Gujarat 1992: Hindus who saved a dargah in Surat

‘Ram & Rahim are same’: For over two years, Muslims and local families have started coming to the dargah that has been protected by Hindu families for over 30 years; Hindus also arrange free tea, water, and food for Muslims visiting the dargah

Hindu Muslim Unity

AHMEDABAD:  A dargah located in Punagam, Surat district of Gujarat has drawn attention as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. Despite the absence of Muslims in the vicinity, Hindus have been preserving the dargah for generations, as reported by The New Indian Express. During the 2002 communal riots, the Hindu community came together to protect the dargah from being destroyed. Recently, the local community took it upon themselves to renovate the shrine. The Halapati community of Pir Paliya in Puna village, Surat district, have thus maintained a unique illustration of unity over the years. 

Parivn Rathod, the caretaker of the dargah, recently spoke to the media and stated, “Misri Pirbaba Dargah was originally constructed by Muslims residing in Pir Paliya, but after the Babri Masjid riots in 1992-93, these families relocated. Subsequently, some troublemakers attempted to destroy the dargah, but the local Hindu families came together and prevented them from doing so. Ever since, only the Hindu families living in Pir Paliya have been maintaining and worshiping at the dargah for nearly 30 years.” This act represents not only a demonstration of lived tolerance and unity, but also reflects the syncretic traditions in South Asia, where dargahs are visited by both Muslims and non-Muslims. 

Over the past two years, both Muslims and local families have begun visiting the dargah. The Hindu families also provide free tea, water, and food to the Muslim visitors. In response to the dargah’s dilapidated state, the local community worked to restore it to its original form. Manoj Rathore stated, “Some individuals attempted to remove the shrine previously. A dead pig was even dumped here, but the locals filed a police complaint and the dargah was granted police protection.” A senior citizen, Jayanti Rathod, expressed, “For us, Ram and Rahim are one and the same. We have no issues with either the saffron or green colour.”

What is a dargah?

A dargah, derived from Persian, is a memorial or tomb constructed above the resting place of a respected religious leader, such as a Sufi saint or dervish. Ziyarat, a term for religious visits and pilgrimages, is commonly performed at the shrine. In some regions and cultures, dargahs are linked to Sufi khanqah (eating and gathering spaces) or hospices. The site typically includes a mosque, gathering rooms, madrassas (Islamic religious schools), teacher or caretaker housing, hospitals, and buildings for community use. 

The same type of structure, with the same social significance and sites for similar rituals, is referred to as maqam in the Arabic speaking world. A dargah is considered to be the place where saints meditated and prayed, their spiritual home. A shrine is a modern building that often includes a dargah, but not always.

The word “dargah” is derived from Persian and means “doorway” or “threshold.” The word is composed of “dar,” meaning “door” or “gate,” and “gah,” meaning “place.” It may have a connection to the Arabic word “darajah,” which means “stature, prestige, dignity, order, place,” or “status, position, rank, echelon, class.” Some Sufis and Muslims believe that dargahs are portals through which they can ask for the intercession and blessings of the deceased saint (using tawassul or dawat-e qaboor). Others view dargahs as less important and simply visit as a way of paying respects to pious individuals or seeking spiritual benefits. 

However, the dargah is a central concept in Islamic Sufism and holds great significance for Sufi followers. Many Muslims believe that their prayers are answered or their wishes are granted after offering prayer or service at a dargah of the saint they follow. Devotees tie threads of mannat (meaning “grace, favour, praise” in Persian) as a symbol of their request or gratitude.)[1] at such dargahs and contribute for langar (large community meals). They also pray at dargahs. Dargahs dotted the landscape of Punjab even before the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Large communities of non-Muslims traditionally worship at Dargahs.[2]

Through time, musical performances by dervishes and sheikhs at these shrines in front of the devout, often spontaneous or during Urs celebrations, gave rise to musical styles such as Qawwali and Kafi. In these genres, Sufi poetry is accompanied by music and sung as an offering to a murshid, a type of Sufi spiritual mentor. Presently, they have become a popular form of music and community devotional entertainment throughout South Asia [3], with exponents like Iqbal Bano, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen taking their music to various parts of the world.[4] Rabi Ray is another such from the younger generation.


