Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fatehpur Sikri Detour: Mazar vs. Masjid

Salim Chisti, who was the Sufi saint who was finally able to help Akbar bear a son, has a mazar by the mosque in Fatehpur Sikri. The ritual there involved a process of tying a holy thread onto the marble screens on the window by the tomb. You are to make a knot and make a wish: one wish per knot. Then you circle around the room with the tomb in it, and then enter the room. You can place clothing items that you want "purified" onto the tomb: a man will recite a few surahs and return them to you (you are to wear them during prayers). You circle the tomb, and as you complete the circle, another man will "bless" you by tapping your head with peacock feathers. All the while, as you go around the tomb, you are to say a prayer or make wishes that Allah can grant you.

We were there when the azaan for Zohr prayers filled the air. To my surprise, not too many people answered the call to prayers; instead, people kept piling into the mazar. I, then, realized that the vast majority of the visitors were not Muslims. They were there not to pray but because they wanted the blessings; they want to tie their luck-thread onto the windows of the Salim Chisti's shrine in the hopes that their dreams will come true. 

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