Monday, December 13, 2010

Trances At Sufi Shrine (Denver Post's PBlog)

Photo © Manan Vatsyayana (AFP/Getty)
The Denver Post's Photo Blog of the week 12.10.2010 features an interesting photograph by Manan Vatsyayana (AFP/Getty) of an Indian devotee seemingly going into a trance to rid herself of evil spirits. This happened earlier this month at the Hazrat Shah Dana Wali Dargah in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. It's north of Lucknow and about 200 miles from Delhi. Thousand of devotees from all religions visit the 650-year old shrine of Sufi saint each Thursday to seek blessings for their family and ward off evil spirits.

This is topical as I shall soon be traveling to Gujarat to lead In Search of the Sufis of Gujarat Photo Expedition™, during which our small group will photograph at various Sufi shrines in the area, and where trances and exorcisms frequently take place.

While I've seen devotees exhibit mild trances especially during qawalli performances at the shrine of Nizzam Uddin in Delhi, I also witnessed extreme displays of religious trances in Varanasi, the quintessential Hindu religious city. I spent a couple of days photographing at the dargah of the Sufi saint Bahadur Shahid, where trances and loss of consciousness by devotees were the norm. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims mingled and sought blessings from this Muslim saint, and some of them went into intense trances. I got the lead to the venue from a NY Times article.

To see more of these practices, here's an audio slideshow I produced and a stills gallery of my photographs at Bahadur Shahid.

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