Friday, September 21, 2007


In Gujarat, Ramayan brings Hindus, Muslims together


Published on Friday , September 21, 2007 at 15:20 in Nation section

Tags: Ram Setu, Sethusamudram Project , Ahmedabad
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Ahmedabad: While the debate over the existence of the Hindu god Ram gets uglier, thousands of Hindus and Muslims will on Saturday gather at a Sufi shrine near the Pakistan border for a nine-day narration of the Ramayan - aimed at building bridges not just across two countries but also two communities.

The man behind the initiative is spiritual guru and Ramayana narrator Morari Bapu. With Manas-Mohabbat (mind and love) as the theme, the Ram katha, or the story of Ram, the traditional nine-day narration of the epic, will be held from Saturday at Hajipir Dargah, in the border district of Kutch, 450 km from here.

"At a time when terrorism and communal tensions are prevailing all over the world, we hope this unique Ram katha will disseminate the message of love and brotherhood," said president of the Hanumant Seva Samiti Pradip Dave.

"The event will also provide an opportunity to create a bridge for communal harmony within India and better relations among people of the two countries," Dave said.

Organisers expect an audience of about 15,000 people, with equal representation from both communities.

"When we did the bhumi pujan (ground purification) ceremony there on Sep 12, about 100 Muslims from nearby villages participated. Muslim families joined us in Hindu rituals," Dave said.

"The dargah is located close to the border, and there's little human habitation there in the Kutch desert. But we have made arrangements for 7,000 people to stay there for the nine days," he added.

Many worshippers from Pakistan visit the Hajipir Dargah. Hindus along with Muslims from both countries participate in the Urs held there every year.

While Pakistani people may not be able to attend the katha, a contingent of artists from the neighbouring country will be there to present cultural performances in the evenings after every session.

Programmes planned include Ustad Gulfam Ahmadkhan presenting rabab sufi songs on Sunday and Pakistani artists Husain Baksh, Chand and Suraj singing thumri, dadra and ghazals the next day.

There are other programmes lined too - like mimicry and folk songs by Gujarati artists Harsul Gadhavi and Mayabhai Aahir and qawwalis by Rakesh Pandit.

For the 60 something Gujarati preacher, this is just another novel idea.

Morari Bapu, who has led a number of initiatives aimed at communal harmony in the aftermath of the sectarian strife in Gujarat in 2002, earlier held Katha sessions in Kailas Mansarovar in Tibet and Amarnath in Kashmir - as well as aboard a plane and a steamer.

He has been the brand ambassador for a campaign to save the whale shark spearheaded by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. His message to fishermen in the Saurashtra coast has given an impetus to the campaign.


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