Kaliyar Sharif: A Shrine of Healing

by | Feb 28, 2024

Since I became an India Fellow, I have frequently traveled to Roorkee, Uttarakhand for work. During my visits, I was always fascinated by the nearby places which I wanted to visit and explore. Though I was never able to do so because of the short trip durations and busy schedules. However, in December I moved there to manage an organisational project on advanced mentoring. This involves managing a students’ learning and guidance center located in Mehwar Kalan, a small village 1.5 kms from Kaliyar Sharif. I had heard about this place before, and knew that it attracted people across the border as well. Recently, when I was in Mehwar Kalan I had a chance to visit there so I went there and spoke to some people as well.

in the foreground, the author Tarab is sitting on her knees and speaking to a devotee sitting cross-legged. In the background is a grave with pink chadar.
Talking to a devotee to know the significance of the dargah

Piran Kaliyar Sharif

The Piran Kaliyar Sharif dargah is the final resting place of the 13th century saint Allauddin Ali Ahamed Sabir. Situated on the outskirts of Roorkee town in Uttarakhand, here the devotees and the tourists visit with deep respect and admiration for Sabir-e-Pak (whom people come to worship). It is an example of communal integration and harmony. People believe that this Dargah heals the people from ghosts and evil spirts, and therefore thousands of devotees visit here for seeking spiritual healing and health. Every year in the month of May and June the Urs (festival) is also celebrated at the Dargah. At this time people from across the border fly to India to seek the blessings of Sabir-e-Pak.

A collage representing the Kaliyar Sharif Dargah Compound. Pic 1 – the lanes of shops at the entrance, Pic 2 – A shop owner sitting in front of his shop. Pic 3 and 4- Inside the Dargah compound, devotees waiting to go inside the dargah to pay homage to the grave of Sabir Kaliyari

Kaliyar Sharif Dargah: Historical Significance

Hazrat Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari was born in the 13th century in Kaliyar village. He was a prominent Sufi saint. During his lifetime people around him had deep faith, respect and admiration for him. His disciples were sad after he passed away. Therefore after his demise, out of love, respect and continued devotion people made a shrine of Hazrat Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari to worship, visit and pay him homage. Since the construction of the shrine, this place became a place of pilgrimage and spirituality for the people who sought blessings from Hazrat Allaudin Sabir Kaliyari.

The believers and devotees of dargah follow a Sufi tradition. Sufism is a quest for spiritual enlightenment through intense devotion, love, poetry and dance to come closer to God. Through these activities devotees try to attain direct connection with the divine. Therefore, for the people going to dargah and praying at the shrine, the divine is the person on whose name dargah is made. The devotees believe that Hazrat Allaudin Sabir Kaliyari has the ability to show them the right path and remove any kind of ghosts and evil spirit from them. Through Sufism the devotees try to find the god inwards.


Practices inside the Kaliyar Sharif Dargah

Upon arrival I found this place full of devotees, not only of Islamic faith but from other faiths as well. This is a place of uniting people from different religions. Upon entering the dargah compound I saw rows of shops selling Islamic quotes, Rehel (Quran Stand), Taweez (amulet- Holy Scriptures folded in a small cloth, which is believed to protect the person wearing it from evil), rings, jewellery, skull caps. The shoes had to be removed and submitted outside before entering the main dargah. While strolling through the dargah compound, I observed many acts of devotion. In this community, people believe that the saint would cure their illness or any evil spirit.

People were engaged in what seemed like trance-like dances while others were whispering prayers. Some were even spinning in repetitive circles—these practices left me intrigued and wondering about this form of devotion.


A video capture of Qawalli inside the dargah. At the end of the video two women are seen banging their head on the iron grill. They believe it will cure the evil spirit inside them.

Spirits and Illnesses

When we went to the dargah, I saw people of all ages. There were many locals who frequently came to seek the blessings of Hazrat Sabir-e-Pak. In the dargah compound Qawalliwalas were sitting in group with musical instruments like harmonium and playing music (qawalli) for ill devotees. I saw many women banging their head on the iron grills made across the resting place of Hazrat Allauddin Sabir at Kaliyari. Some were shaking their heads vigorously up and down and sideways. Around the grave, there was a grill where many people were jumping or spinning.

Some devotees were even wearing handcuffs while sitting on the floor and thrashing their hands. It’s believed that the people shaking their head or performing other such body movements are not doing it themselves. They do it because there is evil trapped inside them which makes them do it. People believe that coming to dargah regularly for a few days would remove the evil spirits from their body. They also believe that Hazrat Allaudin Sabir would cure them and expel the ghosts and evil spirits from their body. Therefore, when people touch the shrine or the grave of Hazrat Sabir Kaliyari, they sprinkle some ittar on their hands. They do this to touch the grave with good smell for the blessings.


Words of the Devoted

I wanted to understand more about this place. So I spoke to a local devotee who had come to the dargah to seek the blessings of Sabir-e-Pak.

Aap yahi ki hain?

Ji mai toh yahi Kaliyar ki hu. Aap kha ki hain?

Mai Dilli ki hu.

Accha. Aap pahli baar ayi hain?

Ji pahli bar.

Ye toh bahot acchi baat hai. Iska matlab ye hai ki Sabir-e-Paak ne khud aapko bulaya hai. Aaj kuch bhi mang lijiye, aapke mannat zaroor puri hogi.

Is jagah ki kya ehmiyat hai?

Bhot ehmiyat hai. Ye sabhi log jo apko dikh rahe hai sabir-e-paak ko manne vale hain. Yha se toh log apni murade puri karne k lie dur se aate hain. Ye log jo nachte hue dikh rahe hain unhe ye sabir-e-pak karwa rahe hain. Jab ye aise naachte hain toh inke andar ka bhoot sabir-e-pak nikal rahe hain. Vha kuch log hathkari bandhe baithe hain vo islie hai taaki unke andar ki aatma bahar na nikle.

Kya Qawalli roz hoti hai yha?

Haan qawalli wale qawalli gaate hain or jo log peedit hote hain vo naachne lagte hain. Ye sab sabir-e-pak karvate hain. Vha sabir-e-pak ka Kuan hai, usse paani zaroor peekar jana. Jo muraad mangogi puri hogi.

After this short conversation I began to build some sense of the belief of the people visiting the dargah. The belief of the people for the dargah is out of sheer love for Sabir-e-Pak and therefore this devotion has been passed on from generation to generation keeping the faith and belief intact.

In the picture is the main grave area, where people come to put the Chadar on the grave. A man is wearing ittar on his hands before touching the grave of Sabir-e-Pak.

Insights

I found that the majority of the devotees at the Kaliyar Sharif dargah were from the low income class who never had education in their life. The qawalli singers also were there for a source of income, as visitors were giving them money.

It is their way of accessing healthcare since they are seeking divine intervention for bhoot-pret.

I believe that due to low levels of education and income these devotees often turn to dargah or shrine instead of other expensive healthcare professionals. I felt that the people’s faith in dargah is stronger than in the doctors.

Though it’s a place of devotion but the money drop boxes inside the complex have given a source of income to the dargah. I could not figure out where this money goes in my short visit.

Dargahs have become a place of confluence for religious harmony since they attract people from different religions.


Do you have a similar story of devotion in something or someone?

बदलाव की क़ीमत?

बदलाव की क़ीमत?

मेरी संस्था खमीर देसी उन पर कुछ सालो से काम कर रही है। हमारा उद्देश्य था कि हम...

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