By Fatima Raza ‘Pakistan Times‘ Special Correspondent
LAHORE: The three-day ‘Urs’ of the great Sufi saint, religious scholar and spiritualist of the 11th century Hazrat Ali bin Usman Hajveri (RA) – popularly known as Data Ganj Bukhsh (RA) concluded at midnight Thursday with prayers for peace, progress and prosperity of Pakistan.
Hundreds of thousands of the faithful – who had arrived Lahore from all areas of Pakistan as well as from different parts of the world – also offered special prayers for the entire Muslim world as well as for emancipation of the Indian occupied part of the Himalayan State of Jammu & Kashmir and establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State – at the earliest.
The annual Urs ceremonies had commenced in the Punjab metropolis – Lahore on Tuesday.
It is generally thought that in his lifetime the great saint was called as Gang Bakhsh (RA) but afterwards he became too famous as Data Gang Bakhsh (RA).
Hazrat Ali Hajvery (RA) was a Persian Sufi and a scholar. The greatest saint for all times was born in Hajver, a town of Ghazni in Afghanistan in 1000 AD (400 H) and died in Lahore in 1063 or 1071 AD.
He voyaged physically to many countries, including Turkistan, Transoxania, Iran, Iraq, and Syria where he met innumerable Sufis and Sheikhs, many of those have been mentioned in his book ‘Kashf-ul-Mahjoob’.
During the Urs the shrine and its whereabouts were beautifully lit. A large number of devotees from different parts of the country besides tens of thousands from the city visited the Data Darbar [the Mausoleum] – to pay their homage by reciting verses from the Holy Quran.
Qawals, and Naat Khawan recited mystic verses – paying tributes to the venerated saint. Separate arrangements were made for women to visit the shrine.
‘Langer Khana’ (distributing free food) and milk sabeels were also made available for every-one comprising a large number of people.
According to some historians one of the first persons to become Muslim at the hand of Hazrat Data Gang Bakhsh (RA) was Rai Raju. He was Naib Hakim [Deputy Ruler] of Lahore at that time.
On his conversion to Islam Hazrat Data Gang Bakhsh (RA) named him Shaikh Hindi. After this, many other people also converted to Islam.
When Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh (RA) came to Lahore, he built a “Khanqah” and a Mosque, known as “Khishti Masjid”, outside the city on a mound to the west of Bhati Gate near the bank of river Ravi.
It is said that when the mosque was originally being built by him some of the locals pointed out that ‘the “Qibla” of the mosque is not in the right direction and appears towards south’. On complaint, he asked the people to say prayer and during the prayer he showed them the Holy Kaaba, consequently its direction was right.
It was one of the many miracles of the great saint. This mosque became a model to look at for the fixing of Qibla of all the mosques in the following centuries.
The historical records tell us that after the death of Hazrat Data Gang Bakhsh (RA) because of the reverence and deep respect of the Muslims for the great Saint, the mosque has been the subject of renovation, addition and beautification for several times by different devotees.
The great Mughal Emperor Akbar built the northern and southern massive gates and floor leading to the cenotaph. Later, in the third year of the reign of Emperor Mahyiudin Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir (1658-1707 A.D) an excessive flood in the River Ravi affected the original mosque. So, keeping in view the need of mosque, within few days a new beautiful building of the mosque was built on the same foundation.
The emperor also built an embankment that not only had been a major reason in saving Mosque ever after but also caused the river to change away its course further north.
Maharaja Rangit Singh (Nov.1780- June 1839) himself also had great respect for the revered saint. He came to hold the shrine in great reverence and made many offerings. He contributed Rs. 10000 on the occasion of each Urs of the Hazrat Data Gang Bakhsh (RA) and also got repaired the mosque periodically.
The already existing mosque was a flat top building having minarets but without any dome. In 1860 AD, Gulzar Shah, a Kashamiri, rebuilt the mosque on the same pattern. It was for the first time that he also built a huge dome in its center with two other small domes on its right and left.
The Punjab Auqaf Deparment took the charge of the shrine and the mosque in 11 January 1960 A.D.
As there was rapid increase in number of visitors to the shrine, the government decided to embark upon an ambitious two phases expansion plan of the Mosque. In 1978 A. D, the phase one (western side of the shrine) was completed under the supervision of the then President late General Zia-ul-haq.
The mosque was shifted from its original place further towards west. The second phase (eastern side of the shrine) was begun in 1997A.D under the direction of Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif that was completed with a swift pace.
It is composed into four parts on Mughal Chahar Bagh pattern. On completion, the project surfaces with a double storey complex consisting of a basement for parking vehicles, a Sama Hall, Ablution site, Administrative block, Atiqaaf rooms, Langer Khana, Library, Madressa, Industrial School, Quran Mahal and A/C plants.
The upper storey consists of a square prayer chamber, the mausoleum, the Chillaghah of Hazrat Khawaja Muinudin Chishti (RA) and a wide courtyard.
The facade of the prayer chamber is a magnificent arched structure raised in blue tiles with two high cone style minarets that are gold plated.
On the south, in front of the mausoleum, there are two doors. One of these doors that has beautiful Iranian inlaid work on gold. All the arches, the window frames and pillars in the mosque and mausoleum are in carved marble. The entire floor is also in marble. The mosque is spread over a total area of 3,68,150 sq. ft. and it is the third largest mosque in Pakistan. It can accommodate up to 52,600 people.
Lahore was historically a Hindu state until its occupation by the Gaznavids. The saints played a vital role in preaching Islam and establishing Muslim rule in the Sub-continent. They convinced people to embrace Islam and change the local cultural patterns through interdiction.
Although during the Ghanavids reign many preachers came and settled in Lahore yet the most famous of them all is Hazrat Data Gang Bakhsh (RA). He propagated the religious, spiritual, moral and educational dimensions of Islam in South Asia.
His Mausoleum (Khanqah) is still serving as a center for learning and spiritual solace for the millions teaming from everywhere.
Outside the Bhati Gate, one of the thirteen gates of the walled city of Lahore, to the west, is situated the celebrated mausoleum of the great mystic Saint Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh (the Bestower of Spiritual Treasures).
According to some books having lived thirty-four years in Lahore, the great Sufi saint passed away in November 1072 A.D (19 Safar-ul-Muzaffar 465 H) but according to some historians in 469 H. He was laid to rest, close to a mosque that he had himself built. Sultan Zahir-Daulah Ibrahim, (1059-1099) a successor of Masud Ghazanavi, constructed the mausoleum over his grave, in whose time the Holy saint came to Lahore.
Hazrat Daata Ganj Bakhsh Ali Hujveri, R.A was well versed in all the Islamic sciences such as Tafsir; (exegesis) of the Holy Quran, Hadice; (Traditions of the Holy Prophet [PBUH], Fiqah; (Muslim Law), Firm Theology; (Elm-e-Kalam) history, jurisprudence and logic.
He was an eminent scholar, poet and the author. He wrote seven different books on theology and religion but the most famous of them all is ‘Kashf-ul-Mahjoob’, an awe-inspiring book on Islamic mysticism.
Hazrat Khawaja Gharib Nawaz Muinudin Chishti (RA) the celebrated saint of Ajmair Sharif passed forty days in seclusion and meditation at the tomb of Hazrat Data Sahib (RA).
To recap an in-depth story about opening ceremonies of the Urs of Hazrat Data Sahib (RA) – as was reported by ‘Pakistan Times’ [Daily Web Newspaper] in its edition of Wednesday, February 28, 2008 – Click Here;
[964th Urs of Hazrat Data Gunj Bakhsh (RA) Begins]