born in 536 A.H./1141 CE, in Chishti in Sistan  region of East Persia.[2]  He was a student of Imam Ja’far aṣ-Ṣādiq. He grew up in Persia. His parents died when he was fifteen years old. He inherited a windmill  and an orchard  from his father. During his childhood, young Moinuddin was different from others[vague]  and kept himself busy in prayers and meditation. Legend has it that once when he was watering his plants, a revered Sufi, Shaikh Ibrāhim Qundūzī (or Kunduzi) — the name deriving from his birthplace, Kunduz in Afghanistan—came to his orchard. Young Moinuddin approached him and offered him some fruits. In return, Sheikh Ibrāhīm Qundūzī gave him a piece of bread and asked him to eat it. The Khwāja got enlightened and found himself in a strange world after eating the bread. After this he disposed of his property and other belongings and distributed the money to the poor. He renounced the world and left for Bukhara in search of knowledge and higher education.

Moinuddin Chishtī visited the seminaries of Samarkand  and Bukhara  and acquired religious learning from the eminent scholars of his age. He visited nearly all the great centers of Muslim culture, and acquainted himself with almost every important trend in Muslim religious life in the Middle Ages. He became a disciple of the Chishtī saint ‘Uthmān Hārūnī. They travelled the Middle East extensively together, including visits to Mecca and Medina.

Moinuddin Chishtī turned towards India, reputedly after a dream in which Prophet Muhammad blessed him to do so. After a brief stay at Lahore, he reached Ajmer  along with Sultan Shahāb-ud-Din Muhammad Ghori, and settled down there.[4]  In Ajmer, he attracted a substantial following, acquiring a great deal of respect amongst the residents of the city. Moinuddin Chishtī practiced the Sufi Sulh-e-Kul (peace to all) concept to promote understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

The Chishtī order was founded by Abu Ishaq Shami (“the Syrian”) in Chisht, some 95 miles east of Herat in present-day western Afghanistan.[5]  Moinuddin Chishti established the order in India, in the city of Ajmer in North India.

Moinuddin Chishti apparently never wrote down his teachings in the form of a book, nor did his immediate disciples, but the central principles that became characteristics of the Chishtī order in India are based on his teachings and practices. They lay stress on renunciation of material goods; strict regime of self-discipline and personal prayer; participation in Samā’ as a legitimate means to spiritual transformation; reliance on either cultivation or unsolicited offerings as means of basic subsistence; independence from rulers and the state, including rejection of monetary and land grants; generosity to others, particularly, through sharing of food and wealth, and tolerance and respect for religious differences.

He, in other words, interpreted religion in terms of human service and exhorted his disciples “to develop river-like generosity, sun-like affection and earth-like hospitality.” The highest form of devotion, according to him, was “to redress the misery of those in distress – to fulfill the needs of the helpless and to feed the hungry.”

It was during the reign of Emperor Akbar (1556–1605) that Ajmer emerged as one of the most important centers of pilgrimage in India. The Mughal Emperor undertook an unceremonial journey on foot to accomplish his wish to reach Ajmer. The Akbarnāmah records that the Emperor’s interest first sparked when he heard some minstrels singing songs about the virtues of the Walī (Friend of God) who lay asleep in Ajmer.

Moinuddin Chishtī authored several books including Anīs al-Arwāḥ and Dalīl al-‘Ārifīn, both of which deal with the Islamic code of living.

Quṭbuddīn Baktiyār Kākī (d. 1235) and Ḥamīduddīn Nagorī (d. 1276) were Moinuddin Chishtī’s celebrated Khalīfas or successors who continued to transmit the teachings of their master through their disciples, leading to the widespread proliferation of the Chishtī Order in India.

Among Quṭbuddīn Baktiyār’s prominent disciples was Farīduddīn Ganj-i-Shakar (d. 1265), whose dargāh is at Pakpattan, Pakistan. Farīduddīn’s most famous disciple was Nizāmuddīn Auliyā’ (d. 1325) popularly referred to as Mahbūb-e-Ilāhī (God’s beloved), whose dargāh is located in South Delhi.

From Delhi, disciples branched out to establish dargāhs in several regions of South Asia, from Sindh in the west to Bengal in the east, and the Deccan in the south. But from all the network of Chishtī dargāhs the Ajmer dargāh took on the special distinction of being the ‘mother’ dargah of them all.

The dargah  (shrine) of Chisti, known as Dargah Sharif or Ajmer Sharif is an international wakf (endowment), managed under the ‘Dargah Khwaja Saheb Act, 1955’ of Government of India. The Dargah Committee, appointed by the Government, manages donations, takes care of the maintenance of the shrine, and runs charitable institutions like dispensaries, and guest houses for the devotees.[6]  The dargah, which is visited by Muslim pilgrims as well as Hindus and Sikhs as a symbol of intercommunal harmony.

Shah Ast Hussein Badshah Ast Hussein

Ruler is Hussain, Emperor is Hussain

Deen Ast Hussein Deen Panah Ast Hussein

Faith is Hussain , guardian of faith is Hussain

Sar dad na daad dast dar dast e yazeed

Offered his head and not the hand to Yazid

Haqaaq e Binaa e Laa iLaha Ast Hussein

When Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin was born (536AD) at Chishty in Sistan, which is also known as Sajistan, East Persia. The peace of the Muslim world was horribly disturbed. Sistan and its surrounding lands were experiencing unprecedented bloodshed and plunder at the hands of barbarous Tartars and other rebels. These intruders had taken advantage of the weak government of Sultan Sanjar. The life and honour of the people were in constant danger. The wild Tartars had completely destroyed the follower of the Muslim nation. They outraged humanity practically in all the centers of the 600-year old Muslim civilisation and culture.

Due to these intermittent political disturbances in sistan, khawaja Ghiyasuddin Hasan, father of khawaja Muinuddin, one day decided to pack up and leave Sistan for a safer place. He migrated with his family to Neshapur the Capital city, which was one of the most flourishing cities in those days. It was a great centre of intellectual and economic activities and possessed the famous “Nizamia” university with a precious library that contained rare collection of Original literature. There lived learned Ulama and reputed Sufis who imparted knowledge in moral and spiritual enlightenment to scholars drawn from far and near. There lived physicians and artists of rare qualifications. There were rich gardens and canals with flourishing agricultural fields. One of the suburbs was called Rewand which was famous for its grape orchards. It is recorded that khawaja Ghiyasuddin Hasan bought an orchard with a windmill in this vicinity to settle down for a peaceful life.