Dargahs and the Right Wing

Sabrangindia and its original monthly publication Communalism Combat has for a long while tracked the vibrant collective cultural worship and dargahs and also documented and analysed how this has been a target of both the Hindu(tva) and Muslim right wing[5]. The April 199 cover story of Communalism Combat, documented this tendency illustrated by the attack and takeover of the Baba Boudhangiri shrine in Chikmaglur, Karnataka and the Haji Malang shrine in Kalyan, Maharashtra even before[6]. Thereafter, Sabrangindia has documented in detail the attack on the Pirana Dargah outside Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

Few people from both sides of the religious divide (especially the hardliners) are aware of the rich connections between Prophet Mohammed and India.[7] For example, this reference from CC is informative: The fact that Arab literature is full or references to India — Indian weaponry, textiles, and spices. That there was a lot of interaction, and travel between Indians and Arabs and that Prophet Mohammed had even named his first daughter Hind. Within 30 years of the Prophet’s death, there were small Indian settlements near Mecca and Medina. One such colony was called Arz–ul–Hind. Indian arts, philosophy, even mathematics — which in Arabic is called hindusa since it originated in India — were an integral part of the Arab world. At the time of the Islamic invasions, the Sufis, true followers of the Prophet, kept themselves aloof from the rulers –who happened to be Muslims –and their courts. They were essentially saints among the people. They knew that the ways of “rulership” and the “path of Islam” did not match. The religion of rulers has its power in their throne. The ruler does not worship God, only his own throne. CC records, “Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya followed this practice of aloofness so strictly that Badshah Jalaluddin Khilji decided to don a disguise to meet him. But the Hazrat’s follower Amir Khusrau warned the Hazrat of Khilji’s impending visit, and Hazrat Nizamuddin left Delhi on that day. He said: “There are two doors in my house. If the Badshah enters from one, I will leave from the other.” But for the ordinary people, those doors were open day and night.”

The transcripts of a creative rendering, Sufi Way, a six-part television serial by film–maker Gopal Sharman and theatre activist wife, Jalabala Vaidya was reproduced by Communalism Combat (April 1999) “” The rulers had many Sufis killed. During the reign of the cruel despot Mohammed Tughlak, terrible atrocities were performed on Hazrat Chirag–e–Delhi. They even pierced his neck and threaded a rope through it to drag him to the court when he refused to answer the Badshah’s summons. They wanted to forcibly take Hazrat Chirag–e–Delhi to Sind were the Badshah was dying, but the king died before they reached Sind. When we talk of the mystic tradition of the Sufis, two words come to mind. These are khanqah and dargah. The khanqah is the place where the living Pir or Fakir resides and worships. When he passes away, the place becomes a dargahKhanqah means a place of worship.”


Dargahs abound throughout the non-Arab Muslim world

Sufi shrines can be found in various Muslim communities globally and are known by different names. The term “dargah” is frequently used in the Persian-influenced Islamic world, particularly in Iran, Turkey, and South Asia.

In South Asia, dargahs are often the location for festivals (milad) held in commemoration of the deceased saint on the anniversary of their passing (urs).

The shrine is lit up with candles or strings of electric lights at this time.[8] In South Asia, dargahs have been inter-faith gathering places since medieval times, for example, the Ajmer Sharif Dargah was a meeting place for both Hindus and Muslims to pay their respects to the revered Saint Mu’in al-Din Chishti.

In China, according to Wikipedia, the term “gongbei” is typically used to refer to shrine complexes centred around a Sufi saint’s tomb. [8]


[1] The large sea side bungalow of Indian icon, Shahrukh Khan is named Mannat

[2] Snehi, Yogesh (October 2013). “Replicating Memory, Creating Images: Pirs and Dargahs in Popular Art and Media of Contemporary East Punjab”. Retrieved 2020-06-07

[3] Kafi South Asian folklore: an encyclopedia : Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, by Peter J. Claus, Sarah Diamond, Margaret Ann Mills. Taylor & Francis, 2003. ISBN 0-415-93919-4. p. 317.

[4] Kafi Crossing boundaries, by Geeti Sen. Orient Blackswan, 1998. ISBN 8125013415. p. 133.

[5]  A concerted attempt is now being made at the mass level to spread a very puritanical and insular version of Islam through tabligh (religious propagation). The Tablighi Jamaats are particularly active in parts of rural India. In Maharashtra, a systematic attempt is being made to establish the movement in small and semi-urban towns.

[6] Baba Abdur Rehman Malang has been buried here. Malang was a Sufi saint who came to India in the 12th century AD from the middle east


[8] Some references from Communalism Combat, Sabrangindia, others from from Wikipedia



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