Ajmer district

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A temple and a mosque in this Ajmer shrine

The Times of India

Shoeb Khan | TNN

Somalpur (Ajmer): While the entire country was glued on to television watching the Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya, Ram Mishra ‘Uvasiya’ — a Brahmin and Gaddi Nashin (successor) of a seven-decade-old holy shrine of a Muslim Sufi saint Hazrat Sayed Baba Badam Shah — was busy reciting Qur’anic verses (fatiah) at the shrine in Ajmer’s Somalpur village.

The shrine houses a Hindu as well a Muslim place of worship. Every day, the aarti takes place in the Shiv temple here, followed by the Azan at the adjoining mosque. The Sufi saint never discriminated amongst his followers who were from different faiths. He built the temple and the mosque for his followers besides his prayer seat by inviting donations from people of all faiths.

The Sufi was also known as Sat Guru 108 Shri Hazrat Sayed Baba Badam Shah Uvasiya. The shrine’s present Gaddi Nashin, Ram Mishra has been taking care of the sanctum sanctorum ever since his father Hari Prasad ‘Uvasiya’ passed away in 2008. Late Hari Prasad was a follower of Sufi saint and received the title of ‘Kalandar’ from him.

The Sufi had come to Ajmer from village Galib in UP’s Mainpuri district at the age of 14 in search of a guru. He spent a year at the Shrine of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz before settling down at Somalpur after attaining a divine healing touch.

The Mishra family, which now has around 50 members, came in contact with the Sufi saint five years before he died on November 26, 1965. The saint, during his last days, declared Hari Prasad Mishra his successor. Hari Prasad was so intensely in love with his Guru that he declared that he too should be buried in accordance with the Islamic teachings. His grave, which is in the same village, is equally revered by the devotees visiting the shrine.

The Sufi saint had authorized the Mishra family to perform all ceremonies in the Dargah in accordance with Islamic teachings.

A shop that sells the scent of faith

Shoeb Khan | TNN

Jaipur: Barely 200 meters from the revered shrine of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer is a century-old shop named Lala Sitaram Ayodhya Prasad. The shop is run by a Hindu family and sells ‘ittar’ (scent) to devotees visiting the Sufi saint’s shrine. For visitors, the name ‘Ayodhya Prasad’ means just one thing — the only place to look for quality scents.

Originally from Kannauj, the founder of the shop, Ayodhya Prasad, came to Ajmer in 1851 with the sole aim of selling ‘ittar’ to the devotees of the Khawaja. Over the years Ayodhya Prasad’s ittar has become a brand name among the Khawaja’s devotees. The shop has a dedicated clientele, most of whom are Muslims. In the last 60 years, the templemosque dispute at Ayodhya may have been a source of discord between the two communities, but the sellers of the ‘ittar’ have never faced any problem because of the shop’s name or its owners’ religion in dealing with the clients.

‘‘After demolition of Babri Masjid, our relatives suggested dropping the name ‘Ayodhya’ from the shop, fearing a drop in clientele. The family, however, decided not to change the name,’’ said Rajendra Gupta, a fourth-generation owner of the shop in the Muslim-dominated area.

Even today the youngest family member of the shop’s founder is called as ‘Ayodhya Prasadji.’ The family has two shops located in Dargah Bazaar and Madaar Gate areas with the same name. And, both are located on the route that leads to the shrine. At first glance, the shops look like antique museums with 1,500 different kinds of fragrances, besides a centuryold collection of decanters, flasks made from camel skin imported from France and the Middle East, respectively.

The most expensive scent in India costing Rs 8,000 per 10 gm has found many takers here. Their largest clients are from Pakistan, Mumbai, Lucknow, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. ‘‘Our family shares a beautiful relationship with the pilgrims from Pakistan. They understand the value of the ittar and purchase in bulk,’’ said Gupta. Exchange of gifts between the Indian Hindu ittar selling family and the Pakistani Muslim clients is also quite normal. ‘‘They never forget to wish us on our festivals nor do we miss to wish them on their festivals,’’ Gupta said.

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