“Man proposes but God disposes” is an old saying. The peace in search of which Khawaja Ghiyasuddin Hasan had migrated to Neshapur was not to be had even in this great city. Here too the people were hanging in a terrible suspense between life and death. The brave Sultan Sanjar had been fighting the Tartars at the border to check them for a long time without success. Due to his prolonged absence from the capital, his administrative machinery was showing signs of disintegration. Internally, the Fidayees of the ‘Qarmti’ and ‘Baatini’ sects (one of whose members had already murdered the able Wazeer Nizamul Mulk) had also come out of their hideouts and were roaming about the country unabated, spreading wild fire of rebellion all round. These armed hordes were busy in wholesale plunder and massacre of the innocent people.

These awe-inspiring events had a very deep impression on the mind of the young Khawaja Muinuddin who was watching the whole barbarous drama objectively at his impressionable young age.

The ‘Qarmti’ and Baatani’ intriguers had carried centuries old grudge against the Hanafi Muslims who held both temporal and spiritual powers in succession for more than 500 years after the death of the Holy Prophet (May peace of God be on him). Although it was an age-old grudge but. As Islamic history shows they utterly failed in all their designs to destroy their rivals. Islam has survived many vicissitudes of history and Quran has promised its survival up to the last Day-of-Judgment.

In spite of all his best efforts to turn out the invaders from his country and to control the internal rebels, Sultan Sanjar unfortunately could not succeed. He was engulfed in mutual wars between himself and his unfaithful brothers on the one hand, and the Fidayees and barbarous Tartars on the other. It was indeed a terrible situation for him, yet they fought the forces of evil to the bitter end though he was ultimately defeated and had to run for his life.

After the defeat of Sultan Sanjar, the invaders had a free hand to plunder every town in Khorasan. Flourishing fields were destroyed, cities were razed to the ground, inhabitants, Ulama and Sufis were mercilessly murdered honour of the woman was brutally outraged, girls and boys were taken as salves mosques, hospitals and the historic educational institutions were destroyed

Destruction Of Neshapur

When the news of this terrible destruction reached the defeated sultan, he once more summed up his courage and collected his shattered army to save his country. But Sultan Sanjar was born under most unlucky stars and his luck once more betrayed him. He failed to check the invaders and this time he was arrested. When this bad news reached Neshapur, the capital was plunged into indescribable grief. It was now at the mercy of the enemy. The invaders entered Khorasan and destroyed the cities of Tus and Mashhed, reaching Neshapur like a sweeping storm. Everything was destroyed leaving this once flourishing city of Islamic culture and learning into a heap of rubble and ruin.

Khawaja Muinuddin again saw all this ghastly drama at his early age. But this was not all for him. Just at this time he lost his dear father (551 AD) and the worst part of it was that he had already lost his dear mother too. The young orphan was now left all alone to take care of himself in a world full of hate, murder and greed. Although by virtue of legacy he had enough material resources to sustain himself in his traditional standard of life but the sack of Neshapur coupled with the death of his dear parents plunged him into deep thinking. At times he was over whelmed with grief and saw a very vague picture of this terrible world though he bore it out with courage and exemplary forbearance. He was a hard working youth and looked after his orchard, personally trimming and watering the plants with his own hands.

Hardly a year had passed after the death of Khawaja Muinuddin’s father, when the mischievous Tartars once more ransacked Khorasan and repeated the same bloody drama of murder arson and loot. This time Sultan Mahmood, one of the brothers of Sultan Sanjar, came forward to check the invaders but he too failed to rout them. Neshapur was again the scene of the same ghastly tragedies. And once more Khawaja Muinuddin was overwhelmingly dismayed to see these scenes of terrible devastation. He often plunged himself into deeper thoughts about these ugly events in order to try to come to some definite conclusion about his own future course of life. The thought of helping the helpless humanity against all such persistent pillage always tormented his tender heart. Yet they could not come to any definite conclusion

As helpless human beings, we can never understand the will of the Almighty God. Should we surmise that by exhibiting these tragedies perhaps God Almighty meant to show Khawaja Muinuddin the sins of this wretched world in order to prepare him for a mighty divine mission of reform and peace for the mankind? As it will be seen later on that Heavenly Father did mean this for which He enlightened the mind of the young Khawaja quite unexpectedly. Whenever injustice, oppression and greed reigned supreme in this world, God has always been merciful to mankind by sending His saviours to fight the satanic forces and put the people on the path of righteousness and mutual love.

Hazrat Khawaja Muinuddin Chishty was one of the descendants of the illustrious family of Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (May peace of God be on him). His father Syed Ghiyasuddin Hasan was a very pious personality and a well to do and influential gentleman. His mother, Syeda Bibi Ummul-wara alias Babi Mah-e-Noor was the daughter of Syed Daud. While Khawaja Muinuddin’s paternal genealogy is traced from Hazrat Imam Husain, the younger son of Hazrat Ali Karam Allah Wajahu, his maternal genealogy is traced from Hazrat Imam Hasan, the elder son of Hazrat Ali.

According to historians, Khwaja Muinuddin Chishty even during his childhood gave early promise of his rare piety and sacrifice for others. Whenever any woman with a baby came to see his mother and if the baby cried for feeding,”the infant saint of the future” used to make a sign to his mother to feed the crying baby from her own breast. When his mother did this, the spectacle pleased the little Muinuddin very much. At the age of 3 or 4 he used to share his own food with his playmates.

Once he was going to Idgah for the Id prayers in rich clothes. On the way he saw a blind boy in rags. He pitied the boy so much that he at once gave him some of his own clothes and led him to Idgah with all due affection.

Khawaja Muinuddin Hasan Chishty, son of Khawaja Syed Ghyasuddin Hasan, son of Syed Ahmed Muddin Tahir, son of Syed Khawaja Abdul Aziz Husain, son of Syed Imam Mohammed Mehdi, son of Syed Imam Hasan Askari, son of Imam Ali Naqi, son of Syed Imam Mohammed Taqi, son of Imam Ali Musi Raza, son of Imam Musi Kazim Raza, son of Imam Mohammed Jafar Sadiq, son of Imam Mohammed Baqar, son of Hazrat Syed Imam Zain-ul-Abideen, son of Syed-ul-Shohoda Syed Imam Husain, son of Amir-ul-Momineen Hazrat Ali, son-in-law of the Holy Prophet Mohammed.

Maternal Genealogy

Syeda Bidi Mah-e-Noor, daughter of Syed Daud, son of Hazrat Abdulla, son of Syed Zahid, son of Syed Mooris, son of Syed Daud I, son of Syedna Moosa, son of Syedna Abdulla Mahaz, son of Syedna Hasan Musa, son of Syedna Hazrat Imam Hasan, son of Syedna Hazrat Ali Karam Allah Wajahu.

He became the Murid (disciple) of Usman Harooni.


Devotees at the Ajmer Dargah.

The aesthetic and stunning white dome that crowns the main tomb of the historic dargah of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer stands out as an illustrious embodiment of Islamic mysticism of the Chishtiya order founded in India after the arrival of one of the most outstanding figures in the annals of Sufism from West Asia.

