Sufi Orders of Tamil Nadu
|The chief seat in
[Madras] Presidency where the several bands of faqîrs are organised
is Penukondah, a Qasba town in the Anantapur District. Each year on the
first day of Jamâdi-ul-Âkhar, the faqîrs of all orders
Banava, Rafâ‘î, Madârî, Malang, and Shâh
Jalâl congregate at this place and select their office-bearers to
go on a two-year pilgrimage to the tombs of the saints in the Presidency.
The Banava Order was founded by Ghulâm ‘Alî Shâh of Delhi,
and is traced to to the Saint ‘Abdul Qâdir Jîlânî.
The Rafâ‘î Order was founded by Saiyid Ahmad Kabîr Rafâ‘î
(ob. 756 A.H.) and is traced to Khwâja Junayd of Baghdâd. The
Madârî Order was founded by Shâh Badruddin Qutub-ul-Madâr.
He seems to have come from Syria and to have travelled over a large part
of North India and made thousands of converts to Islam, (ob. 840 A.H.).
His shrine is in Makanpur in Oudh. His order is traced to Tayfûr
of Syria-said to have been a disciple of Jesus Christ. The Jalâlî
Order was founded by Saiyid Jalâl Bokhârî (ob. 699 A.H.).
They wear a sash and bear a horn of deer, and the seal of Nubuwat on their
shoulders. The selection of the chief of each of these orders was so long
in the hands of the faqîrs themselves. Now it appears that the Sajjâda
of Penukondah has this selection taken into his own hands. The latter is
said to be descended from a brother of the local saint Bâbâ
Fakhruddîn and has got nine villages attached to the tomb. Out of
the proceeds of two of these, he has to celebrate the annual festival.
The Sirguru is the ruler of each Order, and has dominion over all
faqîrs of his Order in whatever part of the Presidency. The Sirguru
of Banavas must be a bachelor, and must have some knowledge of Tasawwuf;
but as often as not, he is a mere ignoramus. He has the power of drumming
out or excommunicating a faqîr from his Order, for breach of discipline.
Next in rank to Sirguru
is the Bhandari. He is the Prime Minister of the Order, collects
and spends money in behalf of the band. He is the money-bag man and distributes
the money-share of each faqîr to him. Then comes the Upkari.
He looks after the cooking and the meals; the Kotwâl has to
look after discipline and to accompany the Sirguru in his itinerations.
The Naqîb has also to accompany and chant verses all along.
Out of a collection of Rs. 100 (say), the Sirguru takes Rs. 5 and
two shares; the Bhandari has no commission, but is entitled to 1½
shares, the Upkari, Kotwâl, and Naqîb each take
1¾ shares; and one share is allotted to each faqîr in rank
and file. These bands go on their two-year round in the Southern Presidency
starting from Penukonda. The Sirguru holds four chouks or
darbârs, viz., at Penukonda, Matarwangal, Trichinopoly, and
At Penukonda there is a tomb
of Bâbâ Fakhruddîn. He is said to have been a king of
Sîstân, a province of Persia, and a disciples of Nathar Auliyâ
(Mazharuddîn), the saint of Trichinopoly. He is the saint of cotton-carders
|On the 11th Jamâdî-ul-Âkhar,
the sandal ceremony is performed at Penukonda; on the 12th, the
‘urs; and on the 13th the ‘asas (staves) are taken round.
From Penukonda, visiting small tombs en route and collecting their
fixed mamools, the faqîrs go to Matarwangal, 22 miles from
Kolar. Here is the tomb of Haydar Safdar, another disciple of Nathar Auliyâ
of Trichinopoly. Some of the Orders fall off from this place, the Banava
faqîrs, however, proceed further. At times some of the faqîrs
of the remaining Orders select their own chiefs for the remaining journey.
At Trichinopoly there are the tombs of Nathar Auliyâ and his two
disciples Shumspurran and Shumsgoyan; Nathar Auliyâ is also said
to have been a king who became a saint. From Trichinopoly they go to Nagore,
where there is the tomb of Qâdir Walî. The last stage of the
journey is the tomb of Buddû Shahîd, near Pallavaram. The faqîrs
have their mamools in each place, e.g., at Dindigul (at the
tomb of Saidânî Bî), the mamool is one dinner
and Rs. 10. At the mosque of Tirumangalam, they get Rs. 5; at the Sivaganga
mosque Rs. 30; at Tinnevelly, 5 days' meals and Rs. 150 and so on. A curious
ceremony in connection with the four chouks mentioned above is that
they make the Malang Sirguru sit four-square, and tie raw thread
round his toes, so that he is not to go even for the calls of nature for
five days at Penukonda and Matarwangal; and three days at Trichinopoly
and Nagore; and then the faqîrs tread on fire in his presence. The
practice of the visit from Penukonda to Trichinopoly appears to have arisen
out of the custom of Bâbâ Fakhruddîn paying an annual
visit to Nathar Auliyâ his Pîr, during his life-time.
The salâm amongst these
bands is not the ordinary Mussalman salâm. Amongst Banavas, it is
"Love of God." Answer "Love to all." Amongst Malang and Madârîs,
it is "Haqq-Allâh Muhammad Madâr." Answer "Dum Peer Shâh
Madâr." Amongst the Rafâ‘îs "Love of God." Answer-"Love
of Muhammad, the Prophet." When an order is on the move, the Naqîb
leads the band and calls out "Hush bar Dum," "Nazar bar Qadam" (i.e.,
wakefulness on breath and eye on foot). These two are the terms of the
Naqshbandîyyah Order. "Wakefulness on the breath" is akin to the
Hindu Pranayama. Each breath that goes up is said to voice forth, "Lâ
ilâha" and the one that goes in "Illallâh," "No
god, except God," i.e., in breathing out they negative all existences,
and in breathing in, they acknowledge the only existence of God. "Eye on
the foot," appears to be a fitting watchword in marching, and has for its
objective the concentration of attention. Esoterically it is intended to
put each man on his guard regarding the observance of the footsteps of
the particular prophet, he may have chosen for his model.
[Note: Khaja Khan was a Madrasi
author on Sufi topics. This article was taken from his essay "Sufi Orders
in the Deccan", originally published in The Philosophy of Islam
(1903), and reprinted in Studies in Tasawwuf (1923). At the time
he wrote, the Madras Presidency (present-day Tamil Nadu) included areas
that are now in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.]
Map of South India showing the
places along the itinerary named in the article.