The penitence and redemption of Varas Ismail Gangji of Junagadh, Gujarat

The penitence and redemption of Varas Ismail Gangji of Junagadh, GujaratExcerpt from “The Ismaili ginans as devotional literature” by Ali S. Asani in Devotional literature in South Asia

The singing in unison of the entire congregation, which on Fridays and special religious holidays, may number, in some areas, up to one thousand or more, can also be very powerful in its emotional and sensual impact. Even those who may not fully understand its meanings and the significance of the words they sing may experience an emotion difficult to describe but which physically manifests itself through moist eyes or tears. An oft-repeated story within the community concerns the penitence and redemption of Ismail Gangji, a not exactly pious Ismaili of Junagadh induced one evening while he was sitting in the jamaat khanah listening to the recitation of a ginan stanza.

He heard the stanza very attentively and tears poured through his eyes. Immediately on conclusion of the Ginan recitation, this faithful [one] got up, went to the honorable Mukhi [a religious official], Rai Rahmatullahbhai, and sought forgiveness of all his sins. This was the moment signifying the day he started his life anew.

Subsequently, he became the chief minister to the nawab of Junagadh.


Excerpt from “Varas Ismail Gangji: The Turning Point” by Maleksultan J Merchant

It was an evening that became a turning point in the life of Varas* Ismailbhai Gangji.

The Ginan “Eji Sheth kahey tamey sanmbharo vanotar, vanaj rudo kari lavajo ji…”, composed by our revered Pir Sadardin, is being recited melodiously and in a state of total contemplation at Batwa Jamatkhana, Saurashtra, India. The recitation of verses 9 and 10, quoted and roughly translated hereunder, will affect Ismailbhai poignantly enough for him to change his ethic, and to turn to a life espousing noble values: this depicts the value of our Ginans, Our Wonderful Tradition, on those who reflect upon them deeply.

Transliteration: Eji Khota tara trajwa-ne dandi-ma kanetar: Katla khota tara bhariji…(9)

Translation: False is thy scale with a fault in the beam: Faulty your weighing and measuring

Transliteration: Eji Ochoo didhu aney ad keru lidhu: Jivda-ni chinta na kidhi…(10)

Translation: Less you gave in weight and (dishonestly) took more: not caring a wee bit for your soul

As each verse echoes deeper into the hearts of the Jamat, Ismailbhai is particularly overcome with emotions. He listens to each and every word with rapt attention, and just as the Ginan finishes, he feels a call for an awakening. He gazes at Imam-e-Zaman’s picture in the fullness of his heart and piteous repenting eyes. A firm resolve has silently been born within, and he vows to implement his lesson instantly.

He rises up and proceeds straight to Mukhi Rai Rahimtulla of the Jamat. With palms joined in humble supplication, he stands in silence before Mukhisaheb.

“What ails you?” inquires the Mukhi. From a middle class family, Ismailbhai earns his living as a salesman of cotton, travelling from town to town with his bag of commodities slung over his shoulder. But only he knows how he has asked for an increased price, and what tactic he has contrived to do so.

In reply to Mukhisaheb’s question, he replies gently:

“Mukhisaheb, I must have erred a number of times in the course of my vocation for the livelihood of the family and myself. Today’s Ginan has inspired a new life in me; forgive me and I vow that from this day forward that I shall live a new life treading always the path of righteousness.”

Mukhisaheb gazes steadily at Ismailbhai. He can feel true sincerity and repentance flowing from Ismail’s heart and grants the pardon that he is seeking. A heavy load is lifted off Ismail’s heart as he hastens home.



Related: Simerg



Previously on Ismailimail…

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, its achievements and humanitarian works.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s