The dargah at Ajmer Sharif today attracts lakhs of people — Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others — from the Indian sub-continent and from other parts of the world, depicting a rare blend of religions. People assemble at the shrine during the week-long Urs every year to beseech for fulfilment of their prayers.

Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, popularly known as Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (protector of the poor), was born in 1141 A.D. at Sanjar in the Sistan province of Iran. He was a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. His parents died when he was only 15 years old and he used to look after the orchard and windmill that he inherited from his father.

During his childhood, young Moinuddin was different from others and kept himself busy in prayers and meditation. He was sober, silent and serene.

Legend has it that once when he was watering his plants, a revered monk, Sheikh Ibrahim Qandozi, came to his orchard. Young Moinuddin approached him with all humility and offered him some fruits. In return, the monk gave him a piece of bread and asked him to eat it.
Turning point

The Khwaja got enlightened and found himself in a strange world after eating the bread. This was a turning point in his life. He disposed of his property and other belongings and distributed the money thus received among the poor and the needy. He renounced the world and left for Bukhara in search of knowledge and higher education.

In those days, Samarkand and Bukhara were great seats of Islamic learning. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti visited the seminaries of the two cities and acquired religious learning at the feet of eminent scholars of his age. He visited nearly all the great centres of Muslim culture and acquainted himself with almost every important trend in the Muslim religious life.

He became the disciple of the famous Dervish, Khwaja Usman Harooni, and remained under his guidance for nearly 20 years. They travelled in West Asia extensively together and also went to Mecca and Medina.

Khwaja Gharib Nawaz turned towards India reputedly after a dream in Medina in which he received the directions to go to Hindustan. After a brief stay in Lahore, he reached Ajmer along with his 40 followers and camped near Ana Sagar lake.

The place from where the Khwaja’s extensive missionary work was taken up is now known as Chillah of Khwaja Saheb. The residents of the city admired the wisdom, purity and grace of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz and people from various walks of life cherished to be his disciples. The vast number of his followers, both Hindus and Muslims, emulated him and symbolised his dictum of “Sulh-i-Kul” (peace with all).
Mystic mission

Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s firm faith in “Wahdat-al-Wujud” (unity of being) provided the necessary ideological support to his mystic mission to bring about the emotional integration of the people among whom he lived. His teaching lay stress on renunciation of material goods and tolerance and respect for religious differences.

He interpreted religion in terms of human service and exhorted his disciples to develop a “river-like generosity, sun-like affection and earth-like hospitality”. The highest form of devotion, according to him, was to redress the misery of those in distress and fulfil the needs of the helpless and feed the hungry.

Sufism in Islam is akin to Vedanta in Hinduism. It believes in non-dual Absolute and looks upon the world as the reflection of God, who is conceived as Light. Sufism is claimed to be a way of life born of the human heart against the cold formalism and ritualism.

Ajmer Sharif emerged as one of the most important centres of pilgrimage in India during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605). Akbar undertook a journey on foot to accomplish his humble wish to reach the place and presented a big cauldron for cooking food after his conquest of Chittorgarh. A small cauldron was later presented by Emperor Jehangir in 1646.

Some of the books authored by Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti are Anis-al-Arwah and Daleel-al-Arefeen, dealing with the Islamic code of living. His most famous disciples were Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and Hamiduddin Nagori.

The week-long Urs, observed every year in the dargah, commemorates the event in 1236 when Khwaja Gharib Nawaz entered his cell to pray in seclusion for six days, at the end of which he died. When his devotees opened the door, the Khwaja was found dead, and on his forehead were written these words: “He was a beloved of God and he died in the love of God.”

He was buried, according to the traditions of the prophets, in the same tenement which he occupied in his life and in which he breathed his last. During the Urs, attended by people from far and wide, devotional music and recitings from the Khwaja’s own works and other Sufi saints are presented in the traditional Qawwali style and in chorus.

The Urs — observed between the first and sixth days of the Hijri month of Rajab — is also the much sought-after occasion when “Jannati Darwaza” (door to heaven) is opened for the devotees. People from all religions offer chadar and floral tributes at the grave of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
Several monuments

Besides the mausoleum, there are several other monuments of historical interest located within the premises of the Sufi shrine. They include the tenement of Bibi Hafiz Mahal, Begami Dalan constructed in memory of Begum Jehanara, Mehfil Khana, Ahata-e-Noor, Aulia mosque and the Chillah of Baba Farid.

The dargah has recovered from the obnoxious shadow of an unfortunate incident involving a bomb explosion on October 11 last year that killed three persons in its compound. It is now on the way to restoration of its past glory. Several projects have been launched for beautification of the 13th-century shrine and attempts made to improve its management.

The new dargah committee, which took over six months ago after dissolution of the previous panel, has chalked out a plan to ensure free movement of pilgrims, stop commercial activities on the dargah premises and renovate various buildings, besides stepping up security to prevent terror attacks.

As part of its efforts to step up security for pilgrims, the dargah committee has sanctioned a special budget of Rs. 26 lakh for the upkeep of sensitive high beam cameras, closed circuit televisions, X-ray machines and metal detectors installed on the premises recently. Security guards have also been deployed at sensitive locations inside the shrine.

Says Prince of Arcot Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, president of the nine-member dargah committee: “The dargah is a fine embodiment of syncretic traditions of our country. Its beautification will protect a rich legacy for generations to come and apprise them of the noble values of Sufism, promoting tolerance, charity and universal brotherhood.”

Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali — the first person from South India to be appointed the dargah committee chief — has instructed the administration of the shrine to make “value addition” to the dargah endowment and properties and put them to a productive use for philanthropic activities, such as education, grants to the destitute and welfare of orphans.

The dargah committee, established under the provisions of the Dargah Khwaja Saheb Act, 1955, administers and controls the affairs of the shrine as well as its endowments. It also organises the annual Urs and regulates the presence of Khadims (workers) on the premises, besides determining their privileges and giving them licences.
Generous outlay

An annual budget of Rs. 3.09 crore was approved at a dargah committee meeting recently, with the endorsement of proposals for eviction of unauthorised possessions on the dargah premises, extension of amenities for pilgrims, establishment of a university named after Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, expansion of the Khwaja Model School building and enhancement of grants to widows and orphans.

Besides, restoration of the heritage of two Chillahs of the Sufi saint, renovation of Eidgah and three mosques and expansion of the guest house are among the projects cleared by the committee.

Significantly, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) has incorporated the renovation of the exterior of the dargah in its project for Ajmer. The renovation of various structures on the premises of the shrine, on the other hand, has been taken up by the dargah committee in its capacity as the custodian of the historic monument.

Dargah Nazim Ahmed Raza — functioning as Chief Executive Officer of the dargah committee — undertook visits to several places in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh during the last 11 months to find out the present status of the dargah’s agricultural lands worth about Rs.1.5 crore and succeeded in getting possession of 20 properties previously encroached upon.

