The Enduring Connection: India’s 800-Year Bond with Jerusalem

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October 30, 2023

The Enduring Connection: India’s 800-Year Bond with Jerusalem

India's 800-year-old connection with Jerusalem: Baba Farid's lodge, now a  rest stop for Indian travellers | Explained News - The Indian Express+


  • The ancient city of Jerusalem, a place steeped in history and significance for numerous cultures and faiths, holds a remarkable testament to India’s enduring presence. Established in the 12th century, the Indian Hospice stands proudly within the city walls, bearing witness to a connection that spans eight centuries. This article unravels the captivating story of how this bond was forged and how it has stood the test of time.

The Genesis of the Connection:

  • Legend has it that Baba Farid, a revered Sufi saint from Punjab, played a pivotal role in initiating this enduring connection. His 40-day meditation within the walls of Old Jerusalem laid the foundation for what would become the Indian Hospice. As word spread, Indian Muslims en route to Mecca began making pilgrimages to this sacred spot, solidifying its significance.

Baba Farid: The Beacon of Spiritual Wisdom:

  • Born in 1173 CE in the village of Kothewal, Baba Farid hailed from a family with roots stretching from Kabul to Punjab. He embraced the Chishti order and was among the earliest Sufi saints to compose verses in Punjabi, many of which find a revered place in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs.

The Transformation of a Modest Lodge:

  • Baba Farid’s lodgings within Old Jerusalem, nestled in the gates known as Bab-az-Zahra and Herod’s Gate, became the epicenter of this evolving connection. This compact khanqah, a sanctuary for Sufi orders and a haven for travelers, sat atop a small hillock within Herod’s Gate. Even through changes in ownership, including under Christian crusaders, Mamluks, and Ottoman rulers, the lodge retained its profound association with India.

Flourishing Through Centuries:

  • The Indian Hospice thrived through the ages, its prominence shining during the Ottoman rule, particularly under sheikhs hailing from South Asia. However, a significant juncture arrived with the onset of the Ottoman Empire’s dissolution in 1919. By 1921, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem took charge, ushering in a phase of extensive renovations. Support was sought from Muslim patrons globally, including the princely states in British India.

Nazir Ansari: Guardian of the Lodge:

  • In the aftermath of India’s independence, Khwaja Nazir Hasan Ansari, a young man from Saharanpur, undertook the monumental task of renovating the lodge. By 1924, his efforts had breathed new life into the sanctuary, offering solace to countless travelers and pilgrims from British India. During World War II, it provided refuge for soldiers from British India fighting in North Africa.

Cementing Indian Identity:

  • Following independence, Nazir Ansari sought official recognition for the lodge from the Indian embassy in Egypt, solidifying its Indian identity. Despite facing conflicts and upheaval, the Indian Hospice expanded to its current size, housing vital institutions like the UNRWA and the Jerusalem Health Centre.

A Living Emblem of India’s Heritage:

  • Today, Sheikh Mohammad Munir Ansari, a native of Jerusalem, serves as the custodian of this cherished establishment. Honored with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest accolade for overseas Indians, in 2011, his dedication ensures that the Indian flags continue to fly proudly at the lodge. Every August 15, Independence Day is celebrated with a shared anthem: “Saare jahaan se achha, Hindustan hamara.”


  • The Indian Hospice in Jerusalem stands as an extraordinary testament to the enduring bond between India and this ancient city. Through centuries of history, it has weathered trials and tribulations, emerging as a beacon of cultural and spiritual harmony. This sanctuary, under the guardianship of Sheikh Mohammad Munir Ansari, continues to be a symbol of India’s rich heritage, welcoming those with Indian citizenship or heritage to its hallowed halls.

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The Enduring Connection: India’s 800-Year Bond with Jerusalem | Vaid ICS Institute