Monday, January 19

Pilgrim traffic during the First World War

Pilgrimages are expressions of piety son. And they are fascinating phenomena to observe. Rationalists sneer at them. Say it's a waste of time money and energy. But the power of pilgrimages whether to amarnath or Lourdes or Mecca has to be considered. Despite the rise of secularism and modernity, people are going on pilgrimages even more. They used to go thousands of years back. They will keep on going. If you are ever in the middle of such a religious throng, you will feel surprised at the very strong faith based feelings that the pilgrims have son. I've seen this in Allahabad, in Paris in Jeddah in Tirupati in Jerusalem and so many other places. The interesting thing is that the stones of these ancient prayer pilgrimage sites are imbibed with the prayers of the millions of people and the stones talk to you. Despite the monstrosities that people erect in the places like in Mecca and other places. 



Pilgrim traffic during the First World War - Untold lives blog

Every year Indian Muslims undertake the journey from India to Mecca as part of the Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.  Prior to 1947, the British Indian Government maintained a strong interest in the welfare and safety of pilgrims travelling from India, and regularly received reports from the British Agent at Jeddah on the yearly pilgrimage, copies of which can be found in the India Office Records.

Mecca C13727-08

The outbreak of hostilities between the British and Ottoman Empires in 1914 raised fears about the impact this would have on the Hajj.  In November 1914, the British Government published an undertaking in the Gazette Extraordinarythat the holy places of Arabia and Jeddah would be immune from attack or molestation by the British naval and military forces so long as there was no interference with pilgrims from India.  Similar assurances were given by the Governments of France and Russia.  Despite this, there remained fears for the safety of the pilgrims who would be entering a zone of conflict.  There was also a concern among British officials that foodstuffs and other supplies exported from India for the use of pilgrims in Jeddah would be appropriated by Turkish forces.  The Indian Government had briefly stopped exports of food from India to Jeddah following the seizure of a cargo of food supplies by the Turkish authorities in March 1915.  However reports of distress amongst pilgrims and residents of the holy places had caused the exports to be resumed.

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