Velankanni to Nagapattinam is a short distance. Nagapattinam to Nagore is shorter still. They in fact are twin towns. From Nagore people go to Karaikal to have their drink. That makes the entire belt from Velankanni to Karaikal one single continuous stretch of coast, closely interlinked.
Velankanni has Christian miracles, Nagore has Islamic miracles and in-between there are plenty of Hindu miracles. No miracle worked when thousands of people died in the 2004 Tsunami. Probably the only real miracle in the area is the difference in the prices of liquor. Just cross the bridge from Nagore into Karaikal and it is reduced by almost 50%. Thank the French for this miracle. We will look at this ‘French Connection’ a little later.
The port town of Nagapattinam was badly affected by the Tsunami. It is trying to get back to its earlier position. It is quite interesting to note that if a port loses its pre-eminence another one quickly jumps in and takes the place. Velankanni was a great port before Nagapattinam gained importance and so one.
Nagapattinam looks like a shrunk town. Something which was important once but no longer. The Tamil Nadu Hotel, the government run property is no longer functional. We drive up north and find a reasonable place to stay between Nagapattinam and Nagore. The seaside is separated from the town by a railway line which runs close to the sea and runs into the port.
There is a Lighthouse at Nagapattinam which perhaps was very important once when the trade was brisk.
The beach is somewhere between Nagapattinam and Nagore. They charge you Rs. 50/- to park a car. The beach is one of the dirtiest I have seen and has more plastic waste accumulated than sand. Otherwise it is a pretty good beach.
There is not much else to do in the town. We go back from the beach and sleep. Early next day morning we visit the dargah at Nagore. Before that we have breakfast at this roadside eatery somewhere on the Nagapattinam- Nagore road.
I am making a note of this eatery as a representative sample of such places all over coastal Tamilnadu and Rayalseema in Andhra Pradesh where this ‘tiffin’ cuisine is served. Probably the dough/batter is made at home by one of the elderly ladies and that makes it different. It is probably the tastiest and safest food in the world at the price it is sold. Only thing these guys should imporove on is the cleanliness. That would not cost them a great deal to affect the prices.
Our post-breakfast encounter is with a Dargah and I wish I should have had a heavier breakfast of eggs and meat to face the onslaught of this place on my senses.
The Dargah at Nagore is a miracle by itself. It is said that Saint whose resting place this is performed numerous miracles during his lifetime and continues to help people with miracles even now. The principal set of miracles performed here at this time is blessing childless women with child/children. In effect Nagore Dargah is India’s biggest Infertility Clinic.
The Saint who came from the North blessed many a women with children. Among them were Kings. I am quoting here from a book written by a prominent authority on the subject Dr. A S Mohamed Rafee (Nagore Rumi) in his book The Ocean of Miracles: Life of Qadir Wali’, (Kathavugal, Chennai, 2014).
‘The Queen became very happy over the recovery of the king. She bent down and touched the feet of the saint in gratitude. And she was wise enough to request the saint to bless her for a child’ ,
which the saint promptly did.
The saint seems to have performed this miracle quite often in this area. He was a celibate. According to the Wikipedia article :
Since Shahul Hamid was a celibate, he is offered a Sehra (head dress), and not the customary flowers as at other dargahs.
This Sehra is a major source of income for the traders in and around the Dargah compound.
The site of the dargah has 4 minars the tallest of which stands at 40 meters and was financed by a Hindu king. This fact is told to you several times to drive home the ‘secular’ nature of the shrine. You will also be told that majority of the people visiting the Dargah are non-muslims. That , I believe, does not reduce the content of stupidity.
Some external pictures:
Let us have a look at the Holy Man who has been laid to rest here after performing innumerable miracles. he is variously known, according to the authoritative source quoted earlier. Nagore Rumi: (page 5).
- Abdul Qadir
- Qadir wali
- ganja sawai
- Ganja Baksh
- Nagore Meeran
- Meeran Sultan
- Shahul Hameed
- Nagore Andavar
- Nagore Andagai
- Baadusha Nayagam
- Nagore nayagam.
I am deeply suspicious of a person having more than two names. Only people with criminal records have large number of names.
Giving the benefit of doubt to this guy as the names were given by others and not by himself as he was busy blessing queens and commoner women with children.
Let us go back and find out where he belonged to and I will again seek the help of Nagore Rumi. This is for a reason: this book is well-written in faultless English and in legible type and generally well presented as compared to all local Islamic literature in English that I have collected on my journey along India’s coast.
Kabir, the great Saint-poet, according to Nagore Rumi predicted this to Sultan Sikandar Lodhi:
‘In every century a true slave of God will appear. We all know this. This time we will come from the Islamic community and he will be born in the lineage of Prophet Muhammad. he will be born in Ajodhya , which was the ancient home of the Men of God India. many miracles will continue to happen around the baby to be born. he will be one of India’s greatest Saints. He will show the right path to those who go astray. Even after his physical disappearance, his shrine will be the last sanctum of those who aspire for knowledge’.
I know Kabir well. I can guarantee you Kabir never said this. Kabir was a wise man, not a commercial advertisement writer. And even if Kabir said this, he was totally wrong. His shrine is not ‘sanctum of those who aspire for knowledge’, it os the sanctum of those who aspire for children and wealth.
In any case there is no denying that this man was born, in the year 1504 AD to, according to Nagore Rumi to a couple described as:
Syed Hasan Guddus came in the 22nd generation of Prophet Mohammad …………….he married a woman named Fatima, the daughter of Hamiduddin who also came in the lineage of Prophet Mohammad’
This makes this saint all the more venerable.
