A VERY WARM WELCOME VISITORS

Friday, December 12, 2008

THE KHWAJA OF AJMER AND THE MUGHAL EMPERORS.




Got back today, 03.12. 2008, after visiting the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishti Ajmeri Sanjari (R.A.) (1141-1230 Christian Era). When I had landed at Ajmer Shareef on Friday, 28th November 2008, the road traffics were out of gear since there was a heavy police bandobast (surveillance) in the wake of Mulayam Singh - the Samajwadi leader's visit to the shrine of the Sufi Saint.

Now, as all of us know, there are so many biographies and books available regarding the teachings, the life and times of this great Saint (Awliya-Allah) who is also known as the Ghareeb Nawaaz or the Patron of the Poor. Hence, these are not being mentioned here. As for Ajmer, besides its ancient history, it has been the place of royal retreat of the Mughals and has served as an army base for the Mughal Emperors. Ajmer was conquered by Emperor Akbar in 1559 c.e. He began paying homage at the shrine since 1562 after hearing a minstrel sing the praises of the Saint.

However, what is relatively less known is what I got to read from secular sources many years ago. These concerns many of the Saint's marvels or 'Karaamaat' even after passing away from the worldly life, in relation to the military successes of Emperor Akbar (reign 1556-1605).

For example, it is mentioned that the Mughal Emperor Akbar who was a regular visitor to the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (R.A.) could conquer the forces of Mirzas and annex Broach (Bharuch) Baroda (Vadodra)and Surat with a small band of just 200 men after crossing the Mahi river - thanks to the blessings of the Saint. According to a folklore in Surat, after conquering Gujarat Akbar was on his way back when the Mirzas instigated a rebellion against him. But with just 3,000 men, Akbar was able to subdue an army ten times stronger than his. It is said that the rebels were disoriented and also mentally affected when they encountered the presence of spirits in Akbar's army. Akbar was able to wrest Ahmedabad (Amdawad)without a battle since he had previously paid his homage at the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (R.A.)who, according to the legends, has hundreds of spirits under his control.

After subduing the rebel Mirzas in Gujarat, Akbar reached Ajmer in March 1576. In April, the same year, Akbar sent an army of 5,000 men under Raja Man Singh of Ambar (Jaipur) to subdue Rana Pratap (1540-1597) the ruler of Mewar, who had been resisting the Mughal forces ever since he had lost the Chittor Fort to them. The conquest of the Fort of Chittor by the emperor itself offers an interesting story. In 1568, during his annual visit to the Dargah, Akbar took a vow that if he were able to conquer the Fort he would visit the Dargah on foot. True enough, his wishes were granted, and according to his vow, Akbar began the journey from Chittor to the Dargah on foot, trudging the hot sands in stages. He thus reached the Dargah where he paid homage to the Saint and offered alms to the poor. That was the beginning of his annual visits to the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (R.A.).

Coming back to the expedition of 1576 by Raja Man Singh, Akbar himself remained in the Camp at Ajmer at that time. Rana Pratap blocked and destroyed the food and water supply line from Ajmer to Chittor. It is said that having planned to kill Akbar in his own tent, he along with his followers reached Akbar's camp at night when he found Akbar fast asleep. But to his surprise, he found the camp being guarded by some transparent and shadowy figures. Rana Pratap gave obeisance to them and went back to his own place. A battle was fought at Haldighati, which lasted just four hours. During the battle, Rana Pratap was advised by his generals to flee the battle-field which he did while riding his famous horse, Chetak. It is interesting to note that in this battle, Akbar's army was led by Raja Man Singh - a Hindu Rajput, and Rana Pratap's army was led in the front by Hakim Khan Sur Pathan - a Muslim general who actually laid down his life defending the lost battle of Haldighati. His annual 'urs' is held in Haldighati by the Rajputs. That the victory at Haldighati was due to the blessings of the 'Peer' is also borne out by history books and as such when the famous elephant "Ramprasad" which had been captured in that battle was presented to Akbar, he was overjoyed and re-christened it as "Peerprasad" or "Gift of the Saint". It is also mentioned in history books that Emperor Akbar used to visit the shrine at Ajmer on every 'Urs' and seek the blessings of the Saint.

