Monday, March 18, 2013
He hails from West Bengal so the locals call him Bangali Baba , he sells herbal medicines herbal aphrodisiacs and is part of the Urus dargah circuit.
At most Urus you will find him selling his stuff on the road, he was at Haji Malang too this year.
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Rafaee death is unpredictable , Barsati Baba suffering from lung ailment and would tire easily and stopped his body piercing rituals.
He would sit in a corner and face the onslaught of asthma attacks.. but we got along very well, though he was under a vow , he had stopped talking for 11 years , his failing health made him break his vow a thought that pained him a lot..
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He has the nobility of a Pathan , huge tall strapping man.. but though he was the eldest son of Sikandar Wali Baba Murshad , after his fahters death, he was not given that gaddi or position.
He was very friendly , kept to himself I have not met him since many years ...
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The problems in the Valley , disillusionment created means to escape and so the individual joined the Rafaees .
Kashmiri Bawa has been with the Chancawalli Rafaees since the beginning, a quiet silent man , and I have cursed myself for not talking to them and being curious as to why they became ascetics.I dont get personal, dont ask questions ..I shoot pictures sometimes it makes them happy it makes me happy too.
And this aloofness has made me friends with the Rafaee and I write positively , though I hate writing but at times it is necessary .. the rafaee is a Sufi body piercing group.
They move from Urus to Urus known as the Dargah circuit and perform their rituals which gets them alms.
They are very different from the Malangs.
As a documentarist I have shot the Rafaees up close , and it is tough shooting them firstly they dont take kindly to photographers or strangers , and I have had abusive bawas cursing me and once a bawa stopped my camera from working too.
I shot the Chancawalli Rafaees during the Makkhdhoom Shah Urus at Mahim , their domain called the Dhuni or Holy Fire behind the Shrine.
Smoking hashish or ganja in a pipe is one of the cultures of the Rafaee , and with the hashish, the best quality mal comes the hangar ons , and most of these guys unemployed , become Murids doing odd jobs for the Rafaees.
The more richer well connected Murids could be drug peddlers , drug dealers does not matter at the Dhuni you come in good faith, squabbles political talk sectarian talk is not tolerated.. the Murshad and his Kotwal keep an eye on all this.
In the mornngs the Rafaees get up very late , go to the beach for their ablutions etc, bathe , dress up and the Dhuni becomes active during late afternoon lunch time till the wee hours .
People keep pouring in , to see the rafaees , and they come out in bloom during the Sandal when they take part in the procession doing their body piercing feats , eyeball piercing, neck cutting, tongue cutting the works and get money as alms from the crowds.
Though I have a camera round my neck I get alms too as I am dressed like them barefeet , the money I thus got gave it back to the Murshad..
After the Sandal it is Qawwali at the Dhuni, Kaif Sufi trance and time stops completely ..
However I have not been able to document this lately , so this year it was a day trip to Haj Malang and a bit of Mahim Urus.
The old faces I knew have disappeared .. and most of the Rafaees move on join other groups till they collectively meet at Ajmer Sharif to pay solemn sincere tribute to the Sultan of Sufism in India Khwajah Moinuddin Chishty Al Sabri.
Most of the rafaees line up at Hujra No 6 of my Peersaab Fakhru Miya to get their Identity cards stamped by him , this gives them credit ability in trains and with the police.
The Rafaees sit at Jalali Chowk at Ajmer Sharif close to Char Yar Mosque cemetery their head their an austere powerful Rafee Peer called Noubat Ali.
Here you see all kinds of Rafaees , Mastans Malangs and Hijra bawas..Sadha Suhagins.
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