In today’s edgy environment, where communal harmony seems to be shrinking, a village near Chandigarh is setting a standard in secularism by taking care of a dargah built about 192 years ago.
The iconic dargah located at Manakpur Sharif village near Chandigarh is dedicated to Sharif Hazrat Muhammad Moosa Chisti Sabri RA, (who is murshid of Hazrat Shah Khamosh Hyderabadi RA).
Manakpur Sharif falls in Majri Tehsil of SAS district of Punjab. The village, which was dominated by Muslims before 1947, saw a mass exodus during the Partition. Muslims flew in large numbers but left behind a legacy, which has set a precedent of unity in diversity. The village has just a few Muslim families today and is largely dominated by the Sikh community. But its remnants still speak volumes of an era gone by. The dargah, built in the 19th century, has since then, become a sacred space for people of all religions. The shrine also has a deep connection to the dargah of Ajmer Sharif.
As you enter the mosque, the majestic door leaves you spellbound with splendid workmanship of art and craft.
Nerve centre of the village
The dargah recently commemorated the ‘urs’ (death anniversary of Sufi saint) where devotees of all hues thronged the place in large numbers. Community food is served throughout the day where people from diverse religions come to serve it. The sight of Sikh youths serving food to visitors at a Muslim shrine seems to be a befitting reply to the fanatics of modern times.
Rajinder Singh of Boothgarh village said, “I have been visiting the shrine since childhood. I love serving food to people here. During the annual celebrations at the dargah, there is a footfall of around 20,000-25,000 people every day. Most of them are Muslims. We take pride in our shared brotherhood.”
Faqir Muhammad, general secretary of the District Muslim Welfare and Roza Committee, said, “The mosque is the nerve centre of the village. It has boosted secularism here. I have no qualms about saying that the contribution of Sikhs towards the shrine has been considerably more than the Muslims. People of all hues hold this sacrosanct place in high respect. Every single baraat (marriage procession) that leaves the village pays obeisance here before proceeding ahead. We celebrate every occasion without discrimination.” He attributed this to the influence of the shrine.
Soaked in festivities
The right time to visit the dargah is during the annual ‘urs’, when festivities grip the town and thousands of devotees from places, such as Malerkotla, Sirhind, Ludhiana, Ferozepur and others converge here. Not only this, even traders from several adjoining areas visit to sell various items ranging from ‘itra’ (perfume) to silver utensils. The unique point of the celebrations is the qawwalis. The dargah resounds with soulful rendition of songs.
With no history of any violent clashes, pitting one religion against the other, this nondescript village is certainly an inspiration and a motivating force in a country where food orders are cancelled if being delivered by persons of ‘other’ religion.
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