The Powerful Ephemeral: Everyday Healing in an Ambiguously Islamic Place

By Carla Bellamy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Presence
The Work and Workings of ḥāẓirī

On my first visit to Ḥusain Ṭekrī, the older man from Udaipur who had helped me make my way from the Jaora train station to Ḥusain Ṭekrī encouraged me to attend morning lobān. Using the English word, he assured me that during lobān, he would be changed “automatic,” and I would see for myself the power of Ḥusain Ṭekrī. Sure enough, as the pilgrims gathered in front of the shrine of ‘Abbas and began their songs, my acquaintance, his eyes closed and his hands raised, began shaking his head from side to side.

What I was seeing for the first time was khulī ḥāẓirī. Pilgrims make a distinction between khulī ḥāẓirī (literally, “open presence”) and gum ḥāẓirī (literally, “hidden presence”), and so in what follows I will treat them separately. Of these two types, khulī ḥāẓirī is more common and desirable, so much so that often when speaking about their healing processes pilgrims simply use the term ḥāẓirī to describe what is specifically khulī ḥāẓirī.

In order to signal voluntary submission to the saints and willingness to endure ḥāẓirī, a pilgrim takes two lengths of cord (challā) and ties one piece to one of the metal screens (jālī) of the shrines of Ḥusain Ṭekrī and the other around his or her neck, waist, or arm. He or she then begins to consume lobān on a regular basis, quickly becoming a participant in the community of Ḥusain Ṭekrī. Khulī ḥāẓirī is the subsequent process by which the saint of the rauẓa calls the offending possessing spirit, or pret, contained in the body of the pilgrim into his or her presence for questioning, much in the manner of a judge in a court.1 In questioning the pret, the saint seeks to

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