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King Prithviraj Chauhan’s sons dedicated their lives to dargah

It is said that the king’s two sons came under Gharib Nawaz’s influence.

SAGNIK DUTTA  Ajmer | 8th Apr 2012

he history of the dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is a rich tapestry of folklore and myths. The varied narratives around this 850-year-old dargah converge on the greatness of the "Gharib Nawaz", known thus because of his special affection for the poor.

According to one version, Khwaja Sahib had come to Ajmer at a time when Prithviraj Chauhan ruled the kingdom. Prithviraj and his wife Meena had 21 sons of whom only five survived. They were Laikha, Taikha, Shaikha, Jhoda and Bhirda. Laikha, Taikha and Shaikha came under Gharib Nawaz's influence and converted to Islam. They dedicated their lives to his service and after his death looked after his grave. Their descendants have looked after the grave ever since. It is a place visited by both Muslims and Hindus.

Lieutenant James Todd, an English officer of the East India Company and an oriental scholar, described the spiritual powers of the grave in his travel accounts of Rajasthan in 1829. The present diwan, Syed Zainul Abedin Ali Khan, corroborates this version.

The title of the "diwan" was created during the lifetime of the 10th diwan, Shaikh Hussain. The post of the diwan was bestowed with the additional title of Shaikh Al-Mashaeikh by Queen Victoria in 1877. This title was given to the then diwan, Ghiyasuddin Ali Khan.

Tales abound about the magnanimity of the Mughal rulers toward the shrine. Emperor Akbar is said to have walked barefoot to the shrine to offer his prayers after he lost the battle at Chittor. Shahjahan built the Shahjahani Masjid, the mosque in front of the dargah. Shahjahan's daughter Jahanara is said to have wiped with her own hair the Begumi Dalaan, the shrine's beautiful courtyard.

A slightly different version of history, however, places the khadims and the mutawallis, the regular caretakers of the shrine, on a higher pedestal. According to Syed Fazlul Bari Chishti, a khadim who has been working at the dargah for 35 years, Khwaja Syed Fakhruddin Gurdezi, the forefather of the khadims was close to Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. Gharib Nawaz's grandson, Khwaja Syed Asamuddin, had performed ibaadat (worship/prayer) at the dargah.

"The khadims perform an important role in the functioning of the shrine. They organise the mehfils and the qawwali sessions every Thursday. They are also responsible for opening and closing the door of the mazaar," Chishti said.

Both versions converge on the significance of the dargah as a Sufi shrine. "This is almost like chhota Haj (smaller haj) for people in this part of the world who cannot afford to go to Mecca or Medina. All the wishes of the people are fulfilled here," Chishti said.

 
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