In an earlier article, I have already made note of the transformation of Tipu Sultan into a Saint or a ‘Hazrath’. I have in this article, also mentioned of his great regard for the Sufi tradition of Islam.
Urs from the Arabic word for ‘wedding’ is the death anniversary of a Sufi saint in South Asia, usually held at the saint’s dargah or tomb. South Asians refer to their saints as lovers of God, the beloved. The death of a Sufi saint is regarded as a union with the beloved, and the death anniversary is celebrated as a wedding anniversary.
Tipu Sultan passed away fighting for his beloved Mysore, sword in hand, on the 4th of May, 1799. That is the 28th day of the month of Dhu al-Qi’dah, Hijri 1213. Dhu al-Qidah is the 11th month of the Arab/Islamic calendar while May is the 5th month in the English/Christian era; hence there is a difference of 7 years between his martyrdom according to the Islamic and English calendars.
The annual Urs celebration for the year 2012 was held at Seringapatam with great gusto and in the presence of an immense gathering on tuesday, October 16. I was fortunate to be a part of this gathering and pray at his graveside. It is my pleasure to share photographs of this procession that started from the Masjid-E-Ala, Tipu Sultan’s own mosque in Seringapatam and that culminated at the Gumbaz, where Tipu lies with his mother and father by his side.
The photograph below is taken from where the Juloos-E-Chadar (procession carrying the shroud that will be laid upon Tipu’s grave) originates. Here we see the the followers of the Sufi order mainly Chishtiya and Qalandaris with the colours of Tipu, namely the bubri plantain like design on the banners. A chauri or flywhisk bearer is holding a whisk of peacock feathers. Also note a mace bearer or ‘Chobdar’ carrying the mace of the state and another follower carrying an incense burner. I found this burner very interesting as it is definitely a relic from Tipu’s time having on it the ‘bubri’ or tiger – stripe relief struck out in brass. They wear jasmine garlands that have been presented to them by the Mufti of the Jumma Masjid.
Some among the procession are seen carrying clay pot decorated with flowers on their heads under an ornate umbrella. This pot that they hold so venerably contains the ‘Sandal’ or Sandalwood paste that will be used to plaster the stone tomb of Tipu. This Sandal paste will be later distributed to the gathering who will rub it onto their palms and apply it on their face. This is why the Urs is also often called the ‘Sandal’ of Tipu Sultan. The outer wall of the beautiful mosque is seen in the background.
As the procession began and started to wind it’s way to the Gumbaz, it was joined enroute by several smaller processions and groups of elated members, young and old, men, women and children. I will now show photographs of several of these groups many of them who show their affection to Tipu in myriad ways.
It was nearing nightfall and the procession entered the town of Ganjam that contains Tipu’s summer palace, Dariya Daulat as well as his family mausoleum.
Drum beaters added to the whole occasion by playing lively beats on their drums as we reached the naggarkhana or the ‘drum house’ entrance
The chador and sandal were taken around the mausoleum several times amidst lively singing of songs praising the glory of Islam and the exploits of Tipu Sultan. People would touch the Chador whenever they got a chance to invoke Tipu’s blessings.
The crowd now streamed into the mausoleum where prayers were read over the graves of Tipu Sultan and his parents. The Sandal paste was applied over the tomb and chador laid over it. Sandal paste was later distributed to the gathering who received it with great veneration.
All around the mood was festive with the bright lights lighting up the extensive lawns around the mausoleum. A langar or community dinner was available to all devotees, many of whom had travelled from far to attend the Urs and many among whom would spend the whole night at the mausoleum praying, keeping vigil and later going to sleep, only departing for home next morning.
While the actual clebration was in progress here, a convocation function was held on the lawns with over 2000 people in attendance. The Tipu Sultan Madrasa at the Jumma Masjid was celebrating the passing out of 4 young graduates who passed out well versed in the Koran, Shariat and the Hadith. More than 30 different Ulema from Karnataka and the neighbouring states were in attendance, gracing the occasion.
The Mufti of the Jumma Masid Sajjad Hussain spoke of the efforts of the Madrasa -E- Tipu Sultan where an effort was made to churn out students who were well versed in the ways of God as well in a position to live in a secular polity. Students made presentations in Urdu, Arabic, English and Kannada. Religious songs or ‘Naat’ was presented by the youngsters. The main focus of this convocation function was to instill in the minds of all who attended the value of education and the importance that the Holy Prophet of Islam placed upon education with references being provided from the Koran and Hadith as well as references to Tipu Sultan’s commitment and interest in Education.
Obviously Mysore would not have been able to make rapid strides in Metallurgy, Gun Casting, Silk rearing, horticulture, rocketry, etc. under Tipu Sultan unless he did not propagate the latest developments in science and technology among his people. Not many know that Tipu had also proposed to send one of his sons to France to get an European education and also offered to teach one of the French Princes in India, in return.
It was indeed a wonderful experience retracing the footsteps of the last journey of Tipu Sultan on May 5, 1799 as his mortal remains were carrried from his palace at Seringapatam along the same road that the procession took today to where he was interred in the Gumbaz at Ganjam. He is not among us today, but his spirit will continue to stir all Indians to taking this country to the rightful place it should occupy in the comity of nations.
And it was also an honour for me to take you all with me along this photographic journey. Hope you had a nice time!