The Levitating Rocks of Shivapur
moved out of Mumbai before dawn with Merchant. He drives a cab most
of the time until we arrive. Then he knows we're going in search of
the unexplained, the mysterious. Merchant, a Muslim, has made many
excursions to the shrine of the Sufi saint, Qamar Ali Darvesh: he
knows the history of this strange place and is familiar with the
story that surrounds it.
noon we had arrived at Shivapur. Luckily, it happened to be a day of
pilgrimage. The loud chanting of "Qamar Ali Darvesh" could
be heard as we approached the shrine -- and then the thuds.
story of the shrine and its amazing levitating rocks had intrigued me
for years. A few vague and sketchy stories had been related from time
to time but never enough evidence of information existed to give a
comprehensive report. I had to witness it personally. It became an
A Place of Pilgrimage
is a small village about 24 kilometres from Pune in the state of
Maharashtra. The road from Pune is hot and dusty. The landscape
backed by low purple hills is parched in the summer months. Suddenly,
the road dips and a rough gravel track snakes in the direction of the
shrine of Qamar Ali Darvesh. Out of the car, up the time-worn path
colourfully cluttered with flower and incense stalls, food vendors,
cows, chickens, dogs, goats, crows and the silent sadhus (mendicants)
who punctuate the shadows under the trees. Up a flight of steps and
into the area of the shrine -- a vivid red and green edifice
surrounded by an exotic melange of humanity.
body of the saint lies inside the shrine. The tomb itself is covered
in garlands of flowers. The heady, fragrant aroma of incense mingles
with the softly chanting worshippers who come here to pay reverence.
Some kneel, some stand and light another incense stick, breathe a
short prayer or just reflect, their heads covered.
it is in the courtyard surrounding the shrine that a strange
phenomenon which has baffled researchers, including scientists, is
The Levitating Rocks
large stones, rounded in contour, sit close to each other. A group of
men (no women are allowed to partake) will approach either of the
stones. The largest, weighing about 70 kilograms, requires 11 men.
The other, slightly less in weight, needs nine men, no more, no less,
to surround it.
tip of the index finger of the right hand is then used to touch the
rock around the line of its horizontal circumference. When the name
of the saint is voiced in unison, holding the lst syllable as long as
possible without running out of breath -- "Qamar Ali
Darve-e-e-e-e-e-sh" the giant rock suddenly springs to life and
ascends into the air to a height of approximately two metres and
remains in that position until the partakers run out of breath. Then
it plummets to the earth with a dull, heavy thud. If these conditions
are not met, the rock will not budge from its position on the ground.
watched the procedure, this ceremonial raising of the rocks, with
perhaps a little Western scepticism at first looking for some
rational and logical clue, although instinctively I knew that this
was pointless. When you investigate enigmas in India over a period of
time you realise that logic and rationalism are inadequate procedures
by which to evaluate phenomenon outside the scheme of normal things.
several observations of the ritual I was invited to try. I approached
the larger of the two rocks, wrapped my hands underneath it and could
just raise it off the ground in this `dead lift' position. I joined
the circle of men with two years of anticipation suddenly becoming a
felt a little shaky at the realisation of the moment. Finger tipping
the rock? Yes. Voice box ready? All together now -- "Qamar Ali
Darv-e-e-e-e-e-sh!" The stone felt like sponge as it leaped into
the air, stayed there until the chant died away and then fell to the
ground. I screamed in my excitement, "One more time!" Again
the rock moved towards the sky. "It works!" I told myself.
I confirmed the ritual three or four times. Luckily, mara had
captured it perfectly on film.
then organised it that only ten fingers touched the rock, as an
experiment. The stone remained motionless. Then "twelve fingers"
I requested. The others joined to oblige the stranger. The result?
towards the smaller rock I repeated the experiment with lesser and
greater numbers of participants. The results? Negative on each count.
With the correct number of fingers and no chant the rocks will remain
firmly on the ground.
theories exist as to the cause of the phenomenon. They include
discourse on mesmerism. faith, mind-power, energy distribution,
bio-currents, numerology, magnetism, sound vibrations. To the Indian
mind, however, the answer is simple and always the same, "It is
the spirit of the saint which makes the rocks rise".
Qamar Ali Darvesh
story of Qamar Ali Darvesh was related to me by Merchant with
additional dialogue supplied by the attending priest.
hundred years ago, a Muslim family consisting of a father, mother and
son, arrived from the West of India to live in the nearby village of
Darodi. At that time a gymnasium existed on the spot where the shrine
now stands. Two large stones were used by wrestlers for exercise
purposes. A group of men would surround a stone and lift it to
strengthen their hands, wrists and forearms. The boy's parents
insisted that their son visit the gymnasium and indulge in the manly
sports. But the boy, Qamar Ali Darvesh, was not like the others.
young boy's interests lay in other directions. He exhibited a
hypersensitive nature and appeared to possess strange paranormal
powers even at an early age. Being the `outcast' of the gymnasium he
continually suffered the mockery of the other members. His lack of
interest in competitive sport plus his physical inadequacy branded
him a `weakling' in the eyes of the more athletically minded. "You
think I'm stupid and weak... that I'm not capable of being like you"
he one day replied. "Let me tell you this. With all your
strength you will not be able to lift the rocks in the manner I
prescribe unless you repeat my name".
Ali Darvesh then proclaimed that the large rock could be raised with
just eleven finger tips touching it, but only if his name was loudly
called. Likewise, the smaller rock could be raised by using nine
finger tips. From that day forward the stones could be raised in the
prescribed manner only by applying that formula.
Ali Darvesh became a Sufi, a Greek word derived from the root,
`Sophia', meaning `wisdom'. Sufis are a mystical sect who embrace the
esoteric philosophy and doctrine of pure Islam. In the final degrees
of Sufism the candidate is initiated into the `mysteries' -- the
innermost workings of nature and acquires `divine' powers.
passed from this world at an early age of 18 years and was afterwards
proclaimed a saint. His tomb at Shivapur has become a place of
pilgrimage since that time and the rocks are ceremoniously levitated
by the faithful and others who visit the shrine.
believer, non-believer, any member of any faith, an agnostic, a
heathen or a sceptic can partake in the levitation ritual; these
things have no bearing on the phenomenon whatsoever, thus eliminating
the theory of `mind over matter', the power of belief or strength
curious may wonder also why the rocks have not been vandalised or
removed from the temple enclosure. Stories state that over the years
many have tried to do exactly that. Those who have attempted to
desecrate a holy place have always met with disaster.
additional phenomenon should be mentioned. In the valley just below
the shrine water spurts from a wall of rock which forms the source of
a series of baths. The water contains healing properties and pilgrims
use the baths regularly.
spiritual centres and healing centres at `key' points around the
earth exhibit high electro-magnetic field activity which is capable
of producing diverse forms of psychic phenomenon in humans. Lourdes
in France, Fatima in Portugal, Sedona in the USA are some examples.
more `scientific' approach to the explanation of the levitating rocks
may be relative to the generation of the exact amount of bio-energy
complemented by the sound frequencies which resonate with the
particular vibrations of the rocks.
Qamar Ali Darvesh have been aware of such things? Modern physics
today is only beginning to rediscover that which was fundamental to
Indian metaphysics millennia ago.
late afternoon we were leaving the enigmatic shrine. The crowd was
thinning out, the farewells had been said and the promises to return.
The eyes of the sanyasis (ascetics) who sit like ancient sentinels in
the shade of the trees near tomb, gaze motionless, it seems, into
another dimension, another time, Perhaps it is they who guard the