Piran Kaliyar 

Piran Kaliyar, also known as Kaliyar Sharif, is the burial place of a Sufi saint named Ali`uddin Ali Ahmad Sabir. It is only a half hours drive from Haridwar, but the Islamic tone makes the feel of the place completely different. The tomb is set in a small village, whose only attraction is the presence of the saint, for whose blessings the faithful still seek, as at the shrine of Hazrat Nizam-ud-din, or Baba Mu'in ud-din Chishti.  This picture shows one of the gateways to the shrine (and the cucumber vendor who recognized a good business location)
 

 

Here's a full shot of the shrine, which as you can see has elaborate enamel work decorating the sides.  The part in the foreground is antechamber, and the back half is the location of the tomb itself.  The people gathered outside are like petitioners coming to court, except this is the court of a saint, rather than a king.  

  

Here's a tighter shot of the tomb itself, showing some of the detail work on the sides of the tomb.  Note that the side walls are open grillwork, which allows one to see in (and also allows breezes to move through in the all-too-hot hot season). 

 

The veneration of saints in Islam is based on the belief that their piety brought them close to Allah, and that they can therefore act as channels for Allah's grace. Not only do people visit the saints to ask for favors, but some strive to be buried near them. The tomb compound at Piran Kaliyar contains the graves of numerous followers, whereas this smaller tomb is built outside the shrine, but close by. 

 

In 2001 we were lucky enough to find musicians playing qawwalli music at the tomb (as I had also found on my first visit, in 1998).  The two men in front were singers, with the one on the right playing the harmonium, and behind them sat a drummer (the man with the white cap).  We sat for almost two hours in the afternoon sun, listening to the music, and for me this was one of the most luminous moments I've had in all my time in India. 
 

 

I've seen these same singers on several different occasions, and the last time they had a group of young men playing with them.  The two men in the background are each playing the harmonium and singing, the man in the foreground is clapping his hands, and you can just see the edge of a drum at the lower right.  Everyone has their heads covered, as is appropriate in a holy place.  These singers are at the same time performers and devotees, the singing is for the saint as well as the surrounding folk.

This was taken in Jan. 2003.

 

The tombs of saints have been a traditional gathering place for the Muslim holy men known as faqirs, for whom the saint provides an ideal, and often a means of tangible support, through the offerings of the faithful. This is a picture of a faqir named Muhammad Ikram, who was very helpful and friendly. The green color of his headdress is a symbol of Islam, since green was said to be the Prophet Muhammad's favorite color.

 

The shrine of Piran Kaliyar is the anchor and  raison d'etre for the town of Kaliyar, which is little more than a collection of shops around the saint's tomb, to sell merchandise, souvenirs, food, and offerings for the saint such as roses and sugar. The only time things get really busy is during the annual urs ("marriage"), the festival celebrating the saint's death anniversary, and hence his marriage with God.

Back to the January Itinerary

 

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Last modified 15 March 2001