By Manjari Singh
06 July 2016
Shrine of Haji Waris Ali Shah Sahib
‘Jo Rab Hai Wahi Ram Hai’ – Haji Waris Ali Shah’s laconic, yet infinitely meaningful adage continues to pull the devotees who visit his shrine at Dewa Shareef in Barabanki. Hardly an hour’s drive from Lucknow, the shrine draws the faithful from across many strands of religion. The big crowds that turn up there are an unambiguous disavowal of the hate wave sweeping through the country. The air around the place is liberal and the word intolerance an abomination. Why else would people leave their religious preferences behind and with baskets full of flowers, sweets and colourful shiny chadors in their hands and wish in their hearts, make a beeline for the shrine of the Sufi saint.
The accent here is indubitably on removing barriers and opening the doors. The words inscribed above the giant entrance sets the tone for the world inside: ‘Kaumi Ekta Dwar’. The portal of harmony bears testimony to the vision of the Haji who preached ‘Jo Rab Hai Wahi Ram Hai’. They do not ask your religion at the shops offering lip-smacking Halwa Parantha or spicy meat curry; nor do the men who sell you the baskets laden with offerings on the way to the shrine. The eateries serving a ‘pure vegetarian meal’ welcome everybody without any curiosity about the pennant of your faith. You are, for them, a seeker – and more than anything else, you’re human.
If you happen to be at Dewa Shareef on a Thursday, you will be greeted by the Qawwals rendering their soulful melodies – divine music with a dash of Bollywood. And as you near the shrine, you will find that you have only enough time to hand over the basket to the Maulvi at the sanctorum and make a wish or two in your heart, such is the rush. Charged by the air of fervour and devoutness, some pilgrims break down while offering the chador to the Mazhar. Their pent-up emotions and anguish find an outlet in their tears; the cool feeling of the divine removing the last resistance and inhibition from the mind of the seeker. Familiar with such scenes, the Maulvi says a few comforting words: ‘Aap ki Dua Sun Li Gayi Hai.’ You come out and look at the satiated faces and wonder what brings thousands of them to this place.
Niharika Kapoor is a school teacher from a place near Kanpur; her daughter is only three years old. “I had been married for almost a decade but was not able to conceive; even the expensive IVF treatment failed. I came to Dewa Shareef and wept bitterly. I somehow had a feeling that with those tears all my sorrows were washed away that day.” She smiles looking back on her first visit to the Mazhar. Within a month of her visit, she learnt she was pregnant. “What is it if not a pure miracle? Waris Ali Shah blessed us from heaven; I have no doubt about it,” she says, a lump pushing up her throat. Since then it has become a ritual for Niharika to visit the shrine every other month with her ‘miracle daughter’.
Source: The Equator Line Magazine