Gratitude to Mother India and her people for having welcomed me so fully on my recent journey to her shores. My experiences were so rich, I want to use this form to share them with the community.
I arrived in Mumbai Jan 31st as the guest of my close friends and India's most famous Tabla Maestro, Zakir Hussein and his wife Toni, to celebrate the Barsi (like Urs - festival on the anniversary of passing) of Ustad Alla Rakha, Zakir's father and guru.
Naturally the all day, 6:30AM-11:00PM, music festival was a delight, bringing masters of rhythm from all over India and the world to celebrate rhythm and music. But the highlight was visiting the Sufi Dargah of Pir Makhdum with Zakir and family and the Dargah of Haji Ali with my long time friend Zuleikha.
Dargah of Pir Makhdum
Dargah of Haji Ali
Dargah of Haji Ali
Feb 4th I traveled up to Delhi to attend and serve the URS of our own Hazrat Inayat Khan. That evening one of the youngest masters in my Kirana Gharana (Chishti Sabri Sufi music lineage) Shahana Ali Khan, now age 21 sang an inspiring concert for us. I first heard her perform in Jaipur when she was age 3!
On the URS day, we followed the tradition of beginning at Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia's Dargah, there we listened to the Qawali, made some prayers and then carried the Chaddar (new tomb cover) aloft through the lanes to place it on Hazrat Inayat Khan's tomb.
Murshid Nawab, Pir Zia and Pir Shabda holding the Chaddar
The Qawalis sang once again. Then I had the opportunity to offer some Raga for Hazrat Inayat Khan and all assembled, accompanied by master Sarangi player, Ustad Murad Ali Khan and tabla maestro, Ustad Rafiuddin Sabri. Our last raga closed with all joining in for Hazrat Inayat Khan's melodic Zikr (View the video on YouTube)
Other highlights ~ later that evening Zuleikha and I led Zikrs sitting in the Dargah. The next day another young master singer from my music lineage performed, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Pir Zia gave some inspiring words and the children of the Hope Project shared music and skits.
Zuleikha leading Hope Project young women
Feb 7th, Ilona from St Petersburg, Russia, and my old friend Dr. Andrew Garling joined me on a long journey with our Indian "stone architect" Parag Pradhan, to see the stone carving quarry, where all the stone work for Murshid Sam's Dargah is going on.
Feb 8th, 6:30AM in the very foggy morning, we began with pilgrimage to the Dargah of Salim Chishti, where our Murshid Sam found much inspiration for the Dances of Universal Peace.
Having placed the rendering of Murshid Sam's Dargah on Salim Chishti's tomb, the Khadim, tomb keeper, was deeply touched that this would be the first Chishti Dargah in America, embraced us and took out his camera and began recording the event. Since the local Qawali had not yet arrived, I was able to sit and sing Raga compositions calling the masters of our Chishti lineage for nearly half an hour.
The drive to the stonemasons was at least another three to four hours. We broke journey in Bharatpur and stopped at the local "bird sanctuary" enjoying many species I had never before seen.
Viewing all the excellent craftsmanship at the stonecutter turned out to be very important as we actually made some changes in sizes and coloration of the floor tiles and some other details.
Stonemason work crew
Carving for the back wall
We arrived back in Delhi after 10pm that Monday evening and the next day I began leading the International Sufi Festival with Shaikh Kabir Helminski at the beautiful oasis retreat center Zorba the Buddha on the edge of Delhi. With some 40 people in attendance, it was like the United Nations. We had participants from Egypt, Algeria, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Germany, UK, and the US. Regular classes, evening concerts, delicious organic vegetarian Indian food, nature and birds, accompanied us through completion Sunday afternoon.
Monday January 15, I finally had the opportunity to visit with my Tibetan teacher, the 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche, in his New Delhi home. And how auspicious that it was his 63rd Birthday! We chatted for hours and hours, we shared lunch, eating all his favorite dishes that the Lamas had prepared, followed by Birthday cake!
On the same day Rinpoche studied all the architectural drawings and construction photos of the Murshid Sam Dargah Project and made prayers for its success.
The next day was another highlight for our lineage and myself. A wonderful Indian master, Sri M, who has written what is called "this century's Autobiography of a Yogi"
has been leading the "Walk of Hope"
for the past 17 months. Sri M and crew have walked from the Southern tip of India and we were present for his arrival in Delhi. The walk will continue on to Kashmir over the next few months.
The purpose of the Walk of Hope is to rejuvenate the spirit of hope, love, peace, harmony and oneness in India and the world, and the erasing of disparities arising from misunderstandings of India's diverse cultures and religions.
Thanks to our very own California friend, Monnet Zubieta, who has bravely walked nearly every day of the Walk of Hope, I was invited to perform at the Festival welcoming the Walk to Delhi, and auspiciously, my Tibetan teacher, Tai Situ Rinpoche was also invited.
Since I didn't have any musicians with me, the lead organizer Lakshmi Bhatia joined me along with local musicians for a rehearsal, who turned out also to be devotees of my Tibetan teacher and played on his CD's and compositions.
Tuesday afternoon began with a tea and reception for Sri M, Tai Situ Rinpoche and myself, meeting local dignitaries, politicians, financial supporters and spiritual friends.
The three of us were ushered into the open amphitheater as the guests of honor, with some 500 in attendance. Lakshmi began with welcoming those assembled and some background on the Walk of Hope. Next was a short, brilliant talk by Tai Situ Rinpoche, which I hope we will be able to put up on YouTube soon, then I was ushered to the stage and welcomed as Pir Shabda Kahn.
Pir Shabda Kahn, the 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche, Sri M and Parliament member
My opening remarks expressed my gratitude that the Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty was planted in California soil by an Indian Master, Hazrat Inayat Khan, who shared it with our teacher Murshid Samuel Lewis and now I had the privilege of offering that same Message of Spiritual Liberty and the Universality of Religious Ideals to the land where it originated.
I was backed up by Lakshmi - lead female singer, Valentine Shipley - lead guitar, Prabhu - voice and harmonium, as well as a bass player and drum kit. I performed and shared a Zikr - La Illaha Il Allah, Murshida Leilah's composition from Hawaiian proverbs, Ho Ike Mai, and Murshid Allaudin and wife Yasmin's, Drink with the Beloved ~ all beautifully received.
The next speaker was Sri M, who spoke of his journey and the purpose of the Walk. Hazrat Inayat Khan and Murshid Sam would have been overjoyed to hear their Message of Universality and Spiritual Liberty echoed by Sri M and Tai Situ Rinpoche.
I felt such joy that Hazrat Inayat Khan and our Murshid Sufi Ahmed Murad Chishti were having an opportunity to share the richness of their Message of Inner Awakening and outer Harmony.
On my last day in Mother India I initiated 5 mureeds into our Ruhaniat family who are from the local Basti around Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia and Hazrat Inayat Khan's neighborhood.
Upcoming Events and Teachings
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