Followers of the Real

A Sufi pilgrim in his room near the Jama Masjid in Delhi.A pilgrim summons others to begin walking.  Friends who have not met since the previous year's pilgrimage greet each other in Delhi.A Sufi fakir or holy man.Fakir.Evening prayers at the shrine of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi.Stopping to rest on their way out of Delhi, pilgrims play music and dance at a Sufi shrine.A boy at a shrine in Delhi watches Sufis celebrate the commencement of their pilgrimage.A fakir in a procession of Sufis.On the outskirts of Delhi the Sufis pass one of the oldest Islamic monuments in India, the 800 year old Qutb Minar.A pilgrim carries his child in a sling on his back.A parakeet accompanies his owner on the pilgrimage to Ajmer.A pilgrim passes an auto repair shop on a highway outside Delhi. The Sufi pilgrimage from Delhi to Ajmer has taken place more than 800 years. Until modern times the pilgrims' way lay along a track through wilderness and sparsely settled countryside. These days the pilgrimage proceeds along roads and highways.A fakir rests near an air compressor at an auto repair shop on the road side.Pilgrims arrive at a Sufi shrine.Each group of pilgrims carries flags and banners which are blessed at the various shrines they visit in the course of the pilgrimage. At the conclusion of the pilgrimage the flags return with the pilgrims to their villages, bringing blessings to those people who could not travel to Ajmer.Sufis in contemplation at a shrine.After spending hours walking as much as fifty or sixty kilometers, some pilgrims play music and dance at the conclusion of the day's stage.A fakir.Pilgrims relaxing.A Sufi pilgrim sits outside a shrine.A pilgrim rests near a vendor of rose petals. Visitors to Sufi shrines buy the rose petals to spread on the tombs of Sufi saints.Exhausted pilgrims take an afternoon nap on the floor of a shrine before resuming their walk.Pilgrim.Sufis passing through rural Rajasthan on the way to the shrine of the Sufi saint Moin-ud-din Chishti in Ajmer.A pilgrim pulls shrub thorns from his sandals.A handicapped Sufi traveler on a five hundred kilometer pilgrimage.Pilgrims take a nap in the late afternoon while monkeys watch them and play in the background.A fakir.A line of pilgrims already walking at sunrise.Pilgrims pause near a water cistern to drink and bathe.A mid-day rest.Friends stop to rest and smoke some hashish.Sufis walking in the late afternoon.A boy stands at the roadside to offer water to passing pilgrims.A young Sufi takes a break on the roadside.Pilgrims stretch and massage their tired legs during a rest stop.A fakir.Rest stop.Several trucks carrying provisions accompany the pilgrims. A fakir prepares the evening portion of rice for a large group.A pilgrim pauses for a cup of tea.A man leaps for joy while walking in the early morning.Fakirs in the midst of an afternoon discussion.A young pilgrim.A man massages a companion's feet. A pilgrimage serves, in part, as an opportunity for people to learn selflessness. Sharing the hardships of the road, pilgrims take care of each other.Pilgrim.Hundreds of kilometers into the pilgrimage, a group leader exhorts his tired companions to continue walking.A pilgrim couple walking in rural Rajasthan.People pray in a Sufi shrine at the tomb of a saint.People reach out to touch a man possessed of Baraka, a divine sanctity and blessedness.A pilgrim.A Murid, a Sufi spiritual guide, giving a discourse.A man walks pensively inside a Sufi shrine.Pilgrims with a pet parakeet.Dressed in white, the color of mourning, a man undergoes a ritual death which constitutes part of his initiation and rebirth as a Rifai fakir.A self-mortification ritual of the Rifai fakirs. a lineage known for such extreme practices. Very few Sufis engage in such rites. Pilgrim.Pilgrims reach Ajmer and react to the first sight of the their destination: the shrine of the Sufi saint Moin-ud-din Chishti.The shrine of the Sufi saint Moin-ud-din Chishti, a major pilgrimage destination for the Sufis of South Asia. Orthodox Muslims frequently condemn Sufi shrines as centers of idolatry, which is prohibited in Islamic law.A Fakir indicating not only that God is one, but that everything is one — part of God.Pilgrims reach out to touch a tray of rose petals that will be deposited as offerings on the tomb of Moin-id-din Chishti, one of the most beloved Sufi Saints in South Asia. This 13th century Persian mystic, remembered as a great teacher and a benefactor of the poor, draws millions of pilgrims to his tomb every year to seek his blessings and guidance.Singers perform Qawwali, a style of Sufi devotional music, while a pilgrim dances and sings along.A fakir wearing a chain around his waist, a symbolic indication that he is a slave of his love for God.Sufis in prayer.Pilgrims.Pilgrims at the shrine of the Sufi saint Moin-ud-din Chishti. Among the Sufi masters, the greatest are venerated as saints. Because of their proximity to God the saints are believed to be endowed with the power of healing and blessing.  This power is known as Baraka and is believed to remain with the saint even after his death.A fakir dances in ecstasy in front of a shrine. Sufis speak often of "intoxication" — of being overcome by the presence of God. It is the joy of experiencing that the source of all beauty, truth and love lies within oneself.Pilgrims seeking blessings from a fakir. Many Sufis believe that fakirs' proximity to God endows them with the divine power to bless and cure. A fakir smoking hashish. Fakirs exist outside the achievement-oriented modern society which condemns drug use because it leads to an undesirable loss of personal productivity and efficiency. The fakir's journey of life is largely an inner path; thus many Fakirs consume intoxicants which loosen their grip on the outside world and direct their focus and energies inward, to God.  Happy pilgrims at the conclusion of their pilgrimage to the shrine of Moin-ud-din Chishti in Ajmer.Pilgrims in contemplation and prayer in Ajmer.Fakir.A pilgrim posing at a studio in Ajmer for a commemorative photo of his visit to the shrine of Moin-ud-din Chishti.Two Sufis greet each other in Ajmer's bazaar while rose petal vendors call out to passing pilgrims.A street in Ajmer strewn with rose petals.Sufi pilgrims in Ajmer.A pilgrim in the street addressing the Sufi saint Moin-ud-din Chishti.“When I escape the Self I will arise; And be as God. The yearning pilgrim flies; From this dark province of mortality; To Nothingness and to Eternity.” — Farid ud-Din Attar, Persian poet.