An epitome of universal love and brotherhood
In the first quarter of 19th century when the Moghul Empire in India was on its last leg and sectarian frenzy was being spurred up to establish British Rule in the country, a child was born in the quite little town of Dewa in this district, who was destined to influence the lives of a vast majority of people by radiating divine love for humanity with the centripetal brilliance of his soul to guide them on the path of righteousness and piety.
Waris Ali Shah of Dewa came of a family of Hussaini Syeds distinguished for piety and learning. His genealogy shows that he was born in the 26th generation of Hazrat Imam Hussain. The date of his birth is disputed varying from 1233 A.H. to 1238 A.H. The author of Maarif Warisya has put the date of his birth as 1234 A.H. corresponding to 1809 of the Christian era. His father, Syed Qurban Ali Shah belonged to a land-lord class and was a man of considerable learning having completed his education in Baghdad.
Waris Ali Shah was not yet three years old when he lost his parents and the burden of his upbringing fell on the feeble shoulders of his grandmother. At the age of five he started learning ‘Quran’ and committed it to memory. He seldom read his books but to the amazement of his tutor he could say his lessons correctly. He preferred solitude to books and often slipped away out of doors to spend long periods in retirement and contemplation. He was never seen playing with children of his age and took pleasure in giving them sweets and distributing money among the poor. It soon became evident to those around him that he was not quite of the earth. His brother-in-law Haji Syed Khadim Ali Shah who lived at Lucknow took charge of his education and initiated him in the mysteries of occult science, giving him the necessary training.
It was not long before Haji Syed Khadim Ali Shah died and his mentle descended upon the boy at the age of fourteen. Waris Ali Shah started initiating people in his order and had a number of disciples. When he was only fifteen, the burning glow of divine love impelled him to start on a pilgrimage to Mecca, he gave away all his property including a valuable library to his relations and destroyed documents relating to his estate.
For 12 long-years he traveled in Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Iran, Turkey, Russia and Germany, it is said that he performed Haj 10 times in the course of his travels. One day while inside ‘KABA’ he began humming a tune. The keeper of ‘KABA’ warned him and said ‘You seem to forget that it is the house of God’ . Quick cam the reply ‘Can you tell me a place where God is not present?’ From the date of his first Haj, Haji Waris Ali Shah discarded putting tailored clothes and started donning the Ahram (Unstitched cloth wrapped around the body). He traveled on foot and used no conveyance of any sort but got the boats only to cross the Seas. He visited Constantinople in the time of Sultan Abdul Majid who was so impressed at the sight of the holy stranger that he offered himself to be admitted in his order. Haji Waris Ali Shah was the guest of Prince Bismarck when he visited Berlin.
When he returned home his own people did not know him. His ancestral house was in ruins and when he went round the village no one came to welcome him. Some of his relations shunned him, lest he should claim back his property which they held in their possession. He smiled at their coldness and remarked ‘They seem to think that I have come back for the sake of my property, as if I care for it’ and went away to resume his wandering.
A SUFI SAINT
Sufism is based on love, which they say is the eternal order of the universe. All matter is composed of invisible particles or atoms by the force of gravitation. This natural phenomenon is interpreted in Sufism as the tendency of LOVE. Since God created man in his own likeness, the man as the highest form of creation must essentially claim affinity with the divine and the absolute.
Haji Sahab was so possessed of the divine idea that he practically lost all self-consciousness. His inward bent of mind prevented him from holding long discourses. He was one of those Saints whose thoughts are altogether absorbed in the contemplation of the Almighty and had no room for anything else.
Haji Waris Ali Shah never claimed any extra ordinary powers for himself. but there are innumerable instances of his having healed the sick by a glance or by a touch. Once on his way to Bahraich, he wanted to cross the river Ghaghra in floods, but no boat was available at the ferry. He decided to swim across the river with his companions. They were in the state of terrible fright and reluctant to follow him, but to their astonishment, the water was found to be only knee-deep, when they got in and simply waded through it. His feet never showed any sign of dirt though he remained bare-footed, nor did they leave any mark on the carpet when he stepped in the room.
Hindus held him in high esteem and regarded him as a perfect Sufi and a follower of Vedant. To the Hindus he said ‘Believe Brahma Do not worship idols and be honest’. Thousands of Hindus, including Sadhus and Fakirs of different Panthas paid homage to him and entered his order. He always welcomed them with these words ‘You and I are the same’ he recognised God in every individual, because he had realised, Him in himself. He did not ask non-Muslims to abjure their religion on the contrary he advised them to follow it with greater zeal and sincerity.
Haji Waris Ali Shah was as popular with the English educated youth as with the people of the old generations, English knowing men flocked to him in hundreds and sat at his feet. He was the first Sufi Darvesh to have crossed the Seas and visited Europe and was also the first to have attracted the English knowing Class. A Spanish Noble by the name of Count Galaraza came all the way from Spain to visit him and had an interview with him at Dewa.
