chapter  XIX
4 Pages

THE FESTIVAL OF THE SAINT QĀDIRWALĪ SĀHIB

THE shrine of the Saint Qadirwali Sahib is situated in the town of Nagor, a suburb of the town of Negapatam (Nagapattanam, 'the town of the Naga or serpent race') in the Tanjore District, Madras, a stronghold of the Marakayyan traders, a mixed class of Musalmans, who, with the Labbais and Mappilllis, members of the Shafi'ya sect, are his chief votaries. 1 The Saint has been by some authorities identified with Muinu-d-din Chishti, the famous Saint of Ajmer, 2 but he appears to be a local worthy. His Sandal celebration is held on the ninth of the month Jamadiu-1-akhir or -sani, the sixth month, and on the tenth his death anniversary ('urs) is observed in the usual way by preparing food, reading the birth service ( maulud) of the Prophet, by keeping a night vigil, and by illuminations. About Rs. 10,000 are spent on this occasion. On the eleventh day they 'break the rice and milk pot' (khir ki handi), that is to say, when they observe the new moon, or on the second or fourth day after it, a leader (sarguroh) of one of the groups ( silsila) of his devotees, or a Faqir of the Malang Order, sits on a mattress or quilt spread on the ground in a closet, and spends the whole time there without drinking or obeying the calls of nature, engaged in the worship of the Deity. He do.es not leave this place or speak to any one till the eleventh, when the attendants (mujuvir) cook rice milk in a large pot, which is carried on the head of one of them to this Faqir. He recites the Fatiha over it and tastes a little. Then leaving the closet, he joins the band of Faqirs to which he belongs, while the attendants take the pot in procession to

the sea beach and there dash it in pieces. All the people present scramble for some of the rice milk, and take up so much of the sand that they leave a large hole. But strange to say, it is said that no one is ever hurt in the struggle. A few days after the death celebration many bodies of Faqirs, from far and near, assemble (chauk baithe hain) in this place, but the different bands, each under their own leaders, sit apart. If any· Faqir has been guilty of a breach of discipline he is punished by the leader at this meeting, the penalty being that he is compelled to carry the bedding of all the assembled Faqirs, or in some other way he must express his contrition, beg for mercy, and give a written engagement to behave better in future. He is then restored to membership, but if a serious charge is proved in the presence of the assembly (jama'u-llah), his leather loin strap is cut in two and he is excommunicated. In this case he can never rejoin the Order. The same procedure is followed at the annual death rites of other Saints, such as Taba}'.-i-'alam, Baba Budan or Hayat Qalandar, Baba Faqru-d-din, and others. When a Faqir, or one of their Pirs or leaders, has never attended one of the Saint's death rites he is considered an unfit member of the Order. At some of these celebrations Faqirs a~cept money from the attendant (mujavir), distribute it among themselves and depart. Musalman ship captains and sailors make vows and oblations in the name of IIis Excellency Qadirwali Sahib. For instance, when they meet with disaster at ~a, _they vow that if they and their cargo reach land in safety they 'will spend a certain sum of money in offering the Fatiha in his name. When they. first see the new moon of the month in which . he died the·y set up a flag, known as 'the centipede ' (gom), five or six cubits long and shaped like a centipede. In other places, too, devotees of the Saint fly a ' centipede ' "flag in his honour and offer the Fatiha yearly in his name, but some merely say the Fatiha over some cakes in his honour. The cult of this Saint is a remarkable instance of the devotion of Hindus to Musalman worthies ; in fact, both creeds claim him as a member, the explanation being that he used to preach to both classes. A Hindu Raja once made a vow that if he was blessed with a son he would enlarge and beautify the mosque near the

Saint's tomb, and there was a close connexion between thf'. Hindu royal family of Tanjore and this Saint. 1

Innumerable miracles of the Saint are described, of which the following are the best known. A ship sprang a leak at sea and the Nakhuda, or captain, vowed that if Qadirwali stopped the leak he would on reaching land dedicate to him the profits of the cargo and offer a couple of gold and silver models of the ship. 2 The Saint at the time was being shaved, and learning the danger of the ship he threw away the barber's looking-glass, which, by the dispensation of Providence, flew through the air to the vessel, stuck to its side, and stopped the leak. When the ship came safe to land the captain, in obedience to his vow, brought his offering in gold and a gold and silver model of his vessel. The Saint ordered him to restore the looking-glass to the barber, and when the skipper in amazement asked what looking-glass he meant, the Saint replied that it was that which stuck in the leak. The skipper found it there and returned it.