Hi­macHal politi­cians pray at gHadi wala sHrine

The Sunday Guardian - - Covert -

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.

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