The plaster of Sandal Khana and Akbari mosques in the dargah complex was replaced with marble to give them an elegant look. As part of efforts to improve amenities for pilgrims, round-the-clock supply of water for ablution was arranged and a project for stay arrangements at Vishram Sthali, especially during the Urs, was launched.

Pilgrims visiting the shrine in large numbers every year can look forward to finding themselves in spruced up surroundings with an ambience promoting spiritual contentment and fulfilling the mystical yearning to find the true purpose of life. Evidently, the message of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz does not admit of time. It is as true today, as it was when delivered centuries ago.


Soniji Ki Nasiyan

see also :

Gangaur – The Festival of Rajasthan




Gangaur – The Festival of Rajasthan

As soon as we give farewell to Holi – The Festival of Colors, we Rajasthani women welcomes another traditional festival of Gangaur with typical mewari songs like “poojan do gangaur bhanwar mhane poojan do gangaur”.

We Indians are inherent with celebrations on every small and big occasion, precisely to talk about Rajasthan then fairs and festivals are very important part of our lives. We have celebrations for every religious occasion; we celebrate even for every season.

Gangaur is celebrated at the end of winter and the onset of spring season, this 18 day festival starts with subsequent day of Holi.

Rajasthan  may be India’s driest and most arid state, but when it comes to sheer colour and exuberance, it’s hard to beat. And Rajasthan is best seen in all its colours at the time of Gangaur, the spring festival dedicated to the goddess of abundance, Gauri (Parvati). Gangaur is a largely female-centric festival, in that most of the festivities and pujas are conducted by women. The fortnight leading up to Gangaur is marked by fasting, daily pujas of Gauri, and on the day of the festival itself, a bejewelled and beautifully clothed idol of the goddess is the centrepiece of an elaborate procession.

Although Gangaur fairs are held throughout Rajasthan, some towns in particular are known for the fair: Udaipur (where a boat procession makes its way across the Pichola Lake), Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Nathdwara. Among the Girasia tribals of the Sirohi – Mt Abu region, Gangaur festivities carry on for more than a month, when devotees carry decorated idols of the goddess from village to village, finally returning to the village they started from. During this period, unmarried men and women of the tribe choose their mates and elope – a custom which has prevailed through the ages and is more or less expected during Gangaur.

Gangaur is one of the most vivid festivals rejoiced with great enthusiasm and happiness all over the Indian state of Rajasthan. In the word Gangaur, ‘Gan’ is the synonym for Lord Shiva whereas ‘Gaur’ stands for Gauri or Goddess Parvati. But mainly, this festival is held in the honour of Goddess Parvati as she is regarded as the epitome of marital love, strength, courage, power and excellence. During the festivities, married women worship Goddess Parvati for the long life, well being and wealth of their husbands while the girls pray for getting a smart and an understanding life partner. The festival is rejoiced in the month of Chaitra, the first month of the Hindu calendar and falls in between March and April, according to Gregorian calendar. It begins on the very first day Chaitra month, the day after Holi and is celebrated for 18 days. Also, it marks the end of winter season and the coming of spring season.

Women and girls observe fast during this festive time and eat only once in a day. Images of Gauri and Isar (Lord Shiva) are made with the clay and decorated very beautifully. On the other hand, in some of the Rajput families, images are made of wood every year before the festival they are painted by the famous painters who are called as ‘Matherans’. The images which are made during this time do not have canopies. Women and girls, during the festival, wear new dresses, adorn themselves with jewellery and make designs on their palms and feet by applying mehandi (henna). On the 7th day evening girls carry ‘ghudilas’, which are earthen pots with many holes inside which a lamp is lit, on their heads. They sing songs of Gangaur and are given gifts in the form of money, ghee, sweets, jaggery, etc. by the elders of the family as a token of love.

This ritual goes on for 10 days and on the last day women and girls break the pots and throw the broken pieces into a well or a tank; the clay idols made by the married women are also immersed in water on the last day of the festival. A grand procession is held which starts from the Zanani-Deodhi of the City Palace which then goes through Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chaugan Stadium and finally converges near the Talkatora. This procession is headed by a colourful show of elephants, old palanquins, chariots, bullock carts and performance folk artistes. People irrespective of their caste and creed come to observe and to be a part of the procession.







gangaur-celebration_Poojan do Gangor Rajasthan.

Music Masters From The Desert


Sarangi Player Lakha Khan and his soin Dane on Dholak_04



Early  Music of Rajasthan

Field Recordings recorded live
during 2007 2012  on  locations:

And Rajasthan Desert Villages



Double Reed Flutes

Bow played Tube String Instruments

Sindhi Sarangi  (Ustad Lakha Khan)

Gujari Sarangi

Mouth Harp

Rugma Bai and sung Poetry

The most common Instruments

The 17-string khamaycha is a bowed instrument. Made of mango wood, its rounded resonator is covered with goat skin. Three of its strings are goat intestine while the other 14 strings are steel.

The khartaal is a kind of castanet made of teak. Its name is derived from “Khar”, meaning hand, and “Taal”, meaning rhythm.

The dholak is a classical North Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese hand drum similar in timbre to a bongo. A dholak may have traditional lacing or turnbuckle tuning. The dholak has a simple membrane and a handle on the right hand side. The left hand membrane has a special coating on the inner surface. This coating is a mixture of tar, clay and sand (dholak masala) which lowers the pitch.



Maestro Musicians  of The Rajasthan Desert

Folk  Musicians From The Rajasthan villages
of Raneri and Hamir

In the small village of Raneri almost 400 miles southwest of New Delhi, where women wash dishes in the sand to conserve water, and electricity is scarce, Lakha Khan sat on the floor of a stone hut, legs crossed and white turban in place. There he coaxed a bright, high-pitched, dizzyingly fast melody from his violinlike sarangi.

Sakar Khan, center, playing the kamancha, with his son Firoze, , on the dholak. Sakar Khan, who tours internationally with his instrument, is one of the best-known Manganiyars in India.

Mr. Khan, 66, who is known as Lakha or Lakhaji (ji at the end of a name is a sign of respect in India), is one of the few remaining Sindhi sarangi players among the Manganiyars, a caste of hereditary Muslim musicians who live in this desert state of Rajasthan. He plays for hours — until black beetles falling from the ceiling indicate nighttime — usually with no more company than a couple of passing goats. But on a recent afternoon he had an audience of two: Ashutosh Sharma and Ankur Malhotra, who were crouching over their gear, including a five-channel mixer and two analog recorders. They placed some of their seven microphones on towels to absorb the noise of the flour mill across the street.

“There’s an exuberance or just kind of a lack of inhibition when they’re performing at home,” Mr. Malhotra said of the Manganiyars, whose music is a mix of traditional melodies and arresting vocals. “Here these performances are genuine and real and filled with emotion.”

