My first visit to Kichaucha Sharif was way back in 1976 with my father when after retirement he decided to stay in the ancestral home and pursue farming. The caretaker of the property, a strapling Patahan, insisted that I visit the Dargah and pay obeisance to the revered Sufi saint Sultan Syed Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir Semnani, “Ashraf” to his devotees. Not an admirer of saints and peers I ignored his suggestion though he did mention that our family traced its lineage to this Sufi Saint’s brother, a Shia, who prohibited his progeny to be the Sajjada Nashin (hereditary administrator) of the Dargah. During my father’s lifetime I kept coming to Kichaucha, however the Dargah was not in my itinerary.
I decided to revise my stance during the recent visit, a few days back, more out of curiosity than devotion. The 165 Km ride from Lucknow to Kichaucha was fine on the National Highway to Faizabad. The road stretch from Faizabad – Akbarpur – Kichaucha was as bad as any internal road in Uttar Pradesh; narrow, with heavy traffic. Over the years thanks to the Dargah, Kichaucha has developed into a fairly large and respectable township. I spent the night with my youngest brother who has continued with the farming after demise of my father.
Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir was born in the year 1285 A.D in Semnan, Iran. His father Sultan Ibrahim Noor Bakshi the king of Semnan, traced his lineage to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through his grandson Hazrat Imam Hussain (PBUH). His mother Bibi Khadija was a descendent of the Turkish Sufi saint Khwaja Ahmed Yasawi. It is said that he had memorized the Quran at the young age of 7 in the 7 traditional methods of recitation. By the age of 14 he had studied various religious sciences. After the demise of his father he was made the king at the age of 17. Always inclined towards sufism he kept company of the sufis of his time. At the age of 23 he abdicated his throne to his brother Sultan Sayyid Muhammad, sought permission from his mother and set on his journey to meet his master in Bengal. His extensive travels included entire Middle East and he spent many days in the holy cities of Mecca, Medina, Najaf and Karbala. In India besides Calcutta he toured Ajmer, Delhi, Gulbarga before finally settling down at Kichaucha.
Like most religious shrines, the offerings at the Dargah by the devotees through cash and other precious materials are enormous. The fallout resulting from this unaccounted wealth is the never ending acrimony and fued between the administrators.
Ladies are prohibited from entering the ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’ where the grave is located. There is forever a huge congregation of ladies sitting and praying outside the tomb.
The dargah is surrounded by a circular pond, which is called ‘Neer Sharif’. In the middle of this pond lies a 40 feet high fort like circular boundary wall and the main dargah is situated within it. This place gives the appearance of a small island.
An annual Urs is held here on 26th, 27th and 28th day of Muharram, which draws more than six lakh people to this shrine. This place has close association with Gobind Sahib (a temple located at about 17 km from here). People after visiting Kichaucha Sharif dargah often go to Gobind Sahib temple to worship. When the fair at this dargah comes to an end, the fair at Gobind Sahib begins. Both the places present an excellent example of communal harmony.
5-6 thousand visitors pay homage here every day. Video above is courtesy Eastern UP tourism site.
The picture above does make me ponder on the action of the devotees praying at the Dargah. If it is the recitation of Surahs Fatiha and Ikhlas from the Quran, for the benefit of the departed soul, I am totally and genuinely with them. However, if it is for a ‘mannath’ praying for a boon, say, begetting a child, with the promise to come back, upon the boon being granted, then I think it is the wrong place. For Muslims following the Quran it is only Allah who can grant you when you ask him directly and not through any intermediary. I feel sad observing Muslim men and women bowing their heads at the footsteps of the mausoleum. It is only to Allah that we bow down in Sajdah and no one else.
Not very far from the Dargah is our ancestral home which has two young devotees of learning and knowledge. They have persevered to outshine academically; one stood first in High School and the other second in Ten plus Two examinations. They have not visited the Dargah so far!