Hamid Fakir Malik Barosa
interviewed at Jalangi, Murshidabad
- My name is Hamid Fakir Malik Barosa. I live at Manashatala, Jalangi, Chopra. I consider myself a follower of Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki Rahmutullah Rahim (1). From 1984, I have been performing duties at the dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. Every year I undertake a pilgrimage to his shrine. There is a famous song “They stopped the procession en route.” From 1984, I have been undertaking this pilgrimage on foot, along with my procession (2), to the dargah of Qutbuddin. I have my followers accompanying me. From Qutbuddin’s dargah in Delhi we undertake a pilgrimage to Ajmer to the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Rahmatullah Rahim (3). All of us crazy ones reside there for days on end. We sing and perform, we eat and talk, at the shrine and also as we walk on the road. The 17th of this month, we depart from Delhi, from the shrine of Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. We shall walk all the way to Ajmer Sharif. We have to follow certain codes of conduct. We perform music, perform zikr (4) and observe our duties towards the guru. My guru’s name is Farid Sai Chishti. He too was a khadem (devotee) at the threshold of Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki’s shrine. He was a renouncer and so am I. I have been performing my duties at the shrine of Khwaja Baba (Bakhtiyar Kaki) since 1984. There are two more devotees here who will be accompanying me to Ajmer. We shall walk chanting the name of the Sai, and bearing the banner. We have to walk for thirteen days and thirteen nights. I had heard of this order from my guru and been initiated into it by him. My guru had once asked me which path I wanted to follow— the life of domesticity or the life of the crazy ascetic. My guru was of the opinion that whichever path one chooses, domesticity or asceticism, one needs complete diligence. My guru advised me that even if I could not help another, I had no right to harm another. He told me to follow a middle path. Allah, Ishwar, God— all are the same! The prime purpose should be to seek peace. In order to find peace, one has to put in labour, work and feed one’s parents. If possible, one needs to look after the guru and other holy men, if not, it is all right to follow a life of domesticity. Such is our karma!
- Is it possible to pursue this karma while simultaneously subscribing to domesticity?
- Yes, it may be possible. Many people pursue this karma as well as domesticity. There are only these two paths— asceticism and domesticity. I believe, however, that you have to choose one! Look at me! I have been performing my duties at the shrine of Qutbuddin since 1984. I am paid no money for it! It is a selfless form of service. Once I obtained a divine vision from Khwaja Baba to establish my own astana (5). I have opened an astana for Fakirs here in the name of Khwaja Qutbuddin. I have named it ‘Shorbo Dhormo Ekoda Sumuti Malik Barosa Sebastana’ (‘All Religions’ Unified Goodwill Malik Barosa Seva Astana) We organize various programs here. There are many disciples who come here and perform. I am heading out to Ajmer soon. First I shall go to Delhi, and from there walk till Ajmer. From there I shall head to Sarwar Sharif. Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki had a son— Khwaja Fakhruddin. From Ajmer I shall walk to Khwaja Fakhruddin’s dargah in Sarwar Sharif (6). I have already sent out processions with banners headed by four of my disciples. They shall walk to the shrines of the Sais.
- Do you belong to the Chishti order?
- Yes, we belong to the Chishti order of Sufis. Sufism is our way of life.
- Where does your guru hail from?
- My guru is from Bangladesh. His house is at Sirajganj, Pabna in Bangladesh. The guru who initiated me was Basir Chand Pagal. His guru was Nur Salaam Chishti. My father was a Qadiriyya fakir (7) and he had his own guru. His name was Khwaja Mus Ali. He was also from Bangladesh. Both my gurus (the one who initiated as well as the one who taught me music) are from Bangladesh. I live in this country (India) as I have been performing service at Khwaja Qutbuddin’s shrine in Delhi since 1984. It was my guru’s instruction to bear the Khwaja’s banner and journey across the thirteen gunj(8) undertaking the holy pilgrimage. My guru told me if I could traverse these thirteen gunj, I would obtain a vision of the golden Mecca and Medina. I had heeded my guru. And that is how since 1984, I have ended up at the shrine of Qutbuddin Kaki. Earlier, there would be fewer processions. These days, there are many! When I first went to Delhi in 1984, I was accompanied by fifty-four devotees. We walked the entire five hundred and fifty kilometers. We would beg for food en route. There was an ascetic at the time in Kolkata called Qurban Ali Sai. He was the head of our procession, within West Bengal. In those days, people did not pay much heeds to the fakirs from West Bengal, unlike the fakirs from Delhi, Ajmer and Rajasthan. However, they had a lot of respect for Qurban Ali Sai. There was another ascetic called Gofur Pagla from Bangladesh. There is a famous song which goes ‘O Gofur Pagla, you did not visit the fish horde while the day was still young! / Your desire remained unattained, as you did not get the Supreme One’s vision!” I shall visit the shrine of Gofur Pagla too! He is interred at a place sixty-five kilometers from Ajmer. There are many devotees who visit his shrine. They congregate there and perform beautiful qawwalis(9). Once I go there, a part of me doesn’t wish to return! As I told you before, I have built an astana in the name of Khwaja Qutbuddin. I am here for the next four days. I shall depart Friday morning. I shall travel from here to Delhi by train. I have to perform at an event commemorating Nizamuddin’s mother!