Mumbai: Annual Urs At Ambernath's Haji Malang Dargah Commences Amid Controversy & Extra Police Security

Mumbai: Annual Urs At Ambernath's Haji Malang Dargah Commences Amid Controversy & Extra Police Security

The hill shrine has been at the centre of a controversy after statements by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde for the 'liberation" of the shrine and its restoration as a tomb of a Hindu saint.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 12:31 AM IST
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Ambernath's Haji Malang Dargah | Facebook

The annual Urs at the contested Haji Malang dargah starts this afternoon (February 20) amidst extra police security.

The hill shrine, located in the Ambernath taluka of Thane district, has been at the centre of a controversy after statements last month by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde for the 'liberation" of the shrine and its restoration as a tomb of a Hindu saint. Devotees believe the tomb to be the resting place of Hazrat Abdur Rahman Malang, a 12th century holy man who travelled to India from the middle-east. The dargah is surrounded by smaller shrines and tombs, including that of a woman simply known as 'Mai Saheb', believed to be the daughter of a local king who was a devotee of the saint. 

The dispute is being heard by the courts

The trustees of the shrine said that the dispute about its religious status is being heard by the courts. They have also said that the devotees, Muslims and Hindus, have been worshipping together at the shrine without any dispute. Today, the nine-day celebration will start with the hoisting of the Nishan or the shrine’s flag. Thousands of devotees will start their trek to the ridgetop where the tombs are located. Between 35,000 to 40,000 devotees make a trip to the shrine during the annual festival.   

This year, because of the controversy, the shrine trust expects that the number of pilgrims will be fewer. Advocate Chandrahas Ketkar, a member of the family which has been managing the shrine, said, “There was confusion among devotees who were not sure whether the festival will take place, but the celebration will be held as usual. Except for some security steps suggested by police, the festival will be conducted as usual,” said Ketkar who says he is the 14th generation from his family to work as caretakers of the shrine. The family, which lives in Bandhanwadi, a village at the foot of the Haji Malang hill, shifts to their temporary home near the shrine during the festival. 

Events arranged and other ceremonies

The main event, the sandal ceremony, which includes a gift of scented offerings to the saint, will happen at around 11.55pm on February 24 during the full moon. A pot of sandal paste, dissolved in rose water, is kept in a palkhi and carried in a procession to a ground near the shrine where devotees will gather to receive it. In the morning, the sandal is carried to the tomb. Devotees take home small packets of the sandal as an auspicious momento that they keep in their homes. 

The final event of the festival will take place on the night of February 28 with the ghusl or ritual wash of the tomb with attar, sandal, and rosewater. The gravestone is then covered with a fresh layer of chadars or cloth embroidered with holy verses. The chadars offered on this day will cover the tomb till the next festival.  

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