Tales of Syncretic Punjab- Goat makes one Peer and another a Mahant

Once upon a time, (again) in the land of Punjab. A Sufi Peer was passing by. He met a poor Brahmin, the Brahmin served him very well. Whatever little the Brahmin had, he shared it with the Peer. The Peer had a goat along, he gifted it to Brahmin as a mark of gratitude. The Brahmin was vegetarian and didn’t make mutton of the goat. He kept feeding the goat for years and then the goat died. It wasn’t a regular goat, it is the blessing of a Sufi Peer. The Brahmin buried the goat and placed some flowers on the Samadhi of the goat, to show respect. Months passed by, people started bowing to the Samadhi of the goat, they prayed. Some got their wishes fulfilled, some returned unhappily yet they kept coming to the Samadhi of the goat. The Samadhi of the goat soon became a famous temple and that poor Brahmin a Mahant of the prestigious temple.

The same Peer was passing by the same neighborhood and he was surprised to see an extravagant temple, where once the poor Brahmin stayed. He went inside the temple to ask about the Brahmin follower, whom he met ages ago. The Brahmin Mahant recognized the Peer, he touched the feet of Peer. The Peer with amused looks asked how this temple came about. The Brahmin told him about the death of goat and the Samadhi and the Samadhi becoming a temple.

The Sufi Peer laughed. He said the mother of the same goat made me a Sufi Peer. The Brahmin had questions on his face, and asked him -how? The Sufi Peer said, once a Naath Jogi was passing by our neighborhood. I offered him some food and donation. In return, he gave me a goat. Naths are not supposed to have any worldly possessions, someone donated him a goat, he gave the same goat to me as a blessing. I could never make myself eat the goat, blessing of a Nath. So I kept it and when the goat died, I gave it a proper burial and the burial site became a Dargah, later a Dargah Shareef, and I became the Peer of the Dargah. The goat made you a Mahant, the mother of the same goat made me a Sufi Peer.

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Punjabi Religion- Syncretic Identity on its own or Identity Crisis

Punjabi religion- an intriguing concept introduced by a scholar. Unlike the alien cow belt. Punjab never had a textbook division of Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism (and later Christianity). One moves between one faith and the other with ease. The Muslim Kirtaniyas singing in Gurudwaras, the old Sikh Dhadis singing about the bravery and valor of Ali, Hassan-Hussain, Ajit Singh-Jhujar Singh and Pandavas in the same breath.

My own grandmother moves in with ease between being a follower of Goddess and Japji Sahib (the long song of Nanak). My grandfather not literate yet remembered Japji Sahib by heart, he praised Baba Balak Nath (a local Hindu deity) after the recitation and it is said that he also knew how to offer Namaz. My great-grandfather who had a similarly confusing name like mine moved between many identities. It’s his name, which has become my last name. At home, the Shivalayas and other temples had the same stature as Gurudwara, Samadhi and Sufi Shrine. It is said the Hindu-Sikh ‘Chugs’ (name of our Gotra) were blessed by a Sufi with healing verses and exercises for aiding the sick. My paternal grandfather used to practise it, whenever someone came to him.

The shrine of Imam Nasir in Jalandhar, 11th century old Sufi, is now managed by Dalits, who’ve accepted Sufism as their faith. Jogi Jalandharnath (Nath Jogi) viewed Imam Nasir as his Guru. For him, Shaivaism of Nath tradition and Islam were not exclusive to each other. His place of meditation is in the same shrine of Imam and Baba Farid of Pak Pattan came in the same shrine to meditate and pray for 40 days (Chaliha).

In the same shrine, a Maulana from cow belt narrates stories of Moses, Abraham, Muhammad to the Punjabi (Muslim) Gujjars during Friday prayers.
The Dalits, Sikhs, and Hindus gather in the same shrine to celebrate the Urs of the Imam.

Once (in some places in Eastern Punjab even now after partition), the Halal Beef eating families lived next to Jhatka pork eating families, with the shared wall, which had a hole, where gossips were shared, food, fruits, and clothes were exchanged. Something unimaginable for cow belt.

When I spelled out the eclecticism of Punjabi identity and religion, a ‘liberal’ Muslim journalist from cow belt mocked it as ‘Punjabi identity crisis’. That said I have received such comments from Hindu liberals too. This is where Punjab differs from India-Hindustan or cow belt. When someone asks, what is your religion? I say Punjabi. I have grown up with the songs of Tulsi, Ravidas, Nanak, Kabir, Farid and Bullah Shah, I can’t leave one for the other.