Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Famous Dargahs of India: Interview with Mumtaz Currim

Famous Dargahs of India -- Deccan Herald, October 30, 2005

Mumtaz Currim, research scholar and art historian in Islamic Studies, talks to Vimla Patil about the influence of Sufism on Indian culture and world-famous dargahs in India.

The confluence of Sufism and Hindu Bhakti cults, which has enriched Indian culture over the centuries, is indeed fascinating. Sufis came to India mainly during the 12th and 13th centuries, bringing with them their philosophy of love and devotion to the divine. Their belief decreed that the almighty was the ‘beloved’ and the devotee sought a loving glimpse of his presence. They believed that the devotee had only to ‘raise the veil which separated the individual soul from the universal soul’ so as to bring about the union of the human and the divine. This philosophy and perception of the divine appealed greatly to millions of HIndus who followed the Bhakti cult. This philosophy influenced many Bhakti-cult saint/poets of medieval India. An excellent example is the poetry of Meerabai, who used Sufi imagery in her song “Ghungat ke pata khol, tohe piya milenge.” Essentially simple and uncomplicated, both the Sufi and Bhakti cults attracted millions because the foundation of both was love and compassion. Both these cults created a huge treasure of dance, music, paintings and literature.

Mumtaz Currim, a scholar and researcher of Sufi history and chronicler of Sufi Digraphs in India, has a great deal to reveal about this fusion of religious thought which lives on in Indian culture to this day. She says, “I found my vocation when I obtained my master’s degree in Islamic Cultures and Societies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Since 1999, I have been a visiting lecturer in the post-graduate course on the History of Indian Aesthetics conducted annually by the University of Mumbai. Earlier, I obtained my bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophies of the East and West from the Mumbai University and worked with Madame Sophia Wadia at the Indian PEN society with luminaries like Nissim Ezekiel. I have written not only several cook books, but also extensive travel features for Voyage magazine and worked as the copy editor of the famous art magazine Marg, founded by Mulk Raj Anand.

“Sometime during my career, I became interested in Sufism and its wonderful history— especially since its advent in India during the 12th and 13th centuries,” Mumtaz continues, “Sufis arrived in India from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan to settle in Sindh, Multan, Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan, Bihar, Karnataka and Bengal. By the 16th century, leading orders such as the Chishti, Suhrawardi, Qadiri, Firdausi, Qubrawi, Shattari and Naqshbandi spread their influence across the subcontinent and attracted millions from other faiths to this cult. Sufi Shaykhs and the hierarchy of their followers devoted themselves to learning, vigilant prayers and psychological and mystical practices and humanitarian work. Many great Sufi saints lived and practiced their path to divinity in India. Their dargahs are famous places of pilgrimages not only for Muslims, but also for people of other religions who have faith in the power of the saints to be the intercessors between man and god. Such dargahs became important religious centers in Iran, Morocco, Central Asia and India. Nine dargahs in India are famous throughout the world— among them are the Ajmer Dargah of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, the dargah of Shaykh Salim Chishti in Fatehpur Sikri near Agra and the dargah of Shaykh Nizamuddin Awliya in Delhi. The Sarkhej Durgah near Ahmedabad also attracts millions. So does the Khwaja Syed Kohommed Gesu Durgah in Karnataka. Festivals called Urs are held at such dargahs every year and millions visit these sacred places in search of peace and divine blessings through the intercession of the great mystics.”


Currim’s is co-editor with George Michell of a Marg volume called Dargahs— Abodes of the Saints, a profusely illustrated coffee table book that has rich photographic content from Karoki Lewis. The book is an authoritative tome on Sufism and the famous dargahs of India. “A Sufi is one who seeks communion with the final reality,” says Mumtaz, “His path involves a rigorous way of life and an inward journey in close proximity with a spiritual master. Sufism is a mystical tradition in Islam, which introduces a strongly personal element into religious discipline to pave the way for a deeper spiritual life. Peter Awn, in Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Religions says, ‘Sufism evokes complex layers of meanings of a spiritual attainment that raises one to a rank of unique intimacy with God. Once the journey to God is over, the infinite journey in God begins.’ Sufism acknowledges three planes— material, psychic and spiritual. These are important stations, which the neophyte passes through with the help of the master. Sufism says that love is not to be learnt from man. It is a gift of God and comes from his grace.”

Mumtaz has given innumerable presentations on Islam and its worldview, Sufism, the aesthetics of Islamic art and architecture, miniature paintings, calligraphy and fine arts with a special emphasis on India. At present, she is researching for a book on Indian and Pakistani Mughal-style art for India Book House.

1 comment:

Albert Ashok said...