Historians have written that after December 1584, Akbar "had no time to spare for Mewar". However, the popularly held belief is that Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (R.A.) had told the Emperor in a dream that he should not involve himself with the Rana or otherwise there were chances of his losing the Punjab province.

Emperor Akbar lived for 12 long years in Lahore from 1585 onwards for his Punjab campaigns. After returning from Lahore in 1597, Akbar again wanted to lead a battle against Rana Pratap when he saw the same dream again wherein the Saint told him that it was of no use. Rana Pratap died at Chavand in early 1597 under puzzling circumstances at the age of 57 as a result of injuries sustained by him while tying the bow-string. Thus ended the saga of Rana Pratap.

Akbar had ordered for the construction of a huge cauldron for preparation of sweet food for offerings on the occasion of his victory of Chittorgarh. The cauldron is still located near the shrine along with a larger one, which was built later by Akbar's third son, Emperor Jahangir, when he presented himself at the Dargah in the eight year of his reign in 1613. Jehangir, too, moved his court from Agra to Ajmer for three years from 1613 to 1616 and took advantage of being close to the Shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (R.A.)while supervising the Mewar campaign of his son, Khurram (later emperor Shah Jahan). In fact, Jehangir was responsible for putting an end to the long, protracted Mewar struggle. According to the New Cambridge History of India, the successful subjugation of Mewar may have been one of Jehangir's vow at the shrine. The emperor admitted that he and his family had derived great blessings from the illustrious soul of the Saint of Ajmer and, as such, made generous offerings at the shrine. He also lavished gifts and Jagirs to all the 'Gaddi Nashins' of the Darbar. The Jehangir Nama enlists the details of his major donations and contributons at the Dargah. As a token of gratitude to the Sufi Saint, he even donned pearl earrings having recovered from a dangerous illness. The donning of earrings became a fashion at the emperor's court.

The Mughal emperors had in fact carried out many constructions in Ajmer, as elsewhere in Hindustan, such as mosques, pavillions, buildings and well laid out gardens. Akbar built a palace which now houses a museum. Shah Jahan built marble pavilions around the Ana Sagar Lake in addition to a well laid out garden near it. As regards the shrine, its construction was begun by Iltutmash (reign 1211-1236 c.e.) the saintly Sultan of Delhi. He was a great follower and contemporary of the Sufi Saint. Akbar's father, Humuyun (1508-1556) had the dome of the shrine constructed. Akbar built a mosque adjacent to the shrine while his grandson, Shahjahan (1592-1666)also built the Shahjahani Masjid in the Dargah precincts in gratitude to the Sufi Saint by whose blessings he had defeated the Rana of Mewar for the second time. After his Deccan success (1637), Shah Jahan presented himself again at the shrine and gifted the silver fencing which is still found around the saint's tomb. A daughter of Shah Jahan, Chimni Begum, got a women' prayer room built near the Dargah. It is known that the later Mughal emperors such as the puritan Aurangzeb (1618-1707) too used to visit the shrine of the Sufi Saint for blessings and thanksgiving.

The shrine of the patron Saint of the Poor attracts the poor and the rich alike. The list can be endless as ever since emperors, kings, heads of states, dignitaries, and men of importance along with millions of commoners as well as high-ranking saints and faqirs have continued to pay their homage and derive benefits and blessings at the shrine of the Sultan-e-Hind. The Hindus and the Muslims as well as those from other castes and creeds rub shoulder to shoulder in their efforts to seek the blessings of the Sufi Saint and spread love and sunshine in their own lives as well as carry on the Sufi Saint's message of peace and goodwill, love and charity, to one and all. Feeding the hungry, helping the distressed, and redressing the wronged are some of the other messages of the Sufi Saint, which the visitors to the shrine emulate.

In today's violent world, the relevance of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (R.A.), who combined service to God with service to mankind, is all the more significant.

NASIR.

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