A Kashmir shrine where men whirl and dance

Reviving the central Asian Sufism tradition of ‘Dervish dance’, dozens of local devotees on Friday performed ‘Dambali’ at the shrine of Lal Bab Sahib in Zakura area on the outskirts of Srinagar city.

Whirling and dancing at the Urs, the artistes belonged to Lalpora village of central Badgam district in the Valley, the home of the saint buried at Zakura.

‘Dambali’ artists come here each year on the Urs of the saint to invoke divine blessings and re-affirm their faith in the centuries old Sufist tradition of Kashmir.

“Holding long wooden posts in their hands, the groups of Dambali artiste go round in circles as other devotees watch them. These Dambali performers, all of them males, come from Lalpora village in Beerwah area of Badgam district.

“After performing at the Urs, they carry their wooden posts called ‘Alums’ to the nearby Hazratbal shrine and finally the ritual ends at the shrine of Sheikh Humza Makhdoom on ‘Koh-e-Maran’ (The mount of Serpents) in old city Srinagar,” said Abdul Gani Mir, 56, who has been visiting the shrine at Zakura each year on Urs to seek the saint’s blessings.

More than 10,000 people attended this year’s Urs at Lal Bab Sahib shrine. Devotees say the saint originally belonged to Lalpora village in Badgam.

“It is said he came to Zakura and would each day go to the nearby Hazratbal shrine performing ‘Dambali’ while going and coming back from the shrine.

“Many elders here say the Dambali artistes had once decided not to perform at the Urs.

“Elders said the entire Lalpora village was same year destroyed in a conflagration,” said Nazir Ahmad, 43, a devotee at the shrine.

The roots of Dambali, according to local scholars, lie in the Turkish tradition of Dervish dance while is basically known as Sufi whirling.

The 13th century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, was the first to perform the Sufi whirling or Dervish dance after meeting his spiritual companion and guide, Shamas Tabraz.

“Dambali or Dervish Dance is done to abandon one’s ego or personal desires in order to reach the source of all perfection and focusing on God.

“The dance is done around the shrine to symbolize the planetary movements around the Sun.

“Dambali is essentially a state of ‘Wajad’ (spiritual ecstasy). It has come to Kashmir from central Asia not through land connection, but from Gujarat where Sufis used to come from central Asia using the sea route,” said scholar, M.Y. Teng.

Related posts