Mr. Sharma and Mr. Malhotra, both 37, said they want to preserve the music of the Manganiyars, whose songs — devotionals as well as stories of births, deaths and love, often about the Hindu families that are their patrons — have no written record. The two men said they were inspired by Alan Lomax, the musicologist who more than half a century ago traveled the American South recording previously unknown blues musicians.

And like Lomax they hope to preserve the music and to bring it to a wider audience through a small, independent record label they began with two friends, called Amarrass Records. Yet they realize that trying to popularize Manganiyar music is a daunting task in India, where most young people would rather download Bollywood ringtones than listen to an ancient folk music.

Several authorities on the Manganiyars, like Shubha Chaudhuri, an ethnomusicologist at the American Institute of Indian Studies in Gurgaon, India, are skeptical about the goal of making the musicians more widely known because their indigenous music is not meant to be commercial. “It’s a niche audience for this kind of thing,” Dr. Chaudhuri said.

Mr. Malhotra and Mr. Sharma are undeterred. They grew up in New Delhi, listening to Sufi and Hindi music. As they got older they turned to Western rock, though the music was difficult to get in India, which was just liberalized. Mr. Sharma’s father, a British Airways pilot, brought him Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones records that he picked up during trips to the United States and Britain. As Mr. Sharma began to explore the music that had influenced such rock acts, his interest eventually lead him to Lomax.

Mr. Sharma had begun a travel agency in New Delhi (it handles many foreign journalists in India, including some who work for The New York Times). Mr. Malhotra moved to the United States, earned an M.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and created an education technology start-up. But the two men became “fed up,” as Mr. Sharma put it, by the lack of music in their lives, and they began talking about starting a label. Not long afterward Mr. Sharma showed up at a rehearsal in New Delhi of the “Manganiyar Seduction,” a theater show with roughly 40 Manganiyars that was about to go on tour outside India. His agency had been handling travel for the show, and when he went to drop off plane tickets, he recalls being blown away by the music. He called Mr. Malhotra in Wisconsin and had him listen to the performance over the phone.

“The 40 of them singing and performing in a room, there’s no way you can’t feel that,” Mr. Malhotra said. After finding limited recordings of Manganiyar music, they decided to make their own and approached the theater director about recording the show on vinyl. He agreed. The show led the two to thinking about making field recordings.

“There was this curiosity about these rock stars,” Mr. Sharma said. “Their two-minute piece is so good, what do they practice in their lives, what do they play?”

Several months later they traveled to Rajasthan, where they auditioned Manganiyars in the town of Pokharan. They then drove down desert roads for hours to get to Raneri, where they met Lakhaji. They arrived at his home around 8 at night, exhausted.

“Then he picks up the sarangi and starts playing, and it just changes the mood,” Mr. Malhotra said. “We were there for an hour, and it was a beautiful session, just the three of us. It was such a moving experience.”

This spring they returned to Raneri hoping to record an album with several Manganiyar families. They stayed at Lakhaji’s house for three days, forgoing showers because Raneri has no running water. At night they slept on cots under the stars.

“It was important for us to be with him,” Mr. Malhotra said. “When he gets up in the morning and feels like singing a certain song a certain way, we’re there. That doesn’t happen in a studio.”

Later they drove about 100 miles to the village of Hamira, the home of Sakar Khan, 76. Sakarji is a master of the kamancha, an ancient stringed instrument played with a bow that is a signature of the Manganiyars. One of the best-known Manganiyars in the country, he has toured the world with his instrument, passed down from his father.

Mr. Sharma agrees that concessions to modernization are necessary. While on location he and his partner shoot video of the musicians that they upload to their Web site. Mr. Malhotra, a D.J., recently had a show in New Delhi in which he mixed electronic music with that of the Manganiyars. Their next festival, in December, will be held at a new outdoor space in New Delhi with three stages that they said is more suited to the music than the auditorium where the Desert Music Festival was held.

Mr. Sharma noted that traditional roles are changing in a rapidly modernizing India, and he said he worries about how that change will affect the music. “Preservation is definitely the most important part,” he said.

He pointed to Lakhaji as a case in point. His sons did not learn the Sindhi sarangi, which is more widely played by the Langas, another group of folk musicians in Rajasthan; one abandoned the dholak, a two-sided drum, to work as a driver. Lakhaji said that they were discouraged by the rigors of the family trade, so they sought other opportunities. “They feel they cannot do justice to the music,” he said. “They give up quite easily.”

Mr. Sharma and Mr. Malhotra said that no matter how long they sit in desert villages listening to aging masters, a valuable part of the centuries-old tradition will inevitably be lost. “They are keepers of the oral tradition, along with their own history,” Mr. Malhotra said. “It’s all in their own heads. And 20 percent gets lost in a generation.”

(Excerpts Courtesy of New York Times)









Tribal Music from Rajasthan

The Langas and Manganiars are groups of hereditary professional musicians,
whose music has been supported by wealthy landlords and aristocrats for generations.
Both sing in the same dialect, but their styles and repertoires differ, shaped by the tastes of their patrons.
The monarchs of the courts of Rajput and Jaipur maintained large music and dance troupes
an in an environment where the arts were allowed to flourish. Though both communities are made
up of Muslim musicians, many of their songs are in praise of Hindu deities and
celebrate Hindu festivals such as Diwali and Holi.

The Manganiar performers traditionally invoke the Hindu God Krishna and seek his blessings
before beginning their recital. At one time, the Manganiars were musicians of the Rajput courts,
accompanying their chiefs to war and providing them with entertainment before and after
the battles and in the event of his death, would perform at the ruler’s vigil day and night until the mourning was over.

Langa literally means ‘song giver’. An accomplished group of poets, singers, and musicians
from the Barmer district of Rajasthan, the Langas seem to have converted from Hinduism to Islam
in the 17th century. Traditionally, Sufi influences prevented them from using percussion
instruments, however, the Langas are versatile players of the Sindhi Sarangi
and the Algoza (double flute), which accompany and echo their formidable and magical voices.
They perform at events like births, and weddings, exclusively for their patrons (Yajman),
who are cattle breeders, farmers, and landowners. The Langa musicians are regarded by their patrons as ‘kings’.

“The ‘Sindhi Sarangi’ used by the Langas, is made up of four main wires,
with more than twenty vibrating sympathetic strings which help to create its distinctive haunting tones.
The bowing of these instruments is a skilful exercise, often supported by the sound of
the ‘ghungroos’ or ankle bells that are tied to the bow to make the beat more prominent.

The word ‘Manganiyar’ means those who ask for alms. On different occasions they
would go to patron’s houses and sing appropriate songs and in turn would be rewarded.
The Manganiyar community is divided into two parts, one whose patrons are Hindus
and the other who have Muslim patrons. The Hindu patrons mostly belong
to Bhati and Rathore communities of Rajputs while the Muslim patrons are Sindhi Muslims.

