Monday, 20 June 2016

Pariyon Ka Talab, Aurangabad

From the fort of Daulatabad National Highway 211, aka the Solapur-Dhule Road, takes you North West, towards the town of Khuldabad. Around 10 km down the road, a dirt track leads off the highway towards a place called Sulibhanjan. Here, next to a small hill, is Pariyon Ka Talab, the Lake of the Fairies. A minor tourist attraction, Pariyon Ka Talab is associated with a Muslim saint who could grant fertility and is an active religious site even today.

Pariyon Ka Talab: view from Shah Jalal-ud-din's Dargah


THE LEGEND OF SHEIKH SHAH JALALUDDIN GANJ-E-RAWA

Little is known about the early life of Sheikh Shah Jalaluddin Ganj-e-Rawa. He probably arrived in India from Iran as many Muslim preachers and saints before him. He was in Delhi during the reign of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, the slave who became king of the Delhi Sultanate. The caretaker of his shrine tells me an interesting story. Sheikh Shah Jalaluddin wanted to bring the word of God to the people of Hindustan but was unsure about where he should settle down. He asked his teacher, and his teacher gave him a wooden staff. “Plant this staff into the ground wherever you stop to rest for the night”, he said. “If you find the next morning that the staff has sprouted leaves, take it as a sign from God, that that is where you should settle”. It is thus that Sheikh Shah Jalaluddin came to settle in this part of the world, and upon his death was buried here and his tomb became an object of worship and veneration.

Shah Jalaluddin's Tomb

Dr. Dulari Qureshi writes that Sheikh Shah Jalaluddin was known to have miraculous healing powers, particularly relating to fertility and many women who had trouble bearing children would come to him. The Sheikh would give them a fruit and upon eating it, the women’s problems would miraculously disappear. It is said that a eunuch mocked the Sheikh, saying he had no powers whatsoever. In reply, the Sheikh handed the eunuch a fruit, suggesting he try it. The next morning, it was found that the eunuch’s belly was swelling, and when it continued to grow in size, convinced of the Sheikh’s powers, the eunuch returned, begged his forgiveness and served him as a disciple for the rest of his life. The Sheikh is also said to have trapped a “jinn”, a spirit, under a rock, which he subsequently used as a seat for his prayers. To date, a large rock is seen inside the compound of the dargah, which the caretakers say is the same rock.

Graves inside the dargah compound

THE DARGAH OF SHEIKH SHAH JALALUDDIN GANJ-E-RAWA

The grave of Shah Jalaluddin
The tomb or shrine of a Muslim saint is called a Dargah. The death anniversary of the saint is usually marked by a festival known as “Urs”. Sheikh Shah Jalaluddin’s exact year of death is unknown, but his Urs is a big occasion even today. His tomb is located within a walled compound. From the architecture, it seems apparent that most of the buildings are from the 15th century. Through the arched gateway, one enters a large courtyard. In the centre is the domed tomb of the Sheikh. All around the courtyard are graves of various disciples and servants of the Sheikh. Near the Southwest corner, the caretaker identified a particular grave as the grave of the eunuch. To the Northwest of the Sheikh’s tomb was a strange looking tree. This, it seems, is the tree that had sprouted out of the Sheikh’s staff. All around the compound are arched pavilions which are used as offices and residences by the people who look after the shrine.

The eunuch's tomb, to the left

Inside the tomb, the room is octagonal with apse-like niches in the four corners. In the centre is the grave of the Sheikh which is covered in flowers and “chaddars”, offerings left by various devotees. Hanging above the grave is a chandelier which I suspect is a modern addition. But under the chandelier are several curious items which are commonly seen in dargahs – Ostrich eggs! The shells have been carefully punctured and their contents removed. Then strings have been passed through them, turning them into hanging decorations. I have never understood the fascination for ostrich eggs. Is it because they are rare? Or perhaps because they are very large? No idea!

The tree, that legend says, sprouted from Shah Jalaluddin's staff

Opposite to the arched entrance of the compound, interestingly, there is a “yoni”, made of black stone. A “yoni” is the Hindu symbol representing the vagina or womb. If you have ever been to a Shiva temple, you will notice that object of veneration is a “lingam”, a phallus, which represents Shiva, or the male. But usually, beneath it, there is a yoni, out of which the phallus seems to emerge. So are Shiva devotees actually worshipping the union of male and female? That is a subject that deserves a blog post of its own. But what is a Hindu symbol doing in a Muslim shrine? Two things must be kept in mind here. First, Sufi saints and many other Islamic preachers did not stress on the ritualistic aspects of religion, but rather on faith and devotion. Therefore, such saints acquired a following from various faiths. Second, it is common for dargahs to receive visitors from various faiths. In most dargahs a non-Muslim will not be turned away. A large number of visitors to the Sheikhs tomb today are Hindu women, especially those who are having trouble conceiving. So that yoni makes perfect sense.

Entrance to Shah Jalaluddin's Dargah. Note "yoni" on the left

PARIYON KA TALAB – THE POND OF THE FAIRIES

Pariyon Ka Talab is located immediately South of the Dargah of Sheikh Shah Jalaluddin Ganj-e-Rawa. It is a man-made lake that was excavated around the 12th century. On the banks of the pond is a Shiva temple that has a colourful history of its own. During the Urs of Sheikh Shah Jalaluddin, women come to bathe in the pond which is said to contain healing properties, and like the Sheikh can grant women fertility. During this Urs access to the pond is prohibited for men. To get a good shot of the pond, I climbed up a little hillock to the East of the dargah’s entrance. While I did get a good view, what I found left me a little perplexed.

Pariyon Ka Talab; the view from the hillock. Note graves to the right.

The mosque on top of the hill.
On top of the hill was what looked like a small mosque. A small square building with a single dome and four, small ornamental minarets and a projecting “chajja” above the door. What was this building? From the weeds growing on top of the dome, it looked like it was not too well cared for, and yet, it had been whitewashed fairly recently. There were 3 arches on the building’s eastern face which had recently been bricked over. Even more perplexing, a number of unmarked graves on the hillock, to the South of the building. Whose graves were these? Why were they buried here? What I should have done was go back into the dargah and ask the caretaker. But I was in a hurry to get to Khuldabad, so I just got back into my car and we sped off. Even if I had asked him, I doubt he would have been able to give me a proper answer about who lay buried next to the mosque. Some questions will only be answered the day the earth gives up her dead.

Shivaji's country: view of the Marathwada countryside




-          By Deepanjan Ghosh


GPS CO-ORDINATES

Dargah of Sheikh Shah Jalaluddin - 19°59'07.0"N 75°11'09.1"E
Hillock with mosque and tombs - 19°59'06.8"N 75°11'11.8"E

MORE STORIES FROM AURANGABAD AND KHULDABAD




SOURCES

Qureshi, Dr. Dulari – Fort of Daultabad
Sohoni, Pushkar – Aurangabad with Daultabad, Khuldabad and Ahmadnagar
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