Saturday, 25 February 2017

In The Courtyard of The Beloved

IN THE COURTYARD OF THE BELOVED by Tewfic El-Sawy on Exposure

Ms Fatima Bhutto, daughter of Benazir Bhutto, recently wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times bemoaning the gruesome event of an attack by the so-called "Islamic State" on a Sufi shrine in Pakistan, and described the Sehwan shrine as "... an egalitarian oasis formed by the legacies and practice of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism merging into one.

The shrine of Moin'Uddin Chisti is another.

Over the course of about a week, I photographed -virtually non-stop- at this shrine during the annual Urs (commemoration of death anniversary) of the Sufi saint Moin'Uddin Chisti. The shrine is in Ajmer, Rajasthan (India) and hosts one of the largest Muslim pilgrimages in the world. 

It was most certainly one of my three most intense photographic experiences. 

The 'ecosystem' feeding off the shrine consists of pious pilgrims, vagabonds and charlatans, sightseers, mendicants and beggars, fakirs, shoppers, established and opportunistic vendors, pickpockets and thieves, the poor, the wealthy, the venal and the innocent...who come here during the Urs to seek spiritual salvation, riddance of 'jinns', money and entertainment. Even the transgendered hijras come to Ajmer to take part in the veneration of Gharib Nawaz. 

The pilgrimage is populated by Muslims (Shi'a and Sunni, Sufis and non Sufis), Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians and non-believers, who all congregate to pay homage to the most important Sufi saint of South Asia. 

This blog post and an update to the gallery was prompted by the recent news that a suicide bomber affiliated with the so-called Islamic State attacked Sehwan Sharif, one of the most revered Sufi shrines in Pakistan, killing more than 80 people, including 24 children, and wounding more than 250.