Even though the Manganiyars are Sunni Muslims by birth, their lifestyle and the way of
dressing up reflect the Hindu or the ‘Ganga-Jamana’ culture.

They present a perfect example of communal bonhomie as for generations
they have been closely linked to both Muslim and Hindu families for their livelihood.

Since generations the tradition of singing and composing for occasions is going strong.
Singing at their jajmaans house on various occasions is their traditional profession.
Describing their jajmaans illustrious history which is full of honor and pride, is their specialty.
The description of jajmaan’s Genealogy with the support of artists is known as ‘Shubhraj’.
Such is the ability of these people that they could recite all the names of the last few generations
of the jajmaans within the space of a single breath. This also includes the description of their achievements.

in exchange of the above, the manganiyars were rewarded handsomely in the form of grain,
wheat, goat, camel, sheep, horse or cash.

Khamaycha is the most significant instrument of Manganiyar community.
It is like an ancient niche amongst string instruments which is linked with Manganiyar community
since ages. Khamaycha is made up of mango wood. The big, round, hollow part on one end of it is
covered with goat skin. This instrument has 17 strings out of which three special strings are made
from goat’s intestine and the rest of the 14 strings are made up of steel. When they touch those
three special strings with their special bow made from the horse’s hair, it produces some soul stirring music.

Other than Khamaycha the instruments that they play are Dholak and Khartaal. Dholak is a hollow
drum tapering at both ends. Both the ends are covered with leather (animal skin).
They use loops of rope to tighten the animal skin at the two ends. Sometimes they use traditional Dhol also.

Khartaal produces melodious musical sounds with the special movements of the hands.
The four pieces of Khartaal are made up of Sheesham wood. When the Manganiyar
artist plays Khartaal, it evokes a delightful combination of rhythm and the musical notes.

Khartaal. The word mean Khar and Taal. Khar means hand and Taal means Rhythm. Rhythm of Hands.

Khartaal is a kind of castanets, made of teak wood, and the artistes hold them in both hands
and perform with tremendous ease. A young man’s Karthal play holding it in his hands
was a thrill to watch for the way he created complex percussion sounds,
while his partner was playing the dholak.

The dholak is a classical North Indian, Pakisthani and Nepalese hand drum.

A dholak may have traditional lacing or turnbuckle tuning. T
he dholak has a simple membrane and a handle on the right-hand side.
The left-hand membrane has a special coating on the inner surface.
This coating is a mixture of tar, clay and sand (dholak masala) which lowers the pitch
and provides a well-defined tone. The wood used for the membrane is usually made of
teak wood, also known as “sheesham” wood. The process of hollowing out the drum is the
determination of the sound and quality of the dholak A dholak has 2 heads a small part for
the high pitch, and the large part is for the low pitch and it’s pitched depending on size
and tuning sounding like a bongo in playing mode.

(Excerpts Courtesy of Rythm of Rajasthan 2012)


A selected List
Of Musicians from Rajasthan

Allah Jilai Bai
Anwar Khan
Asif Hussain Samraat
Bhutte Khan
Bihari Kathak
Bundu Khan
Dapu Khan
Fakira Khan
Gavri Devi
Gazhi khan
Gazi Khan Barna
Hameed Khan Kawa
Jamila Bai and Kulsum
Kalu Ram Prajapati
Kawa Br thers
Lakha Khan
Langa and Manganiar
Mangi Bai Arya
Mehdi Hassan
M hammed Ayub
Mukhtiyar Ali
Munshi Khan
Naseeb  Lal
Pandit Chiranji Lal Tanwar
Pratibha Naitthani
Rama Bahi
Rekha Ra
Rukma Bai
Samandar Khan
Saraswati Devi Dhandra
Sh bha Gurtu
Sumermal Pungaliya
Ustad Naseeruddin Sami













Manganiyars the singing conquerors of the Rajput

Their songs are passed from generation to generation, which make them effectively
the keepers of the history of the desert. They sing songs about Alexander the Great,
about the local Maharajas and past battles in the region. Manganiyars have survived for
centuries on the patronage of wealthy merchants in caravan towns, particularly
Jaisalmer where there is an important settled community today.

The traditional jajman (patrons) of the Manganiar are the locally dominant Rajput community,
while the Langha have a similar relationship with the Sindhi-Sipahi, a community
of Muslim Rajputs. At times of birth, marriage or any family festivity for their Rajput patrons,
the Manganiyar musicians are in attendance to evoke the right mood with songs
of the desert and many especially composed songs to praise the patron and his family.

There is a fair bit of drama and theatre to the vocalists performance.
The artist fishing for appreciation and gauging how his masterful renditions are
received by his audience. In folk music there are no pretensions.

While strongly rooted in classical foundations, this style of music is of the people,
by the people and for the people. So even if the finer nuances of the singers
calisthenics are lost to a less classically trained audience, the emotions it evokes
is used by the protagonist as a barometer of how succesful he has been in his pursuits.

Eye contact, body language, hand gestures, all come together to engulf the audience
and take them along for a ride amongst the life of the desert folk.

There are the Ravan Hattha, Kamayacha and Sarangi.

These performances are much like a breathtaking relay, where vocalists with different
tonal qualities pick up the delicate thread of the song from each other in a sort of goodspirited
creative duel that propels the performance ever upwards. Among them the Sarangi,
Ravan Hattha and Kamayacha act as the magic glue that binds the vocalists together in
an embrace lest they step out of line. The possibility of that happening though are
non-existant as the vocalists demonstrate a complete command over their faculties.
Also the wail of these instruments gives the much appreciated soul to these performances.

Then there is the khadtal, dholak and other percussion instruments.

Specially the clickety-clack of the khadtal, immediately resets the listeners bio-rhythms
and not in gentle persuasions, but with a sudden snap you are tapping,
nodding and bobbing to the rhythm of the song. Rising above the rounded rhythms
of the  dholak, the crisp taps of the khadtal jumps from one beat, tempo and rhythm
to another daring the audience to follow it – like jumping on stones to cross the river.

And last but not the least, the morchang and bhapang.

These add the whimsical distinctiveness to these performances.
While Manganiyar singing is grounded heavily in classical music of some erudition,
the morchang and bhapang add the earthy feel to the performances.
This probably is the bridge on which the Manganiyar’s move from classical to folk.

(Excerptrs Courtesy of Sandeep Tiwari)




















On  Mangniyar

Narrowing gaps and widening capacities for empowerment
among hereditary musicians in western Rajasthan

(Courtesy of Shalini Ayyagari )

“Mangniyar means to beg, you know. These musicians have always made their livings from begging. Well, not anymore. Now we beg fromthem. If we need something, we go to them,” N.K. Sharma, a respected historian from Jaisalmer, Rajasthan was telling me. He was speakingabout the focus of my doctoral dissertation, the Mangniyar—a community of professional hereditary musicians hailing from the Thar Desertregion of western Rajasthan, located in northwestern India. In my research I am examining how this community of musicians, in an ever-increasing world of modernization, is actively [re]configuring musical practices, [re]constructing space and social positioning, and [re]articulating relationships in order to assert their livelihoods and individual agency.

