Project Proposal by Saikiran Datta
A study on the tomb cult of the Sufi pirs (mystical saints) of Delhi. Delhi is known to have 22 historic Khwajas (Sufi masters) earliest of them dating back to the 13th century. The pir cult today has spread to almost all of India, whether in the Muslim, the Hindu or the Sikhs communities, irrespective of their caste and creed. Though we understand that there are issues that show modern India as a communally chiselled society, like the Babri Masjid - Ramjanambhoomi issue (refers to a dispute between the Hindus and the Muslims over the proprietorship of a religious shrine, believed to the birth site of the Hindu deity Lord Rama that was later converted into a mosque during the Muslim invasions, leading to massive communal riots), the pir cult reflects a harmonious and communally integrated core.
The current theme is important in the ambit of studies related to contemporary India as it allows us to understand it in another perspective, that of a nation tolerant to the levels of spiritual practices and day-to-day relations among different groups which only a detailed study can bring forth. The pir cult is a common element present in different religious believes and portrays a pious society. While we defend this perspective, we also study and discuss the concept and root it to the subcontinent. Contemporary India poses new challenges adding to its anthropological richness that makes it worthy of being studied. The theme caters to a very current issue in contemporary India, where saintly figures like Sai Baba (who died recently and whose temple is now housing his grave contrary to the Hindu practices) have shown the need for a mystical figure pointing to the fact of human suffering and the need for prayer and human touch. Such a need of a father-figure is felt even today when life is becoming more and more autonomous and virtual.