A Pot Full of Prayers

– Zehra Kazmi & Rashmi Singh

Overlooking the busy Purana Qila road stands the Dargah of Hazrat Abu-Baqar tusi Haidiri Qlanadri, popularly known as the Dargah Matka Pir. The winding flight of stairs leads to an open space imbued with a sense of quiet spirituality. Earthen pots adorn every available surface, from ledges to the tree branches.

The Dargah is a space where myth and faith intersect. Legend has it that the Pir had saved an ailing man from committing suicide and given him water from his own matka, which miraculously restored him to good health. Since then, the fame of the Matke Shah spread far and wide. Travelers on their way to Mathura, stop by the Dargah for a drink of water.

Another legend says that lumps of mud turn into solid gold with Baba’s touch. His death tells a tale of avarice and cruelty. Some of his disciples, who thought that the gold was hidden in the Dargah, killed him, only to never find it.

There is always a steady stream of visitors to the Dargah, with hands full of offering and hearts full of hope. Those whose prayers are answered offer a matka full of milk, chana( roasted gram) and gur (jaggery). The devotees hail from a wide spectrum of society irrespective of caste, creed and religion.

The humble earthen pot has been transformed into an object of faith by the devotees. This stark leafless tree is the symbol of all the prayers that has been answered.

A row of beggars wait on the stairs, seeking alms and food given by the visitors.

Nazim Khan has been selling matkas and flowers since the last two decades. He says, “We only ask people for money on their way out, after they have prayed and offered the flowers, chadars or matkas.

Countless feet tread the steps of the dargah everyday, though the crowd swells on Thursday, a day considered auspicious to visit dargahs and mazars.

Those who come here have complete confidence in baba’s blessings and the tradition of Sufism.

Prayers spoken with bowed heads and closed eyes seem to have an almost tangible presence.

Everyone is free to pray in the way they choose, all they need is true devotion.

People come to Matka Shah with all kinds of wishes. Savitri prays for the well-being of her family and her husband’s career.

The Baba’s devotees feel that his blessings can heal the sick and the suffering. A man goes round the mazar with his sick child, drawing a circle of hope around her.

Pooja, a student of Delhi University, has come all the way from Badarpur. She inherited her utter faith in the Matke Baba from her mother, who is a regular at the dargah.

The dargah interweaves the stories of many people, binding them with the common thread of faith.

The dargah is defined by neither boundaries nor differences. Sonu and Raveena come every Thursday to the dargah from Patel Nagar.

Young couples in love, separated by religion or caste or worldly customs, pray to the Baba to resolve their problems. Sunil and Poonam had prayed for wedded bliss. A year later, they have come with their son Aryan to thank the Baba.

Farid Ahmad from Itawa, Uttar Pradesh lives in a musician biradiri at Turaqman Gate, whose members play at dargahs all over India. He says, “I am continuing the legacy of my father, who was a fixture at the dargah, filling the air with the strains of his Qawalli. For us, music is the best form of worship.”

Anwar Baba, a native of Aligarh, has been serving selflessly as a khidmatgar of the Dargah Matka for the past 18 years.

Though the way they pray may differ, all are equal in the eyes of the Pir.

After offering his matka in the dargah, Mohammad Sami ties it up on a branch.

The heady smell of incense sticks and the thick pile of ashes, bear testimony to the faith of the devotees.

Solitude and relief are what the people come looking for. The dargah offers a place of respite. Mohammad Bhola, another khidmatgaar, says the dargah gives him a sense of ‘sukoon’(inner peace).

There are no mediators between a believer and Baba, no one dictate any ritual or ceremony. Faith is truly free.


~ by thegai on April 25, 2010.

2 Responses to “A Pot Full of Prayers”

  1. nice work ! n brilliant pics

  2. my mom has lost her memory very rapidly, is there any hope from baba dargah, im very disheartened, pls help, my ph no is 07291064669

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