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Qalandar | The Wandering Sufis

Blessed are the solitary and elect,
for you shall find the Kingdom ...
- Jesus Christ in Gospel of Thomas

Qalandar (Persian origin, also written as Qalander) is a title given to sufi holy men especially in South Asia. Some famous Sufis with the title Qalandar include Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalander and Bu Ali Shah Qalandar. The Qalandariyah also refer to the name of a sect of roaming Sufi dervishes.

The Qalandariyah, Qalandaris or "kalandars" are wandering solitary Sufi dervishes. The term covers a variety of sects, not centrally organized. One was founded by Qalandar Yusuf al-Andalusi of Andalusia, Spain. Some kalandars practiced asceticism and often used hashish, alcohol, and other intoxicants.

Starting in the early 12th century, the movement gained popularity in Greater Khorasan and neighbouring regions. The first references are found in 11th century prose text Qalandarname (The Tale of the Kalandar) attributed to Ansarī Harawī. The term Qalandariyyat (the Qalandar condition) appears to be first applied by Sanai Ghaznavi (d 1131) in seminal poetic works where diverse practices are described. Particular to the qalandar genre of poetry are terms that refer to gambling, games, intoxicants and Nazar ila'l-murd - themes commonly referred to as kufriyyat or kharabat.

The writings of qalandars were not a mere celebration of libertinism, but antinomial practices of affirmation from negative action. The order was often viewed suspiciously by authorities. The Kalendar of the Arabian Nights is properly a holy muslim ascetic who abandons the world and wanders about with shaven head and beard.

In some culture Qalandar's are controversial and viewed as heretic. In other places they are exalted and considered elect holy men. In Persian sufi poetry written in eleventh through fifteenth century there is praise for Qalandars. Rumi for instance wrote:

Bazm-e sharab o lal o kharabat o kaferi
molk e qalandarast o qalandar az u bari
guyi qalandaram man o in del pazir nist
zira keh afarideh nabashad qalandari.

Carousing and ruby - wine and ruins and disbelief,
These are the kingdom of the qalandar, but he is detached from it.
You say "I am qalandar!" But that is not agreeable,
since qalandarom is uncreated.

What is a Qalandar? A Qalandar is called a free spirit who has no wordly shackles and they are different from all ordinary human nature. In popular folk beliefs its considered that one Qalandar possess the power of hundred Walis (saints). Qalandars have discarded the lower human nature and flown to their lord. Qalandars can seem to be strange or act or dress strange. Their personality is different and sometimes bizare, but in reality a Qalandar is in Jazb, a secret reality intoxicated in the love of God and Divine Figures, messengers and saints. They closely resembles to wandering zen buddhist monks in their outward modes and sometime in their fierce madness due to intoxication into 'other reality'. Often time they are given special vision and hidden mysteries of reality are made known to them.

Some define Qalandars as an itinerant sufi, a wandering dervish, who learns and teaches during his travels and wandering.

Qalandar's are sometime considered hidden saints, embodiment of the perfect man (insan-i kamal) who hide themselves in the robe of beggar and wanderer. Although there has been distinction made between those who took the dress of qalandar as a fancy and those whose spiritual concerns are genuine.

The Qalandars deconstructs selfhood. He obliterates identity. He seeks to become "not Me" to himself.

The 13th century sufi Najm al-Din Daya Razi wrote about the figurative significance of the qalandar as: "The student of the path or Morid, must have the attribute of one who courts reproach and the character of a qalandar, but not in the sense of contravening the sacred law and imagining this to be the desired state. "

. Jesus, the Qalandar | the one who taught to "become passerby"

Given the wandering bohemian nature of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him - he resembles very much a wandering Qalandar archetype of all age. In the short lifetime during his Prophetic mission, Jesus is recorded as one always wandering from town to town, one community to another, one fishing village to the next. The famous saying of Jesus as found in Luke 9:58 where he says, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" which symbolizes his own wandering nature like a wandering dervish or Qalandar.

Infact this was also the nature of early followers of Christ who perhaps were following Christ's very teaching as recorded in Gospel of Thomas, "Become passerby." This was a teaching for the chosen among his followers and holy companions advocating the lifestyle of the solitary, itinerant ascetic. Another famous saying of Jesus Christ that points towards the life-style of Qalandar: "This world is a bridge. Pass over it; but do not build your dwelling there."

Scholar Helmut Koester writes in Ancient Christian Gospels: "There are many sayings in (Gnostic gospel of) Thomas (a number of these shared with the canonical Gospels) which specify the kind of behavior and mode of living in the world that is appropriate to those who are truly 'children of the Father.' At the heart of this life style is a social radicalism that rejects commonly held values. The sayings speak of rejecting the ideal of a settled life in house and home, and they require itineracy."

[.] Some of the ecstatic sufi Qalandars can be watched in this video recorded at the famous tomb of sufi saint, Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, Pakistan. [>] Watch via Youtube here.

[.] Also Punjabi folk sufi singer Sain Zahoor reminds me of the Qalandars. [>] Here is a beautiful performance by him. Also another song by him.

# Resources
. Qalanadar Tariqat
. Mast Qalandar
. Lal Shahbaz Qalandar
. Bu Ali Shah Qalandar
. Qalandar Baba Auliya
. Shahbaz Qalandar
. Qalandar Baba Auliya - Biography
Popular Song dedicated to Qalandar:
. O Lal Meri Pat - Dama Dam Mast Qalandar | translation, with youtube vidoes
. Dama Dam Mast Qalandar
[.] Mast Qalandar by Badila Ensemble in Paris
[.] Junoon, Lal Meri Path

. Arguing Sainthood by Katherine Pratt Ewing is a recommended book to read that has certain chapters dedicated to Qalandars.


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Technology of the Heart: Qalandar | The Wandering Sufis
Qalandar | The Wandering Sufis
Technology of the Heart
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