Enigma, wrapped in Mystery

Every travel blogger, whether hunched over a keyboard or relaxing with a drink, is a little Amundsen struggling across unmapped ice fields, or a closet Schliemann dynamiting a way to their own Troy. But sometimes one fails. Sometimes, one is a luckier Scott, one who lives to tell the story of one’s failure.

My attempt to visit Rumi ka Maqbara in Ujjain was a failure, which resulted in a single photo, the one you see above. When I saw this name in Wikipedia’s list of places to see in Ujjain, I was intrigued enough to search for more. Very little is written about this tomb, and sources even differ on the century of its construction. Is it from the 15th or 17th century CE?

And this Rumi, who was he? Certainly not the Sufi poet Jalal ud-din Rumi, because he is buried in Turkey. After some search, I found a description of late medieval Sufi traditions, called silsila, which lead to something which might be closer to the truth. I knew nothing about Sufism, except for their increasingly popular modern remnants: the songs. Could this be the tomb of Khizr Rumi Qalandar? The Qalandari sect was founded by a Spanish muslim in the 13th century CE, and the Anatolian, Rumi Qalandar, appeared in Delhi in the 13th century CE. He and the Chishti saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki instructed each other in the mysteries of their own Sufi traditions. Khizr Rumi began the Qalandaria-Chishtia tradition of India. He could well be the Rumi whose maqbara I was reading about, because this kind of syncretic Sufism was a very popular alternative to the state supported Islam of Malwa in the 14th century. I can’t be certain about the connection without knowing more about the history of the structure I wanted to see. But if all this speculation is correct, then the tomb could be from the late 13th or 14th century CE.

Google maps has a pointer to this place, and even a photo of the tomb. It looks completely different from the usual Indo-Afghan or Mughal tombs that I have seen. So we decided to drive there, and promptly lost our way. The place is not accurately mapped in Google (the photo is correct), but we came to a Muslim cemetery at the place that Google puts the maqbara. People there knew about the tomb, and gave us precise and correct directions to it. Following their directions, we came to a mound on top of which the tomb, not visible from the road, sits.

Later we found a signboard which correctly points to the tomb. But first we turned to a motorable road up the mound. This was a mistake. We should have parked the car and walked up the mound. After much fruitless searching and querying of locals, glimpses of the tomb from a distance, we came to a very well-maintained farmhouse on top of the hillock. Across fields I could see the tomb. There was no one to ask permission from, so I walked into the farm as far as I could go. A wall and another farm lay between me and the tomb. I clicked the photo that you see, and got back to the car just before it started raining. We decided to circle the mound once more, and this time we found the signboard and the right path. But it had started raining hard, and this muddy path between fields had turned into a gummy slush.

So close! Very reluctantly we gave up. Another time I have to return to take photos of the inscriptions in the tomb, and find someone to decipher for me the riddle of the enigmatic Rumi whose mysterious tomb this is.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

22 comments

  1. Although I am secular, Sufi music from Pakistan is very nice and interesting. But I am now at holidays and do not manage to spell the name of this renowned musician, sufi CD’s at home far away.

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      1. Thanks. But there are so many places to see. My next trip is probably all the way to Dawki on the other side of the country. Do you have a post on the things you can see on the road from Shillong to Dawki (apart from the famous Mawlynnong, of course)?

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      2. I haven’t written anything on Dawki yet. Other than Mawlynlong, Umngot river is a must see. There is a Bengali Kali temple, somewhere around, close to the border with Bangladesh, which is another place you can go to. Though there’s nothing to see other than the posts of the two countries across the road and the no man’s land in between. On the way from Shillong, tell the driver to take the road that goes via Bop Falls – there are two of them. I think the other one is called Byrdaw Falls. If you go for a day all these will take up your time. If the Umngot river is clear (mostly it is, except during rains), you will like spend a lot of time there. You can take a boat too and stroll over the river.

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      3. For a day Mawlynlong, Umngot, and the border would take up your time and visiting those waterfalls on the way. Mawlynlong root bridge remains extremely crowded these days, not sure how much you can enjoy. The village is nice though, you’ll find lot of flowers that will capture your interest 🙂
        Not sure if you have seen my post on the root bridges of Nongriat. The post has a picture of the Mawlynlong root bridge too which we had visited last year:
        https://neelstoria.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/living-root-bridge/

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      4. Thanks. I’m planning to spend a couple of days in Sohra, so I’ll see the root bridges there. I hadn’t heard of the wild flowers of Mawlynnong. that’s certainly something I’ll want to do. Thanks also for the link.

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      5. If you have time, you can go and visit Khrang Suri falls, which I think is not very far from Dawki. You can also take a detour and go visit Nartiang monoliths if time permits. You may find thick fog in many pockets of the the Shillong Dawki road (I have encountered each time I visited), and driving through the fog with the green popping up once in a while is an amazing experience.
        I am so delighted that you are going. Can’t wait to read your experience 🙂

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  2. You know I.J., some of our most memorable experiences while traveling are the “misses” – some day you’ll laugh about the adventure that came oh so close, and will remember it much better than the things you DID see on your journey. That’s been my experience anyway. And BTW you got a lovely image, even if there’s only one!

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