14 January 2012

Sufi Saint Syedini Bibi

The population demographics of Tiruvannamalai and its surrounds is over 30% non Hindu. Of this percentage a large number of Muslims have been living in the area for many generations. It is known (Tiruvannamalai was under Muslim rule several times in its history) that there are a number of powerful sacred burial sites dedicated to Muslim saints in Tiruvannamalai, one of the most famous being that of the woman saint, Syedini Bibi.

Darghar in the background
of busy Car Street

In 1880 the Darghar in Car Street was built by the Nawab of the time in honour of the great woman Sufi Saint. Although this burial site faces noisy Car Street, it is renowned for its powerful and peaceful vibrations. It is believed that both Sri Seshadri Swamigal and Sri Ramana Maharshi often sat in meditation at this place, and in more contemporary times the tomb was frequently favoured by Sri Yogi Ramsuratkumar.

Darghar of Saint Syedini Bibi

Syedini Bibi came from the middle east in the early nineteenth century. Like many Sufis before her she landed at Nagore on the south-east coast. From there she travelled inland a few hundred kilometers to Arunachala where she settled for the rest of her life.

Little is known about the life of this saint, however there are two powerful famous stories connected with her tomb.

One such story is that the Tiruvannamalai authorities decided to demolish the burial grounds (where Syedini Bibi was buried), in order to widen the road to accommodate the Maharadham (Big Car Chariot) during the Deepam Festival.

Alley leading to Car Street

In response to this proposal, many protested against disturbing the Saint’s grave, and the authorities postponed the demolition. The myth that was handed down claims that during the Deepam Festival, as the gigantic wooden Chariot passed, one of its huge wheels accidentally knocked the side of Bibi’s tomb and the temple cart immediately burst into flames.

Darghar of Woman Saint Sydedini Bibi

Another story connected with this tomb is that the British (who were then rulers in India) planned to widen Car Street, in order to construct a roadway from Bangalore to Pondicherry via Tiruvannamalai. Construction of the road commenced and many tombs and graves were destroyed but when the builders reached the site of the Sufi Saint, blood poured from the grave, and onlookers reported hearing a loud voice commanding that the tomb be not disturbed.

When British Government officials came later to investigate what had occurred, legend has it that again a loud voice was heard commanding that the tomb not be disturbed. As a consequence the development of the highway was cancelled. This extraordinary circumstance attracted many British people to the tomb, which also resulted in visits of many Muslims and inspired a local Muslim family to act as guardians at the tomb. Currently the person in charge of maintaining the tomb is the sixth generation of the original family of custodians.


Manjushree Abhinav said...

Thank you for this article. Next time I go to Tiru, I would like to visit this dargah. I hope women are allowed?

Meenakshi Ammal said...

The room is very small and there are no restrictions to people visiting or sitting quietly. No-one will bother you.

Its a strange feeling being in the peace of the room and yet have the noise of Car Street right in front of the window.

And yet I found it a very powerful spot. Shall visit again.