Here is an important extract of the Wikipedia article about the administration of this dargah. This will give some indication about the financial importance of this shrine.
There is a hereditary Khalifa, from among the descendants of saint Yusuf. He performs all the religious duties of the dargah. A central parliamentary committee deputed to verify the implementation of the Wakf Act of 1995 was informed in 2008 that the Nagore Dargah was not administered as per the provisions of the Act. The committee found that it is against the spirit of the provisions of the Act as the dargah is a surveyed and notified body under the Tamil Nadu Wakf board. The administration and maintenance of the dargah was henceforth governed by a committee which operates under a scheme decreed by the Madras High Court.
Now who are these ‘hereditary khalifa(s)? when the saint was celibate. Again I am seeking help from Nagore Rumi. He throws a lot of light on this. The saint appointed an heir from a noble family from Lahore. Nooruddin ( a descendent of Hazrat Abu Bakr) and his wife Zohra (who was a descendent of Hazrat Husain ) were childless. The Saint agreed to bless the couple with children under the condition that the eldest one will be adopted by the Saint and will be his Heir. The couple agreed. The son was duly born and was named Syed Mohamad Yusuf. The descendents of Yusuf are now sitting on this treasure trove.
In the picture below you see a man keenly watching you. He is the one who will persuade you to go inside the Dargah even if you don’t want to:
Once you are inside you will be subjected to various rituals -plenty of them and at each stage you will be asked ( virtually forced) to donate money for ‘feeding the poor’. They don’t ask in hundreds, they want the money in thousands. For each and everything there is a demand for money. It is shop, most certainly not a dargah.
If you want to make a wish, you put in a lock here and put the key in the container.
Here is a Coconut hanging which has a curious shape.I don’t know if this is a miracle attributed to the saint. I believe there is no mention of Coconuts in the Holy Koran.
There are superstitious beliefs all over this country. There are superstition-supporting institutions in all major religions and they are making brisk business. The USP of this shrine like many others in the country is that the saint helps you to beget children.
One interesting aside of this Dargah is that it has ‘branches’ in Singapore and Malaysia. May I remind you that this place is a Dargah-the place where the Saint has his grave. This must be a rare instance of a grave having ‘branches’ like the banks have.
The French were given a drubbing by the English in their quest for the colonial possessions in India. They were badly defeated but still managed to cling on to small pockets on India’s shores. Very complex geographically, the four French ‘territories’ are located inside three different Indian states. Mahe in Kerala, as I have highlighted in an earlier post is practically a pub for the surrounding areas of Kerala which has imposed severe restrictions on alcohol. Karaikal is a very convenient drinking spot for the area I am talking about in this post. Pondicherry has some size and landmass and Yanam in Andhra Pradesh does not have any identity to separate it from the surrounding Telugu culture. Overall there is no distinction between these small parcels of land – of language or culture or any other factor except the history and even that is not very strong. We made it a point to spend at least one night in each of these ‘pockets’ to get a feel of the place. This Union Territory does not appear to have a reason to continue. The reorganization of the states was done on linguistic basis and if this criterion is applied to this Union Territory, it should cease to exist promptly.
During the travel which is the subject matter of this Blog I tried to ascertain factors and reasons which justifies the continuance of this fragmented ‘Union Territory’ over three states. I could find only one – Liquor Lobby. May be another one would be the IAS Lobby as these four pieces of land sustain quite a number of senior civil servants enjoying themselves.
I tried very hard to find the French Connection in all four places. Barring Pondicherry which (politically is a bastion of AIADMK which rules in Tamilnadu) has some weak French institutions, there is none. There is no influence on the language, culture, cuisine. At least I could not find any. Perhaps the last 60+ years have wiped out all the influences. The same applies to Daman & Diu. These places are merely drinking joints for the people of Gujarat. They involve an enormous cost to the Taxpayers.
There is another aspect of these territories which is intriguing. The French government considers many of the people in these territories as French citizens. Whenever there is a presidential election in France, these guys travel to the French consulate in Chennai to vote. I will not be surprised if the very same people come back and vote for the members to Indian parliament. Somewhere somehow some people in the Indian bureaucracy (apart from the liquor lobby) are benefitting from this fraud and are keen to continue it.
We need to have some photographs, dont we? Probably the only place where we could find some action is the Karaikal Beach and the adjoining harbour. I am ignoring all religious places irrespective of faith as I have developed a nausea for them- they are simply too many. ‘Faith’ is strangulating the people of this country and nobody has faith in anyone.
We found a beautiful sunset at the beach.
The sunset is accompanied by the music created by a huge flock of Rosy Pastors or Rosy Starlings who migrate from Europe. In this case, I will not be surprised if they have come from France.
The decoration the vendors make out of vegetables and fruits on this beach is fantastic. ( We could see it bettered much later on Odisha coast).
The beach has Lighthouse which we first thought was operational. As the sun set we realized that it was.
Karaikal is supposed to be separated from Tamilnadu by the river Arasalar. However if you have a look at the Google map of the region you will find a creek with a bridge on it and the dividing line running through it. If you want to know where the real boundary lies, look for the liquor shops. They are profuse and blatant on the Karaikal side. I am sure nobody buys the stuff on the Tamiulnadu side. One can see the fishing harbour on the Karaikal side and I am just wondering if the other shore is in Tamilnadu or Karaikal.
I guess it is Karaikal as the first bridge which is divided by a line on the Google map is a few hundred meters beyond. Anyway this does not matter except in one important aspect- Liquor prices.
Text by Suryakiran Naik
Pictures by Suryakiran Naik & Veena Naik