Haji Waris Ali Shah a monarch in the domain of Sufism passed away for his heavenly abode on April 7th, 1905, after a brief illness. His mission was to teach the love of God as well as universal love by rallying men of conflicting creeds under one common banner. He was buried at the spot where he died and this place is marked by a splendid monument erected in his memory by some of his devoted followers.
The mausoleum of Haji Waris Ali Shah is a monument of communal amity, constructed on a pattern, blending the Hindu-Iranian styles of architecture. The mausoleum is an emblem of communal harmony, universal brotherhood and affection, preached by the Saint. The tomb, the shrines and the latticed outer apartment girdling the inner shrine for ‘Parikrama’ (Tawaf) are indicative of the Hindu style of architecture while the towers and minarets present the Persian architecture.
It is noteworthy that Hindus along with Muslim devotees made a significant contribution to the construction of the mausoleum. The silver platted spire was donated by Raja Udit Narain Singh of Ram Nagar in this district, the silver covering on doors was done on behalf of the rulers of Kashmir and the entire marble flooring was completed from the Estate donated by Thakur Pancham Singh of Mainpuri at whose cost a mess runs to feed the visitors during the Mela. The mausoleum is surrounded by an array of Khanquahs and imposing gate in front of it. There is a trust to look after the management of the mausoleum and properties donated by the disciples.
Every year Urs is held at the scared tomb in the month of ‘Safar’ with non-stop quawwali recitals.
Haji Sahab organised Urs of his father, Haji Qurban Ali Shah in the month of ‘Kartik’ according to Hindu calendar when a big fair is held to commemorate the Saints. Relieved of agriculture operations in the month of the fair people from far and wide participate in it in a festive mood. Visitors from all the parts of the country come to pay their homage to the great Sufi Saint Haji Waris Ali Shah and his father. Pilgrims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia are also attracted to make the fair a cosmopolitan congregation.
HIGHLIGHTS OF FAIR AND EXHIBITION
The Dewa Fair, which attracts pilgrims and visitors from all parts of the country to the mausoleum of the great Saint, comes in full swing with the ceremony of Chadar presentation on the tombs of Haji Waris Ali Shah and his father. Embroided sheets of Varanasi Silk are placed on the tombs of Haji Sahab and his father Haji Qurban Ali Shah.
These sheets are carried in silver plates in a procession. Quawwalis and devotional songs are recited all the way by professional singers as the procession wends its way to the mausoleums. Pilgrims also carry Chadars singing their way to the shrines.
There is much of interest to the peasantry in Dewa Fair. A big cattle market is the highlight of the fair and is the main source of its revenue. The cattle market has been split into various portions each being reserved for a particular species of animals.
The demonstration of improved agricultural implements and engines for pumping of water for irrigation draw large crowd of cultivators. Concerns dealing in chemicals fertilizers arrange free distribution of packets and literature explaining the use and effects of various types of fertilizers.
Some field demonstrations are also arranged by agriculture and Cane departments to explain improved farm strategies to agriculturists. Improved agricultural implements are also on show.The cynosure of all eyes at the Dewa Fair is a decorated exhibition consisting of stalls of various departments, depicting the activities and achievements through colourful exhibits arranged in any eye-catching manner. The exhibits portray through pictures, photographs and models methods to contain the population explosion. In another stall are placed on view various exhibits showing the cultural life and historical places of the state and also national building schemes.
A good treat of cultural programmes are held at the fair by conducting Mushaira, Kavi sammelan, Music Conference and Debate in a decorated pandal.
Sports loving people find great pleasure in events like Hockey, Volleyball, and Badminton tournaments as well as Rifle shooting and Kite Flying programmes.
The Dewa Fair which is regarded as one of the finest and neatest fair in the state has its own water supply arrangement. The exhibition association every year spend large amounts in maintaining sanitary and conservancy service to keep the Mela area spite and span. Treatment facilities and First-Aid services are provided free of cost during the ten days Mela period. An elaborate arrangement is made to maintain law and order and regulate traffic arrangement by having a full-fledged Kotwali, Wireless Station, Walkie-Talkie sets and central Loudspeaker system. Evenings, in the fair provide greater attractions for the visitors as the entire township in the fair is transformed into a fairy land with millions of coloured lights.
A brilliant display of fireworks marks the conclusion of the ten days Dewa Fair. The Fireworks manufacturers of Dewa, Fatehpur, Zaidpur, Nawabganj and also from outside the district vie with each other in demonstrating their skill in letting off paper-balloons in the sky with a flame burning at its center, firing rockets with a flame burning at its center, firing rockets with a string of multi-coloured fireballs shooting in the air and depicting picturesque landscape by igniting gun powder inside the fast rotation wheels releasing mariads of twinkling star-like sparks of various tints.