(10). She is a universal mother to us! It is an event commemorating her death, where we bid her farewell through song performances. I find a lot of peace at her shrine. The event will take place the 28th of this lunar month. From there, I head to Uttarakhand. We have an event scheduled at Kaliyar Sharif(11 )there near Haridwar. We shall perform songs and utterances there. Sabir Kalyari has many qawwalis accredited to him! I shall remain there for two days. There are many devotees who undertake the journey to Kaliyar Sharif on foot! They are Qalandars(12) and I expect almost forty-two of them to attend the event. From there, I shall take a bus to Delhi. From Delhi, I shall go to Ajmer, once again by bus. I shall undertake this ziyarat(13) to the dargah of Moinuddin Chishti and after having performed it, shall return to Delhi. All of members of the procession assemble at a chowk in Delhi. We are Miskeen(14) fakirs, different from other kinds of fakirs. The Miskeens are characterized by a certain form of utterance. All the Miskeen fakirs from India and Bangladesh assemble at this chowk in Delhi. Of these, one can choose the order and the saint to which/ whom one wishes to subscribe. I subscribe to Qutbuddin and have been performing my duties to him since 1984. I am not the leader of any congregation, although there are many who love me and keep me at the forefront. That is why I sometimes lead a procession, when I am requested to do so. Two ascetics (‘crazy ones’) are now here who will accompany me on this long journey I am about to undertake. Others, too, have been calling me from Delhi and will join the procession from there. If the Supreme One keeps me alive and in good health, many of them shall also come here. I organize an event here at my astana annually. The date is always fixed one day after Id-ul-Fitr. It has been almost seventeen/ eighteen years now that I have established this astana here in this land all by myself. I have since been organizing the event on the said date annually. There is that famous song— “If none answer to your call, walk your path alone!”(15) I have walked alone. There was a time when I used to beg for filling my stomach. Today, at a time, there are around ten thousand fakirs at my astana. There is also an ambulance kept ready for any medical emergency. The procession that travels from my astana to Qutbuddin’s dargah has twelve wheels(16) carrying food offerings. There is a lad who comes all the way from Maharashtra. It has been eighteen years now he has been offering his services at the dargah. I once asked a Haji at Qutbuddin’s shrine how long had he been serving there. He told me that he and his forefathers have been offering their services ever since Moinudddin Chishti himself first set foot in Hindustan and walked its soil. As our procession travels from here to Delhi, there are around ten venues where we have been invited and shall be halting. Of these, five are dargahs of Hajis, three are Hindu temples, one a petrol pump and another a hotel. Such is our way of life! What else is there to say? We may not be able to help others always, but we cause harm to none! We live surrounded by other devotees and disciples. What did Muhammad want? He wanted everyone to be happy. He resides within love and fellow feeling(17). Where there is no love, there is no Muhammad. We each choose and follow our paths. What else should I say? I, Malik Barosa, wish each of you well!
- You mentioned that your father was a Qadiri fakir.
- Yes, he followed the Qadiri order. I follow the path of the Al Chishtis.
- What are the differences between these two orders/ paths?
- There are some differences. When he and my mother sought out a guru, I had wanted to be initiated with the same guru. My father told me that he was a creature of pleasure, running after other creatures of pleasure. He told me I was a renouncer, as I had opted to remain unmarried. He asked me to seek out an ideal guru who was also a renouncer and become initiated with him. My father was the one who told me that an unmarried ascetic named Farid had come from Ajmer to Sirajganj. One of my maternal uncles, Santa Pagla, was also a famous fakir and has a huge mazhar commemorating him. I had even wanted to be initiated with him. My parents, however, told me it wouldn’t do, and I had to seek out another renouncer like myself. I began to serve/ perform khidmat to my guru, Farid Sai. Every one cannot perform the twenty-four ordained tasks. Only one in ten million can! Not everyone can pass high school! The sadhu guru’s abode is also a school of sorts! Only few can qualify/ pass! And it is through karma that one has to seek to qualify. As my guru had said and I reiterate, we may not be able to help everyone, but we have no right to harm another! Allah has given me an infinite resource, which can never be depleted. Same holds true for my Khwaja! There are so many sadhus who have embarked upon this path who perform their karma and their ibadat(18)! But one cannot have any lack in one’s efforts. My father had told me the same thing. He himself had told me that he was a man of pleasure, running after another creature of pleasure. He told me his guru had a lot of material wealth and my father too was running after the same in order to ensure us a good future. He told me if I was content without money/ wealth I should seek a path different from his and find another guru. As I have pursued this path, the Supreme One has kept me and looked after me so far! I do not know what the future holds or where my journey ends. So far, Khwaja Qutbuddin has refused to let go of me. I am bound to him, just as I am bound to my guru. It has been twelve years now! If there is any lack or gap within these twelve years of service, I have to repeat another twelve years! It is not easy! I shall soon embark on a thirteen-day journey on foot! Yes, there shall be many reporters following, as well as other processions. One procession assists another. This wasn’t the case before. In 1986, we had a clash with the police/law enforcers. There was another clash with the police during another journey later. On one occasion, our procession was stopped at Ghazi Thana (police station), near the place where Kalu Ghazi and Champabati attained their union(19).
