Some 42km from Lucknow is the shrine of Haji Waris Ali Shah, more popularly known as the Dewa Sharif. It is a shrine at which the stream of crowds never stems; they make their way through narrow lanes selling everything from steel utensils to fashion jewellery.
Saad Mahmood Warsi, the honorary manager of the Haji Waris Ali Shah Mausoleum Trust, said the pir when born, on the first day of the holy month of Ramzan, refused to suckle his mother. And for the whole month the newborn lived without food and drink.
“The pir travelled to numerous countries, meeting the czar of Russia, the queen of England, the monarch of Germany. He did not know their language, yet such was his aura that everywhere he went the greats sought an audience with him,” said Warsi.
One of the most remarkable features of the dargah is that its dome casts no shadow in any direction. In life, too, the pir was never known to cast a shadow.
He was a Sufi and a Vedantic whose message was one of universal brotherhood. Thus, religion, caste and creed melt away at his gates.
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One of the famous anecdotes about his boon-granting powers came from the film actor Sunil Dutt. A member of Parliament then, Dutt came to Dewa in October 1995 to worship at the dargah on a Saturday. On Monday, his son, the actor Sanjay Dutt, was granted bail after 15 months in jail.
Many faithful visit the dargah every week. One of them, Anuj Kumar Maurya, 24, makes the trip across 40km. He does not remember for how many years he has been doing so, but is firm in his belief that all his life’s wishes have been granted at the dargah. Looking at his wife, Pammi, he said, “I had always prayed for a beautiful, caring wife, and look how I have been blessed.” This is Pammi’s first visit to the dargah. She said she had her own secret wish. “I have not even told my husband about it,” she said shyly.