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NANDI

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The word nandi is corrupt form of nadi, whose original form is na'd in Arabic, meaning to call. The word nida means auction. The word na'd is used 29 times in the Koran. Another view suggests that the nandi is a Hindi word meaning blessing. It is a form of mehmani, and entertainment to the Imam. Nandi is an Islamic practice to offer food etc. to the Imam. It is an oblation presented in Ismailism. When asked about "the best part of Islam," the Prophet said, "offering food and extending greeting of peace (tut'im al-ta'am wa tarqa al-salam) to those you know and those you do not know" (Bukhari, 16:12). Asked about the meaning of a "righteous pilgrimage (hajj mabrur), the Prophet replied, "offering food and speaking kindly" (it'am al-ta'am wa-tib al-kalam), vide Ihya Ulum al-Din (2:16). According to Daim al-Islam (p. 330), "When people provide food (ma'ida, pl. mawa'id) or feasts for the progency of the Prophet, the angels surround them and glorify the Lord and ask for the pardon of those that partake of the meal"

We learn from the Epic of Gilgamesh that bread was offered to the gods over five thousand years ago. Since that time, wherever grain has been cultivated, bread has held a place of honour in rituals. From the 7th century B.C., the Greek celebrated the mysteries of Demeter, the bread goddess of Eleusis, whose cult was the established religion of Athens. The Israelites used bread in many of their religious rites and the Greek honoured a bread goddess, it was Jesus who exalted bread to the highest religious value when he said, "This is my body." In the early agricultural societies, the first fruits of the harvest were offered to the gods (Lv. 23:15-22). For the harvest feast, Shavu'ot, the Feast of Weeks, the Israelites were instructed to bring two loaves of bread made of wheaten flour as an oblation to Yahveh. Because the festival occurred fifty days after Passover, it came to be known by the Gree name Pentecost and commemorated the giving of the Law at Sinai. The "bread of the presence" (shewbread), which the Israelites laid out before the holy of holiness in the temple (Lv. 24:5-9). Twelve cakes of pure wheaten flour, representing the twelve tribes of Israel were placed on a table in two lines. Each Sabbah they were replaced and then eaten by the priests.

Bread was among the food offerings that the ancient Egyptians provided to their deceased. An incantation in the Book of Going Forth by Day was to be recited if an enemy challenged the deceased's right to bread. Bread presented by the faithful for the Eucharist was called eulogia. The bishop blessed it an had it distributed to catechumen and to absent members of the community.

In Hindu, the devotees offer food to the deity like Ganesa in hospitality and then eat what are then seen as the deity's leaving. They also bring food, known as the nau'ved in the temple for their gods

The Mazdeans of Iran called their offering of sacrificial bread as draonah. The sacred bread, droon or draun in Zoarastrians is common. For the dead, it is called anush'i rawa'n, and droon zind'i rawa'n for the alive. The word khubz (bread) occurs once in the Koran (12:41).

The practice of the Nandi or Na'di seems to have emerged in the Indian Ismaili tradition during post-Alamut period. In those days, when the Pirs, vakils or any visitors travelled in Iran from India, the followers gave them many items to be presented to the Imam, known as nazar or khidmati. It was a symbolic present of any valued offered to the Imam with appropriate forms to signify the devotion and love of the person offering it. The value of nazar (offering) ranged from a coconut to that of precious jewels. The practice of nazar became well established among the people of all walks of life in India that the food, fruits, grains, furniture, jewels, etc. were presented. Since it was not possible to take away these items in the long tedious journey, it seems to have been decided to get them disposed off, and its proceeds were remitted to the Imam for earning blessings (nandi). Many items were thus auctioned in those days in the house of an elder person residing close to the Jamakhana.

Imam Mustansir billah II (d. 880/1475) had suspended to depute any other Pir in India after the tragic death of Pir Tajuddin in 872/1467. It resulted an interruption in sending the gifts and nazrana to the Imam from India. The setback lasted for many years. It is said that Pir Dadu (d. 1005/1596) laid certain rules in this context. The portable small precious items were sent in Iran through the vakils, and other items were auctioned in the Jamatkhana, and thus the practice of nandi in the Jamatkhana became a regular feature. There are however many instances that the Mukhis in many villages freely distributed the cooked foods, fruits and clothes to the needy people.

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