In a quest to find our roots, we landed at the ziyarats of Bade Sarkar and Chhote Sarkar where people come from all over India for a miraculous cure for their problems
words: Ambica Gulati
Like most of us, we had lost touch with our humble roots, engrossed in the fast-paced city life. Until we decided to find them. We are three siblings and had not been to my mother’s birthplace Badaun since ‘forever’. The house was no longer inhabited by the family, but my mother would often talk of living in peace and harmony in the Muslim-dominated neighbourhood, Farshori Tola. And there were ziyarats or shrines of two Sufi saints—Bade Sarkar and Chote Sarkar—where people would go to seek relief from their problems. This got our pulses racing. Sufis in the little town of Badaun and problems resolved—this was an offer which we just could not miss. Besides it was the hometown of Bollywood lyricist Shakeel Badayuni. Even prominent rulers Razia Sultan and Shams-ud-din Iltutmish Iltutmish have their roots here.
Drive to Badaun
Off to Google, to mark out a short route from Noida to Badaun. There was one from the national highway and there was one which went through the villages of Uttar Pradesh. This was the one we drove through, enjoying the short three-hour drive through green fields and looking at the roadside temples. People were drawing water through handpumps. There are hardly any commercial vehicles plying on this route. The wind through our hair, to be in the land of Sufis–this was truly a journey of body, mind and spirit.
At the ziyarats
We braked right in front of the shrines. Shops lined with religious items greeted us. A green gate had the names written in Urdu which of course we didn’t understand.
First things first, we drank some chilled coke. Then bought two chadars to offer to the saints, meetha prasad and incense. Green and red are the prevalent colours. There is also a sister, the shopkeeper said, perhaps we would like to offer some feminine items such as bangles and chadar to her as well. That too went in our offering bag. Keep walking straight, he guided, with heads covered. And we followed the more seasoned feet walking ahead.
The ambience is somewhat bewildering, as you see people sleeping on the ground, most wear tattered clothes. Some are tied with chains to the pillars, children come begging for food and other goodies.
Confused about the rituals we stood before the shrine until a guardian sighted us. He told us about the two saints whose shrines lie in the same enclosure. But rituals first. We lit our incense, offered the chadars, prasad. Men and women are in separate spaces. My brother could offer the chadar to the brothers and we did it for the sister.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya also lived in Badaun, our guide said. He pointed to the larger grave and said this is Bade Sarkar Sayyed Hassan and the smaller one was Shah Vilayat Saheb or Chhote Sarkar. Their sister Banno Bi lies a little ahead, under the banyan tree.
Everyone finds a solution here, he added. Pointing out all the people in the open verandah, he said some have problems related to money, others have problems associated with ghosts. Some need to be exorcised for which there are special rituals. Some need to stay longer to cleanse themselves of their sins and invite abundance in their lives. The saints come in dreams to give relief. Everyone experiences a miracle, he assures us. Come in the evening when qawwalis are sung or on some important festival, he added.
It was time to give our offering to Banno Bi where women lay in the verandah. One was howling and we just quickly pushed the bangles and the chadar through the door. Heads bowed and wondering what to ask for.
Another pathway led us to more shrines. These were the contemporaries and referred to as Compounder Sahib, Doctor Sahib and Banke Miyan. Here we found letters, notes, hung on a tree for the spirits to read and send replies. This happens through signs and symbols, dreams too, we were told. People come from everywhere, say the faithful guardians.
To the childhood home
Chastised, we drove through the streets to find our mother’s childhood home. Through the narrow lanes we crossed the famous Jama Masjid built by Iltutmish in 1223. This is said to be the third oldest mosque in the country. Finally, our car parked in some narrow alley, we walked to the square and found the well which our mother had given as the landmark. It’s covered now and a tap has been constructed in a corner. While we were gazing at the home, an elderly gentleman asked us who we were. Hearing our grandfather’s name, he invited us into his home. He remembered our mother, introduced us to his family, gave us a cup of tea and chatted with us like long lost friends. The miracle had happened, we don’t know, but this love for a stranger can be experienced in Incredible India only I feel.
This article was first published on http://www.askmeontravel.com/article/sufi-town-badaun in April 2015