The Powerful Ephemeral: Everyday Healing in an Ambiguously Islamic Place

By Carla Bellamy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Place
The Making of a Pilgrimage
and a Pilgrimage Center

Jaora, the town in western Madhya Pradesh that is home to Ḥusain Ṭekrī, is almost well connected with the rest of India by rail. Although some say a major wide-gauge railway station will soon grace the outskirts of the town, significantly improving employment prospects for the economically depressed towns young men, for the time being, travelers from Rajasthan typically roll slowly into Jaoras narrow-gauge railway station. From Jaora the narrow-gauge line eventually makes its way to the renowned Chishtī dargāḥ in the city of Ajmer, making it convenient, and therefore common, for pilgrims to visit both the Chishtī shrine and the shrines of Ḥusain Ṭekrī in a single trip. For travelers from the rest of India, Jaora is most easily accessible from the city of Ratlam, a stop on all of the major routes on the Delhi-Bombay spoke of India Railways. Jaora is a bumpy one-hour bus ride from Ratlam station. Whether one arrives in Jaora by bus or train, options for the several-mile ride through the town to the shrines of Ḥusain Ṭekrī are limited to an auto rickshaw or the significantly cheaper, slower, and more pleasant horse-drawn tonga.

Sprawling out from the old part of town are Jaora’s new poured-concrete suburbs; like suburbs everywhere, they are comfortable, lacking in deep history, affluent, and homogeneous. The route to Ḥusain Ṭekrī from the train and bus station bypasses the suburbs almost completely, instead passing through the winding streets of the old town’s bazaars and whitewashed buildings with dilapidated wooden balconies. In these older neighborhoods, religious structures of all kinds are remarkably unobtrusive; as Catherine

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