Dissertation Project Description

Customarily for at least the past four centuries, the Mangniyar, a peripatetic community by profession, have provided family genealogies and entertainment to their hereditary musical patrons for remuneration. They have been attached not only to individual patron families, but also to entire family lineages over many generations through social and economic dependence. However, in recent times, modernization is jeopardizing this way of life. No longer do younger musicians know the span of musical repertoire that their forefathers knew, nor do they depend so much on their jajmans (patrons) economically. Likewise, their jajman families do not generally possess the musical knowledge and interest that their ancestors once had, nor do they feel the responsibility to provide economic sustainability for their Mangniyars. With modernization has come a myriad of small-scale development projects sponsored mainly by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at state, national, and international levels. Most of these institutions in western Rajasthan focus on cultural preservation, education, cultural tourism, ecological development, and health issues. Instead of resisting this local developmental discourse as a force endangering their way of life, Mangniyar professional musicians are actively transforming this institutional space to maneuver within and beyond the constraints of imposed boundaries and categorizations. Many Mangniyar musicians have begun to transcend the limitations of their low caste designation and position in society by integrating not only development rhetoric, but also NGO-inspired organizational structures into their livelihoods. Many have founded their own institutions aimed at musical preservation, economic sustainability through music-making, ecological rehabilitation, and community uplift. Gazi Khan Barna for instance, a Mangniyar musician residing in Jaisalmer city, Rajasthan has founded his own NGO called Pahachan (“Recognition” in both Hindi and local Marwari language) with the support from both local and foreign donors. Aimed at cultural sustainability, his NGO focuses on a school for underprivileged Mangniyar children on his property in Barna village. There students are educated in both rural lifestyle and local hereditary musical traditions. With this knowledge, he claims students not only gain a valuable folk education, but also then have a viable means to make a living as a musician and sustain traditional musical practices at the same time. Using this form of development also as a source of revenue, the local musicians invite tourists to the village school, which has the dual function as a concert venue. Gazi Khan Barna has gained both wealth and wide success (as perceived within and outside of his musician community) as a result of this endeavor. Thus, it seems that in many cases, this NGO structure has taken the place of the traditional jajmani (patronage) system as an overarching and institutional organization within the Mangniyar community.

Recent discourse on NGO work has emphasized external intervention into community development projects and their capacity to ward off global modernization at a local level. At the same time, this discourse often criticizes NGOs for their close relationships with state and global financial institutions as well as their inherent bureaucracy and non-accountability to actual people. But what happens when an NGO is formed by the very people that the organization aims to help? And what is the outcome when this NGO is used to support modernization through community uplift and alternative forms of sustainability? The above scenario of Gazi Khan Barna is an example of collective action—a community taking control of its destiny and advantage of feasible opportunities to promote their music as a viable means of livelihood in today’s globalizing world.

In my dissertation, I am exploring different conceptions of institutionalization among the Mangniyar musician community in an attempt to understand how the use of discourse and relationships can serve as a means to power. I am specifically interested in how this new form of institutionalization is changing and influencing the music of the Mangniyar. The Mangniyar often make interesting engagements through performance—both in a musical sense (how they sing and play for customary and newer forms of patrons) and in a social sense (how they speak about their musical culture and reorganize their musical practices. Institutionalization in this case can be viewed using a culturally informed perspective as a lens rather than a prescription for success and empowerment. This lens allows one to understand individuals as driven by culturally influenced sets of motives, beliefs, and identities. People living within the Mangniyar community, while spread out and diverse over the desert landscape, comprise a connected whole. Their individualistic aspirations are formed sometimes in accordance, often times in discordance, but always in relation to societal norms. However, all musicians are not treated nor do they act uniformly. Unfortunately in communities such as the Mangniyar, the spectrum of levels of aspiration, capability, and success often lead to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Is it possible to avoid this by empowering the less successful musicians through these novel forms of institutionalization? In my fieldwork, I have experimented with concepts of practice at a grassroots level and in my dissertation I am examining ideas of success according to musicians’ words, actions, and music making.

Relevance of Subaltern Studies

While the Mangniyar would probably not use the term “subaltern” to describe themselves, it is a useful analytic through which to examine such communities; the complex notion of subalternity is significant for any interactions amongst people whose lives are rooted in relationships of domination and subordination (not just for the subordinated). My research project shows that people at a grassroots level who are working to transform dominant institutions to either improve or replace them are still constantly involved in power struggles. Thus Subaltern Studies represents geographies not within the confines of the postcolonial condition, but instead as forces through which everyday struggles are continually being [re]configured in the form of institutionalization, [re]constructed to uplift the Mangniyar community, and [re]articulated as a novel form of patronage (to use the terms from my introduction paragraph).

The initial intentions of the Subaltern Studies Group (SSG) are to be commended—to remove from history a top down approach and replace it with a study of the culture of actual people. And yes, the SSG’s emphasis on textual analysis created an unprecedented search for historical materials in regional languages, generated interdisciplinary approaches and new analytics to historical studies, and most importantly, took on a self-critical awareness of the problem of writing history. However, the direction that the SSG took in the 1990s was more towards understanding how the subaltern was constituted rather than uncovering actual lost voices of the oppressed and underrepresented. As a result of this past disparity, research scholars of the 21st century have been doing just that—examining specific micro-practices at interesting and unexpected key contemporary moments where today’s current fractured regional modernity of the everyday can best be analyzed and differentiated both historically and geographically. I believe my work is not only influenced by the use of this analytic, but falls within this body of scholarship.

Research Method

My dissertation fieldwork has mostly been using participant observation methodology. For my project, this has meant conducting research with the aim of gaining a close and intimate familiarity with the Mangniyar community and their cultural practices through involvement with the musicians and their families for an extended period of time. Within this methodology I have conducted formal interviews, musical recording sessions, informal discussions, direct observations, analysis of music and oral history, and music lessons with important musicians for my research.

I have also been using participatory action research. Antonio Gramsci’s idea of the “organic intellectual” directly inspires and informs this research method. Using this as a technique in my research I have placed myself side-by-side with the Mangniyar community as co-learners and workers. I have been directly and actively involved in helping a few particularly motivated musicians to form their own organizations, interpreting local and national governmental guidelines, helping them to write their memorandums, and designing school curriculum. The goal of this aspect of my research has been to take local knowledge from life experiences from within the Mangniyar community and use this knowledge to address problems and instigate changes within the community and amongst relationships with other communities. Once again, such relationships and projects bring up very complicated power dynamics even between the fieldworker and the community; in my dissertation I am examining these forces.

