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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

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The volunteers of The Sufidar Trust getting ready to serve iftaar. Image source: scroll.in
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  • 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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  • Aparna Gupta

    This an example of religious harmony. Its good that people are taking part in the festivals and helping despite of the differences.

  • Karishma Vanjani

    Eid, a festival that joins people of many communities. It was just yesterday i read about Buddhist monks serving the Muslim community

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Waves of black as Modi visits Chennai

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Black flags and balloons and activists in black shirts and trousers greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he paid a whirlwind visit to Chennai with helicopter as the chosen mode of transport in the wake of statewide agitation demanding constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).

Protests were also held with black flags and placards throughout Tamil Nadu in cities like Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Coimbatore and Tuticorin against the Prime Minister’s brief visit to the state and the Centre’s failure to constitute the CMB despite a Supreme Court order. Black flags were hoisted on homes and business establishments across the state.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of service to others in his last Mann Ki Baat edition for 2017.
Narendra Modi welcomed with black flags in chennai.

In a bid to avoid protesters, Modi, who arrived here by a special aircraft in the morning, chose a helicopter to reach Tiruvidanthai, in neighbouring Kanchipuram district where he opened the 10th DefExpo organised by the Defence Ministry. From there he took another chopper to come to IIT Madras, in the heart of the city. From there, he took a one-kilometre ride by car to the neighbouring Adyar Cancer Institute for an event.

The Prime Minister walked a few steps from the helicopter to the car that ferried him to the Cancer Institute. As he did so, he encountered some 30 students from IIT Madras who stood silently but held posters demanding a Cauvery Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court — an issue which has whipped up emotions in Tamil Nadu. Modi then left by helicopter to the airport before returning to Delhi.

Also Read: Modi is anti-Dalit, will defeat BJP in 2019: Rahul Gandhi

#Go back Modi trended on top as netizens took to the cyberspace to register their protest against the Central government’s failure to set up the CMB as directed by the Supreme Court to ensure proper sharing of Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other states.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin, who was on a padayatra of the Cauvery delta areas, wore black shirt and trousers as he protested along with state Congress President Thirunavukkarasar and CPI-M state unit chief Mutharasan. “The Prime Minister may be flying in the air today but he has to come down when the elections come,” he said taking a dig at Modi.

A black flag was hoisted at DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s residence. The ailing leader wore a black shirt. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and leaders of DMK allies wore black dress and marched on the road near the Chennai airport.

In the morning outside the Chennai airport, activists of the Federation for protection of Tamil Art and Culture, led by noted film director Bharatiraja and other film personalities like Amir, Gautaman and Vetrimaran protested against Modi’s visit. They were arrested.

will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
Cauvery River Dispute is going on for a while now. Wikimedia Commons

While MDMK chief Vaiko held a black flag protest in Velachery, Naam Thamizhar Katch convenor Seeman, a film director, was arrested elsewhere. Vaiko called Modi a “coward” for choosing to fly. Political leaders Velmurugan and P. Nedumaran were arrested from Alandur metro station in Chennai for holding black flag protests.

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre, saying the BJP was interested only in winning the Assembly elections in Karnataka. Even the hugely-popular IPL cricket matches have been shifted out of Chennai to Pune in view of the disturbances on Tuesday. IANS