- Who stopped your procession? The administration?
- No, on that particular occasion it wasn’t the police. It was someone from within our community. He was a hijra(20) whom we had selected as head of a procession. It was a petty issue regarding food. We had started at two a.m. in the night. I have a whistle with me which I need to blow, and every disciple assembles with their banner, even if it is two a.m. at night. I blow the whistle and call out a slogan. If you want to hear the slogan, you can fit a microphone here! You can record me sloganeering to my disciples. You can record me performing the zikr/ utterance. This is how we also walk on the streets, while chanting the utterances. We chant the name of Auliya. People and onlookers often ask us what is the purpose of our journey. I do not run after material wealth. I have given that up long ago! I reside among those that are capable of love. I do not associate with those who do not have love. I have just one flaw in my character. I do not smoke tobacco; I do not consume drugs or alcohol. My only intoxication is my love for my Pir. I am his servant/ murshid. I am have immersed myself within this play of the Pir and the murshid. I dwell on the streets. I do not know when or where I shall die! Perhaps that is why my Khwaja ordained me to build an abode/ astana. If you ever happen to be there, do visit! Many sadhus and gurus come there. At any time, you will find fifty to seventy odd sadhus and gurus there. We also distribute clothes and garments. Even when I travel to Delhi and Ajmer, my disciples give me clothes. I have said all there is to say. Are there any more questions you would like to ask?
- Can you sing a qawwali for us?
- I cannot perform a qawwali now. I have a recording however and can give you the cassette if you wish to listen. I shall sing one qawwali composed by Khwaja Baba when I am handed this mouthpiece.
- Do sing something for us now.
- All right. Then listen to a Bengali song! (asks for his instrument).
(Footnotes are located in Notes section)
Interviewed by Ben Krakauer
Producer/Director: Shubra Dutta
Main Camera: Shubra Dutta
2nd Unit Camera: Suman Biswas
Camera Assistants: Asim and Amit
Sound Engineer: Partho Pratim Barman
Sound Assistant: Tarun Mukherjee
Translated by Parjanya Sen
(1) Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki or Qutb ul Aqtab Khwaja Sayyid Muhammad Bakhtiyar Al Hussaini Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (1173-1235 CE) was a Sufi mystic, saint and scholar from the Chishti order of Delhi. A direct disciple of Moinuddin Chishti, head of the Chishti order, Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki is commemorated through the Qutb Minar in Delhi, named after him. His dargah is located adjacent to Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli and is the oldest dargah in Delhi.
(2)The Arabic word Hamid uses is ‘kafela’ which literally translates as ‘caravan.’
(3) Founder of the Chishti order of Sufis and revered by emperor Akbar himself. His dargah is located at Ajmer.
(4) Utterance of the Divine.
(5) Assemblage, a place where people from a particular community may gather and reside for a while.
(6) Located at Sarwar, Rajasthan.
(7) The Qadiriyya or Qadriyya are members of the Qadiri tariqa (order) of Sufi mystics. This order gets its name from Abdul Qadir Gilani (1077-1166 CE) of Gilan.
(8) A local measure of distance.
(9) A Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music originating in the Indian subcontinent and popular in the Punjab and Sindh regions of Pakistan, in Hyderabad and in Delhi and other parts of N. India, as well as in Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh.
(10) Nizamuddin Auliya was one of the most famous Sufis of the Chishti order and successor of Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and Moinuddin Chishti.
(11) The dargah of Alauddin Ali Ahmed Sabir Kalyari, the 13-century Sufi saint of the Chishti order.
(12) Qalandar or Qalandariyya refers to a Sufi mystic order.
(13) Within Islam, Ziyarat refers to a form of pilgrimage to sites associated with the prophet Muhammad, his family members, his companions and descendants, but more loosely to any site considered holy or sacred.
(14) The word literally translates from Arabic as ‘poor’ or ‘unfortunate.’
(15) A very popular number by Rabindranath Tagore.
(16) Possibly coaches.
(17) The word Hamid uses is ‘mohabbat’ meaning a deep romantic love.
(18) Performance of worship or veneration.
(19) There is much folk literature of Ghazi Kalu. Written in the style of panchali or narrative folk songs, these recount the adventures of Ghazi Kalu Pir in the tiger-infested forests of South Bengal and the story of his marriage to Champavati/ Champabati. The shrine or mazhar of Ghazi Kalu is located in the Sundarbans area of Bangladesh.
(20) Person of the third gender, a socially and legally recognized category in India.