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For 35 years, Sindhi volunteers have been serving Iftar to Sunni Muslim Devotees at Wallajah Mosque in Chennai

The volunteers are the followers of the teachings of Dada Ratanchand, a partition refugee who settled in Chennai

  • It is a 35-year-old practice where Sindhi volunteers from the Sufidar Trust, gather to serve Iftaar
  • A majority of individuals in the trust are second-generation Partition refugees from Sindh
  • Dada Ratanchand himself worked in a shop at Godown Street before he decided to walk on the path of spirituality

In a country with almost 1.3 billion population and several incidents of communal violence, any tradition vouching for inter-religious harmony takes on a symbolic overtone.

One such tradition is a 35-year-old practice where Sindhi volunteers from the Sufidar Trust, gather to serve Iftar (the meal that ends the daily fast during Ramadan) at the Wallajah mosque.

These volunteers are the followers of the teachings of Dada Ratanchand, a partition refugee who settled in Chennai.

Ratanchand Sahib. Image source: sufidar.org
Ratanchand Sahib. Image source: sufidar.org

The food here is served with an aim to spread the teachings of the Sufi saint Shahenshah Baba Nebhraj Sahib of Rohri, Sind.

Talking about the tradition, Govind Bharwani, who has been a volunteer with the Trust almost since its inception. “We believe all Gods are one, only people have turned it into different sects,” he said to scroll.in.

Bharwani added, “That is what our guruji told us.”

More like a ritual now, the followers of Dada Ratnachand assemble at the temple of the Sufidar Trust to offer prayer, to the Sufi saint Baba Dastageer. The temple is a large room with idols of Hindu gods and goddesses, Jesus Christ, the Sindhi sea god Jhoolailum and pictures of several Sufi saints.

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A majority of individuals in the trust are second-generation Partition refugees from Sindh and serve food to the Sunni Muslim devotees.

Jaikishan Kukreja, a businessman, said that his grandfather had travelled to Chennai during the Partition. He explained that since his brother was already in Chennai at that time, so the entire family settled in Chennai.

Iftaar at a mosque. Image Source: Aljazeera.com

His father was a hawker on Godown Street in Central Chennai. Kukreja explained, “He used to sell long cloth that used to be brought in from other states,” and added, “that’s how he came up in life.”

Interestingly, Dada Ratanchand himself worked in a shop at Godown Street before he decided to walk on the path of spirituality.

While the Sindhi volunteers have no idea why their teacher chose the 220-year-old mosque, they believe that this tradition inspires them to work together as a community.

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Bharwani said that they call it “seva”. He further said, “Our guruji started this many years ago and we are continuing with it. He began this tradition because he just felt like doing it. Nobody objects to this from the mosque also.”

The Wallajah mosque or the Big Mosque as it is famously known was built in 1795 by Muhammed Ali Wallajah, the eighth Nawab of Arcot in Triplicane. One of the unique features of the mosque is a Persian chronogram composed by Rajah Makkan Lal, the Nawab’s private secretary.

It was about 35 years back that the mosque authorities granted the Sufidar members permission to distribute food at Dada Ratanchandji’s request. Ever since then, the mosque authorities and the Trust members have been working in harmony and mutual understanding.

Suhail Ahmed, a volunteer of the Wallajah mosque, said that in most other places, they don’t allow people from other communities to distribute food. But Ramadan is a special month.

Ahmed added, “Eid is a time when we can all come together,” he said. “That is one reason why we continue this tradition. We look at this as a time for brotherhood and to meet people, be it Hindus, Muslims or anyone.”

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