HimacHal politicians pray at gHadi wala sHrine
The campaign dust has settled in Himachal Pradesh after the Assembly elections on 9 November. A long wait for counting day on 18 December has begun, as winter sets in. For politicians of all hues who were in the fray, it is now time to pray for victory. Many of them, while travelling by road between the hill state and Delhi, are stopping at an interesting place of worship to seek blessings. Located on National Highway 1 at Kalyana village near Shahabad, short of Kurukshetra (as one heads towards Delhi from Ambala), it is the shrine of Syed Mohammad Ebrahim. But it is popularly known as “Ghadi Wala Baba”, as most of the devotees give wall clocks as offering. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Health Minister Thakur Kaul Singh are known as key devotees of the Ebrahim. Punjabi singers Gurdas Mann and Daler Mehndi have been seen visiting the place. A nine-metre grave of the “Highway Peer” exists at the shrine. People from all walks of life, especially truck drivers keen for a safe journey, visit the shrine. It has now been listed as a “tourist attraction” on the website of Kurukshetra district. The spot is managed by the Haryana Wakf Board. The premises have a mosque and a temple of Lord Shiva. Haryana Wakf Board’s manager Ali Sher said, “Offering clocks and watches has become a popular ritual here.” But he could not say how and when this strange practice started. It is generally believed that the Baba was a contemporary of the first Sikh Guru Nanak and that he had come from Iraq and settled in this village. There is this local lore that several decades ago a truck driver offered a clock at the shrine, praying for timely and safe journey on the challenging National Highway 1. Over the years, this myth spread among the truckers and many started offering clocks. Punjabis form the majority of people stopping at the dargah. About 300-500 people visit the shrine daily; the number swells over a thousand on Sundays. On an average, 250 litres of mustard oil are offered at the shrine in a week. It is distributed free among underprivileged families. The clocks and chaddars are gifted to the poor local families on the marriages of their daughters.