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Shivpur Pilgrimage tour

The Levitating Rocks of Shivapur

We 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.

By 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.

The 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 obsession.

A Place of Pilgrimage

Shivapur 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.

The 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.

But it is in the courtyard surrounding the shrine that a strange phenomenon which has baffled researchers, including scientists, is being enacted.

The Levitating Rocks

Two 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.

The 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.

I 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.

After 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 reality.

I 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.

I 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? Nothing!

Moving 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.

Numerous 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

The story of Qamar Ali Darvesh was related to me by Merchant with additional dialogue supplied by the attending priest.

Eight 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.

The 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".

Qamar 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.

Qamar 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.

Darvesh 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.

Anyone, 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 through faith.

The 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.

An 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.

Many 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.

A 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.

Could 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.

By 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 secret.

¤ Ajmer Sharif ¤ Amarkantak ¤ Amritsar
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¤ Dargahkaliyarsharif ¤ Dharamsala ¤ Dilwaratemples
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¤ Pilgrimagesofsikhs ¤ Rameshwaram ¤ Rishikesh
¤ Sabarimala ¤ Shatrunjayahill ¤ Shivapur
¤ Tawangmonastery ¤ Thirukalikundrum ¤ Tirupati
¤ Travelofgods ¤ Trichur ¤ Tripureshwari
¤ Tungnath ¤ Vaishnodevi ¤ Varanasi
¤ Vrindavan ¤ Yamnotri