Current State of Research and research schedule

Currently I am finishing up my fieldwork in Rajasthan, India. I will return to UC Berkeley by early June 2007 after completing 18 months of fieldwork (November 2005-April 2007), and will immediately begin the formal writing process of my dissertation. I currently have drafts for the first two of seven chapters and I plan to complete Chapters One and Two and have a draft of Chapter Three by early Fall 2007, the time of the Subaltern-Popular Dissertation Workshop II. During Academic year 2007-2008, I have received a Graduate Opportunity Program Dissertation-Writing Grant. Therefore, I will be able to concentrate my academic attention solely on my dissertation and will not be teaching or working on top of this.

I presently have over 500 pages of field notes, approximately 2000 digital photographs, fifty hours of digital audio recordings, and forty hours of digital video recordings from my year-and-a-half conducting research. I am also concurrently working on a documentary film about my dissertation project to accompany and perhaps stand alone from my dissertation.


The Mangniyar community of musicians has always been known for their constant reconstruction of spaces—may it be through their songs and genealogies, their syncretic religious practices (a mix of both Hindu and Muslim ideologies and customs), or their shaping of and adapting to local geography and natural surroundings. Thus, space cannot be taken for granted as an inert backdrop for resistance, but instead is continually produced at intersections of cultural practices and the making of livelihoods and local politics. It seems to me that this is exactly what Mangniyar musicians are doing. By examining the cultural politics of a micro-practice that refuses the dichotomies of global verses local, economic verses cultural, and power verses powerless, I am showing how the co-production of space can open up multiple possibilities for joint action of people and cultural networks.

selected bibliography

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Boniface, P. and P. J. Fowler. 1993. Heritage and Tourism in the Global Village. London: Routledge

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1985. “Social Space and the Genesis of Groups,” Theory and Society 14: 723-44.

Carroll, Thomas F. 1992. Intermediary NGOs: The Supporting Link in Grassroots Development. West Hartford: Kumarian Press.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2000. Provincializing Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

de Certau, Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Erdman, Joan.1985. Patrons and Performers in Rajasthan: The Subtle Tradition. Delhi: Chanakya Publications.

Escobar, Arturo. 1993. Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

_____. 2001. “Culture Sits in Places: Reflections on Globalism and Subaltern Strategies of Localization,” Political Geography 20: 139-74.

Fisher, R.J. 1997.  If Rain Doesn’t Come: An Anthropological Study of Drought and Human Ecology in Western Rajasthan. Delhi: Manohar.

Gold, Ann Grodzins and Bhoju Ram Gujar. 2002. In the Time of Trees and Sorrows: Nature, Power, and Memory in Rajasthan. Durham: Duke University Press.

Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections From the Prison Notebooks. New York: International Publishers. Q. Hoare and G. Nowell Smith (Eds. & trans.).

Gupta, Akhil. 1998.    Postcolonial Developments: Agriculture in the Making of Modern India. Durham: Duke University Press.

Kothari, Komal. 1994. “Musicians for the People: The Manganiyars of Western Rajasthan,” in The Idea of
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Please see also :

Spaces Betwixt and Between: Musical Borderlands and the Manganiyar Musicians of Rajasthan
pp. 3-33
Shalini Ayyagari

Music from Rajasthan




The Morchang is the name of the Indian variety of the ancient and beautiful instrument known around the globe as the Mouth Harp.  There are at least 50 different varieties of Mouth harp found worldwide, each with their own tone and timbre but there is a Universal sound of Mouth harp that is distinguishable by its other-worldliness.  Here are some examples of different styles and sounds of Indian Morchang.

A Morchang (also mourching, morching or morchang, Rajasthani: मोरचंग, Tamil: நாமுழவு  அல்லது முகச்சங்கு , English: Jaw Harp) is a wind percussion instrument, mainly used in Rajasthan, in the Carnatic music of South India and in Sindh (Pakistan). It can be categorized under lamellophones, which is in the category of plucked idiophones. It consists of a metal ring in the shape of a horseshoe  with two parallel forks which form the frame, and a metal tongue in the middle, between the forks, fixed to the ring at one end and free to vibrate at the other. The metal tongue is bent at the free end in a plane perpendicular to the circular ring so that it can be struck and is made to vibrate. This bent part is called the trigger.
Morchang (Jaw Harp)

Its origin in India is not very clear though many myths and stories prevail. In India it is found mainly in South India, Rajasthan and also in some parts of Assam. In South India, it features in Carnatic concerts and percussion ensembles. In Rajasthan it is called morchang and is used as percussion instrument in folk music.

The Morchang is placed between the teeth and held firmly in the hand and is struck using the other hand to produce sound. Movement of the player’s tongue, variations of the throat and blowing and sucking of air through the instrument produces different sounds or overtones.

The Morchang is firmly held in the hand, the frame or the ring between the palm and the fingers usually in the left hand. Care should be taken to see that the middle part or the metal tongue is not being touched when held idle. Then the two parallel forks are gently pressed against the front upper teeth. The trigger is plucked with the tip of the index finger. Sound is produced due to the vibration of the metal tongue of the Morchang in the mouth and the throat cavity. Movement of the player’s tongue with constant plucking can produce very fast patterns of sound. By constricting the space in the mouth and throat many variations of sound can be produced.


The basic pitch of the instrument can be varied very little. Significantly, the pitch of the instrument can only be reduced and not increased. To reduce the pitch a little, bee-wax can be applied on the plucking end. To increase the pitch, it can be filed, although this may damage the instrument.
Advanced playing and the art of accompaniment
Carnatic music

* Sruti
* Swara
* Raga
* Tala
* Melakarta
* Asampurna Melakarta


* Geetham
* Swarajati
* Varnam
* Kriti
* Ragam Thanam Pallavi
* Thillana


Saraswati veena
Chitra veena
Shruti box

As the Morchang is played most of the time along with the mridangam, it is necessary to know the syllables or aural interpretation of what is played on mridangam. It is important to know the aural representation of the ferns (pattern of syllables played on percussion instruments) played on mridangam as it is being silently recited while playing the Morchang. This vocal art of reciting the syllables played on the mridangam is called konnakol. But while playing on Morchang you don’t actually make sound of reciting the syllable but just move your tongue that way so that the air passages gets blocked and cleared in a pattern so as to produce the sound of the ferns. It is essential to follow the mridangam and play the same ferns as far as possible, though it is difficult owing to the limitations of the instrument.

Glimpses of uniqueness and versatility of the Morchang can be shown when accompanying singly for the song or during neraval or swara prastara (stages of song rendition in Carnatic music). The Morchang is played as a shadow of the mridangam throughout the concert and the instrument’s capabilities should be exhibited when playing or accompanying alone or during Thani (percussion round in a concert) or talavadyas (percussion ensembles).