LUCKNOW: Overcoming opposition from his family and community, a Muslim man left his ancestral profession of singing qawwalis to sing Hindu hymns in the temples of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Today he is much sought after by devotees there.
For Rojan Ali, 55, a farmer living in Chaubeypur town of Varanasi district, some 250 km from here, singing was his way of reaching out to god.
"After offering morning prayers in the mosque, I go to a number of temples in the holy city to sing bhajans," Ali told IANS over telephone.
"I derive immense pleasure from this activity. I just cannot put my feelings into words. I can only say that the entire period during which I sing the religious songs, I feel connected with the almighty," he added.
It was nearly 30 years ago that he decided to stop singing qawwalis and opted for bhajans.
"I started giving stage performances with my father while I was just 15. At that time, I came into contact with some youths in Varanasi, who used to sing devotional Hindu songs that impressed me a lot. I started meeting them frequently and gradually we became friends."
"As I grew up, I realised I was not able to satiate my urge to sing devotional songs...Just to fulfil that urge I took up singing devotional songs when I reached 25," recalled Ali, who sings kirtans and also pens bhajans.
Ali had to face a lot of opposition from his family and community.
"My parents, relatives all opposed my decision... I expected strong reactions from them. It all continued for several months. However, during the period I managed to convince an aged Muslim cleric, whom my father respected a lot," he said.
"It was the cleric, who softened the stand of my father, who allowed me to sing devotional songs even though a number of relatives were still against the decision," he added.
Now, Ali, along with his 21-year-old son, performs in several of Varanasi's prominent temples, including Sankata Mata, Sheetla Mata and a number of mutts.
"Listening to Rojanbhai is really charming. We really feel proud to have him in our village as an example of the Ganga-Jamuni (syncretic) culture," said Aman Chandra, a resident of Jalhupur village near Chaubeypur town.
Echoing similar sentiments, Paras Kumar, a resident of the same village, said: "The best thing about Rojan is that he does not charge any money for singing bhajans. We voluntarily give him money for his performance."