The Powerful Ephemeral: Everyday Healing in an Ambiguously Islamic Place

By Carla Bellamy | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION
The Powerful Ephemeral
Dargāḥ Culture in Contemporary India

A long time ago there was a king who had some kind of disease.
A Hindu religious professional [ved, paṇḍit] or someone like
that told him that if he bathed in the blood of 101 happily
married couples [joṛā] he would be healed. The king set about
gathering the 101 couples and put them all in a jail guarded by
a sepoy who turned out to be none other than Band Choṛne-
wāle Bābā himself. Band Choṛnewāle Bābā reasoned that it
wasn’t good for 101 couples to die to save one man, and so he
freed all the couples (hence his name). When the king found
out he was furious, and he ordered Band Choṛnewāle Bābā
beheaded. Band Choṛnewāle Bābā accepted this sentence,
saying that if the king bathed in his blood he would be healed,
which in fact turned out to be exactly what happened.

So goes one version of the tale of Band Choṛnewāle Bābā, whose humble roadside cillā graces the outskirts of Jaora.1 This short story encompasses nearly everything that I have sought to argue about dargāḥ culture’s unique ability to facilitate healing. Like stories about the founding of dargāḥs and stories about the ghosts that cause pilgrims’ jādū-based illnesses, the story of Band Choṛnewāle Bābā reflects tensions between Hindu and Muslim and ruler and ruled. The happy couples languishing in the king’s jail suffer unjustly, as do the ḥāẓirīwāle who self-identify as innocent (ma‘ṣūm). Like the sacrifices of Muslim martyrs and Rajput heroes, Band Choṛnewāle Bābā’s asceticism and selfless martyrdom are powerful enough to free the innocent and restore the health of the sick. In this way, the act of martyrdom, nonnarratively evoked in the burning and consumption of lobān that is common at dargāḥs throughout India, has local resonance as well as pan-

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