It is not as widely known as it deserves to be that in India there are several shrines that defy denominational barriers. For instance, a Jain temple at Dharmasthala in Karnataka is, and has always been, helping people of all communities settle their financial and matrimonial disputes that could all too easily lead to communal riots elsewhere. People belonging to all castes and creeds abide by its decisions.
For instance, a Muslim summoned to the temple admitted that he had borrowed Rs. 20,000 from the complainant, and sought 10 days in which to repay the amount.
Or take Gulbarga, also in Karnataka. “If you’ve have non-vegetarian meals, please do not go inside,” says a board. Surely, that must hang in front of a temple, but, no, it does not.
The words are addressed to visitors to the “mazaar” (shrine) of a Muslim saint. But, then, that was what Hazrat Shah Ruknuddin Tola, a contemporary of Hazrat Khwaja Bande Nawaz Gesu Daraz, a 14th century saint of Gulbarga, laid down. His shrine is atop a hillock eight km from Gulbarga on the road to Alland.
Next to it is the shrine of Rama Rao, a Brahmin known for his spiritual accomplishments. Because of this Brahmin, Hazrat Ruknuddin decided to give up non-vegetarian food, and ordained that, after his death, nobody was to visit his shrine after consuming non-vegetarian food.
According to tradition, Hazrat Ruknuddin spent 40 years praying on the hillock, and people from the surrounding areas, regardless of their religion, went to him with their problems most, if not all, of which were solved.
Rama Rao had decided to go to Banaras on a pilgrimage, and went to meet Hazrat Ruknuddin on his way. Popular belief has it that Hazrat Ruknuddin asked Rama Rao to close his eyes; when he reopened them, he was stunned to see a vision of himself performing the sacred rites he had hoped to perform at Banaras and other places.
Rama Rao thereafter became Hazrat Ruknuddin’s disciple, and even used to bring meat from butcher’s shop and cook it for the saint. Other Brahmins understandably resented his actions.
One day, they buttonholed Rama Rao when he was returning from the butcher’s shop, and demanded to know what was in the bag. “Flowers”, said Rama Rao. When the bag was forcibly opened, it was found to contain flowers!
Later, Rama Rao told the saint about how meat had turned to flowers.
Impressed with his devotion, the Sufi saint swore that he himself would never again touch non-vegetarian food.
Thereupon, Rama Rao assumed the name of Shah Qadri. Both Hindus and Muslims visit the two shrines and make their offerings according to custom. According to the caretaker of the shrines, many Hindus, including Brahmins flock to them on New Moon day.