I have read your blog. its nice to read but i want to know about indian Pen and its history from the time sophi wadia and nissim ezikiel ,as i am looking for its early history, can you please help me with information
Thank you
best regards

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Famous Dargahs of India: Interview with Mumtaz Currim
Famous Dargahs of India -- Deccan Herald, October 30, 2005

Mumtaz Currim, research scholar and art historian in Islamic Studies, talks to Vimla Patil about the influence of Sufism on Indian culture and world-famous dargahs in India.

The confluence of Sufism and Hindu Bhakti cults, which has enriched Indian culture over the centuries, is indeed fascinating. Sufis came to India mainly during the 12th and 13th centuries, bringing with them their philosophy of love and devotion to the divine. Their belief decreed that the almighty was the ‘beloved’ and the devotee sought a loving glimpse of his presence. They believed that the devotee had only to ‘raise the veil which separated the individual soul from the universal soul’ so as to bring about the union of the human and the divine. This philosophy and perception of the divine appealed greatly to millions of HIndus who followed the Bhakti cult. This philosophy influenced many Bhakti-cult saint/poets of medieval India. An excellent example is the poetry of Meerabai, who used Sufi imagery in her song “Ghungat ke pata khol, tohe piya milenge.” Essentially simple and uncomplicated, both the Sufi and Bhakti cults attracted millions because the foundation of both was love and compassion. Both these cults created a huge treasure of dance, music, paintings and literature.

Mumtaz Currim, a scholar and researcher of Sufi history and chronicler of Sufi Digraphs in India, has a great deal to reveal about this fusion of religious thought which lives on in Indian culture to this day. She says, “I found my vocation when I obtained my master’s degree in Islamic Cultures and Societies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Since 1999, I have been a visiting lecturer in the post-graduate course on the History of Indian Aesthetics conducted annually by the University of Mumbai. Earlier, I obtained my bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophies of the East and West from the Mumbai University and worked with Madame Sophia Wadia at the Indian PEN society with luminaries like Nissim Ezekiel. I have written not only several cook books, but also extensive travel features for Voyage magazine and worked as the copy editor of the famous art magazine Marg, founded by Mulk Raj Anand.

“Sometime during my career, I became interested in Sufism and its wonderful history— especially since its advent in India during the 12th and 13th centuries,” Mumtaz continues, “Sufis arrived in India from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan to settle in Sindh, Multan, Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan, Bihar, Karnataka and Bengal. By the 16th century, leading orders such as the Chishti, Suhrawardi, Qadiri, Firdausi, Qubrawi, Shattari and Naqshbandi spread their influence across the subcontinent and attracted millions from other faiths to this cult. Sufi Shaykhs and the hierarchy of their followers devoted themselves to learning, vigilant prayers and psychological and mystical practices and humanitarian work. Many great Sufi saints lived and practiced their path to divinity in India. Their dargahs are famous places of pilgrimages not only for Muslims, but also for people of other religions who have faith in the power of the saints to be the intercessors between man and god. Such dargahs became important religious centers in Iran, Morocco, Central Asia and India. Nine dargahs in India are famous throughout the world— among them are the Ajmer Dargah of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, the dargah of Shaykh Salim Chishti in Fatehpur Sikri near Agra and the dargah of Shaykh Nizamuddin Awliya in Delhi. The Sarkhej Durgah near Ahmedabad also attracts millions. So does the Khwaja Syed Kohommed Gesu Durgah in Karnataka. Festivals called Urs are held at such dargahs every year and millions visit these sacred places in search of peace and divine blessings through the intercession of the great mystics.”


Currim’s is co-editor with George Michell of a Marg volume called Dargahs— Abodes of the Saints, a profusely illustrated coffee table book that has rich photographic content from Karoki Lewis. The book is an authoritative tome on Sufism and the famous dargahs of India. “A Sufi is one who seeks communion with the final reality,” says Mumtaz, “His path involves a rigorous way of life and an inward journey in close proximity with a spiritual master. Sufism is a mystical tradition in Islam, which introduces a strongly personal element into religious discipline to pave the way for a deeper spiritual life. Peter Awn, in Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Religions says, ‘Sufism evokes complex layers of meanings of a spiritual attainment that raises one to a rank of unique intimacy with God. Once the journey to God is over, the infinite journey in God begins.’ Sufism acknowledges three planes— material, psychic and spiritual. These are important stations, which the neophyte passes through with the help of the master. Sufism says that love is not to be learnt from man. It is a gift of God and comes from his grace.”

Mumtaz has given innumerable presentations on Islam and its worldview, Sufism, the aesthetics of Islamic art and architecture, miniature paintings, calligraphy and fine arts with a special emphasis on India. At present, she is researching for a book on Indian and Pakistani Mughal-style art for India Book House.

1 comment:

Albert Ashok said...

I have read your blog. its nice to read but i want to know about indian Pen and its history from the time sophi wadia and nissim ezikiel ,as i am looking for its early history, can you please help me with information
Thank you
best regards