SITE – Basic information
Type of religious site: Hindu (Vaishnavite) temple
Religious community(ies) attending: Hindus, Sikhs, Sunni and Shia Muslims
No of communities attending: 4
Language(s) used for ceremonies and prayers: Hindi/Sanskrit
Approximate size of the site: 500 m2
Pilgrimage location: YES
Pilgrimage season: The ceremony in honour of Sheikh Saddo, known as Mian ki Jat, is performed every Tuesday, while the temple is visited by piligrims from all over India during the Hindu month of Jeth (May/June).
Names and dates of the main festivals celebrated in situ: The annual mela is organized around the birthday of Sheikh Saddo, during the Hindu month of Jeth (May/June).
Name and title of the in-charge of the site (if known): Shiv Swaroop Tandon (Chairman, Sri Vasudev Trust)
SITE – Overview of the site
The qasbah of Amroha, located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the bastions of Shiism in North India. It is also a place of pilgrimage dedicated to a figure both heterodox and ecumenical, Sheikh Saddo. This Muslim wonder-maker (amil) is said to have lived in the city in the mid-eighteenth century. He became famous in his lifetime for his occult powers and his power over Jinns. After breaking the pact that bound him to one of these fire spirits, known as Zain Khan, the Sheikh was killed by the vengeful Jinn, before regaining ascendancy over him after his death. From the late eighteenth onward, a multi-religious cult developed around the two spirits, bringing Muslim and non-Muslim pilgrims from all over India. Today, the spirits of the Sheikh and his Jinn continue to haunt Amroha, bringing disorder (for instance by taking possession of young women) while spreading their benefits (by healing infertility or by granting more mundane wishes, such as helping supplicants win the lottery). Until the 1960s, the cult to Sheikh Saddo (known by Hindus as Meera Baba) revolved around one of Amroha’s oldest mosque, the Kaiqubadi Masjid (better known today as the Saddo Masjid), where Sheikh Saddo is said to be buried. The cult was co-managed by Sunni and Shia families before a dispute over the ritual economy of the cult fuelled sectarian tensions, which led public authorities to close down the site. The cult then moved into Amroha’s largest Hindu temple in the city, the Vasudev Mandir, where it continued to attract both Sunni and Shia Muslims (though in lesser numbers than Hindu pilgrims). A much smaller number of pilgrims still visits the older site, located in the Saddo Mohalla of Amroha.
SITE – Economy of the site
During the 1960s, the (Shia) Syeds’ control over the ritual economy surrounding the Saddo Masjid created tensions, because the former were accused of taking advantage of the (Sunni) Sheikhs’ precarious situation to enrich themselves. Sunni reformist groups took advantage of these undercurrents. In the summer of 1966, a group of followers of the Tablighi Jama’at organized collective prayers at the shrine of Sheikh Saddo, which they wanted to turn back into a mosque for the exclusive use of the Sunnis (the Shia, for their part, claimed that this was in fact a dargah). Fearing that this campaign would lead to sectarian violence, local authorities decided to close down the site. Sunni and Shia shareholders took their dispute before the courts, but the latter refused to take sides and the case remains pending. After the cult was transferred to Vasudev Mandir, no significant communal/sectarian conflict has been recorded at or around the site.
SITE – Bibliography pertaining to the site
Abbasi, Ahmad( .2005). Tarîkh-e-Amroha (Urdu) [The History of Amroha], Mumbai, Kitabard.
Crooke, William. 1896. The Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India, Vol. 1, Westminster, Archibald & Co.
Jones, Justin. (2009), « The Local Experiences of Reformist Islam in a ‘‘Muslim’’ Town in Colonial India : The Case of Amroha,» Modern Asian Studies, 43 (4), pp. 871-908.
Naqvi, Shahwar Husain .2007. Tarîkh-e-Asgharî (Urdu) edited by Maulana Dr. Syed Shehwar Husain Naqvi, Amroha, Mir Anis Akademi.
Nevill, H.R. .1911. Moradabad. A Gazetteer, Being Vol XVI of the District Gazetteer of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, Allahabad, Government Press.
Tassy, Garcin de .1831. Mémoire sur des particularités de la religion musulmane dans l’Inde, d’après les ouvrages hindoustani, Paris, Imprimerie royale.
SITE – Photos of the site
For more: https://ishare.hypotheses.org/512
Fieldwork conducted by Dr. Laurent Gayer