A three-decade old display of mutual respect between a dargaah and a temple has become a rare symbol of communal and political harmony in Rajgarh town, about 140 kilometres from Bhopal.
Here, the members of the Hindu and Muslim communities exchange ceremonial chaadars and religious flags at the dargaah and the temple every year.
But what gives this tradition more credibility is the fact that the two main organisers of the event belong to different political ideologies and communities. One is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) district president Raghunandan Sharma and the other Rashid Jamil, district general secretary of the Congress.
As per the tradition, the chaadar is carried from a Ram Janaki temple to the dargaah of Baba Badakhshani (Haji Syed Qurbaan Ali Shah) during the annual Urs, which was held from March 10 to 12 this year. The same way, a flag with an image of Lord Hanuman is carried from the dargaah to the temple on the Gudi Padwa day, which is on March 20 this year.
According to the tradition, the chaadar is first worshipped at the temple and then participants carry it on their heads to the dargaah, which is about one kilometre from the temple. The rally is led by qawwals who go all the way singing to the dargaah after performing at the temple. Similarly, a flag carrying Lord Hanuman’s image is carried from the dargaah to the temple after a ritual and unfurled atop it to mark the beginning of the Chaitra Navratri (the nine-day festive period preceding Ramnavami).
The tradition was started about 35 years ago by a group of like-minded people under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Kalamkar Parishad. The founding members of the Parishad included Ram Singh Prahari, Jamil Ahmed Khan (both have died since), Raghunandan Sharma, Saeeda Qureshi and Pandit Dinesh Nagar.
“These people thought that showing respect to each other’s culture and traditions was the best way to nurture harmony and decided on this exchange,” Shahid Prahari, a teacher and poet, who is also the convener of the annual event said.
Raghunandan Sharma said the tradition had started in a small way and faced initial hurdles. But later the people understood its importance and made it a big event through increased participation. He said political considerations never came in the way of this unique tradition.
Rashid Jamil said , “It is a way to preserve our Ganga-Jamuni (mixed) culture and to impart the lesson of harmony to the newer generation. Politics hardly plays a role here.”
Even government officials agree the tradition is helping spread amity. Rajgarh district collector Anand Sharma sums it up with an official line: “There has been no major communal incident in the town in the past few years. Peace prevails here.”