In a devoted transformation

In the mystic tradition of Sufism, dargahs are spiritual centres and collective spaces for the Sufis. One such centre is the Khaja Banda Nawaz Dargah in Kalaburagi. This is a mausoleum of Hazrat Khaja Banda Nawaz Gesudaraz(1321-1422), who was known across the subcontinent for his spiritual knowledge. Besides, for over half a century, the dargah has initiated a slew of welfare measures for the people living in and around the area.

Recently, the dargah witnessed a sweeping modernisation and the government has sanctioned the university status for the same. About two dozen colleges will come under the umbrella of the Khaja Banda Nawaz University. This would be the first ever university to be hosted by a group overseeing the management of a dargah. 

Agent of change

Dargahs exercise an immense pull of devotees through their message of love and service. Likewise, the teachings of the saint Khaja Banda Nawaz attract many visitors and, in turn, the custodians of the dargah have tried to equip the youth with knowledge and skills that will help them in the future. Thus, this spiritual centre has become a catalyst in the transformation of the society.

‘‘There are no words to appreciate the efforts undertaken by the Khaja Education Society in uplifting the educational profile of the community in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. I often visit the dargah and the library which are engaged in preserving and promoting the ancient wisdom,’’ says Hussain Basha, a research scholar. 

It is interesting that the management of the dargah has undergone a significant transformation, with the focus on providing modernised facilities to the visitors. The present custodian, Syed Shah Khusro Hussaini, has been instrumental in re-inventing the dargah and making it a modern space. He has combined religious practice with modern education and laid emphasis on reason while catering to the youth. The dargah also has state-of-the-art facilities in terms of computerised entries, security and facilities for the physically challenged visitors.

“I visited the dargah and found the precincts maintained immaculately. The management has taken care to improve the accessibility to the main shrine for people from all categories. The dargah exemplifies the syncretic and secular culture of the nation drawing people from all sections of life who visit the place for spiritual solace,’’ says Ashok Dalwai, an IAS officer. 

 The ambience of the dargah is pleasant and has several small tombs enclosing the graves of pious saints of the 15th century. The dome over the main tomb rises to a majestic height and can be seen from across the city. In the 1980s, its ceiling was repaired and adorned with mirrors that offer a spectacular visual experience. There are Teflon canopies in the dargah that provide shade to the visitors and there is clean and filtered water for the devotees to perform ablutions.  

The latest restoration effort on the exterior of the domes has retained its plain white colour.

Essentials & the library   

The traditional crafts bazaar known as Khaja Bazaar around the complex is now more organised with old makeshift shops having been replaced by pucca structures along neatly configured streets. That apart, Khusro Hussaini, after becoming the custodian, got the entire area digitally mapped in order to secure the wakf properties, raise fencing and consolidate and possibly restore the heritage sites. The hoary library in the dargah complex, a treasure house of the rarest of the rare manuscripts, has also seen some whiff of fresh air blowing across its musty interiors. Services of Arabic and Persian scholar Qamaruddin have been requisitioned to restore the library which will be moving to a modern complex of a research academy. Qamaruddin says there are plans on the anvil to digitise the entire works available within the library pertaining to various theological concepts. The library is often visited by orientalist scholars from abroad.  

That apart, in a stupendous exercise, the dargah management has restored the Sadar Sofah, which used to be a residence of the Sajjadanashins (spiritual heads) in the past. It later came to be used as a venue for Mehfil-e-Qawwali and other cultural activities. It was known as Hussaini Mahal and had lain in utter neglect for over a century. Nilesh Thakker, a conservationist architect from the firm that helped in the renovation work, says the team took care to scrupulously avoid the use of concrete and only lime plaster was used to retain the originality. 

Today, the offices of the Dargah Management Committee wear a new look. Departments of finance, accounting, guesthouses, personnel management and educational institutions, deploy computers to ease the networking. Hussaini has been meticulous in recruiting only professionals and the ones who are amenable to learning the new techniques. He has also injected dynamism into this institution that brims with spiritual energy. 

Mohammed Zohair, a management professor, says, “This dargah has the unique characteristic of channelling the offerings at the dargah for the social and educational upliftment of the community. The resources are utilised in the most transparent manner. The institutions being run by the Khaja Education Society, which recently was sanctioned the Khaja Banda Nawaz Society, provide high standard education.’’   

 

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In a devoted transformation

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