Every day, hundreds of tourists and devotees visit a shrine in Shivapur, a small village about 180 km east of Mumbai, in India, to witness a controversial “miracle” known as the Levitating Stone of Shivapur.
The Shrine of Qamar Ali Darvesh, a Muslim Sufi Saint who lived about 700 years ago, features an ancient stone that reportedly weighs 154lbs (90kg).
Lifting this stone off the ground would normally require a lot of strength, but according to believers in the Levitating Stone miracle, it’s possible for a set number of men to lift it up over their heads with only their index fingers, but only after shouting Qamar Ali Darvesh’s name. This phenomenon has fascinated Indian Muslims for centuries, but many believe it’s nothing more than a gimmick.
The Levitating Stone of Shivapur is closely tied to sufi Qamar Ali Darvesh.
He was born in a family of middle-class Muslims whose men were very proud of their physical strength and spent most of their time training in a gymnasium. Qamar Ali was different from the other men in his family. He became a disciple of a Sufi Pir (great teacher) who lived near his home when he was only six years old and spent most of his time meditating and fasting.
Legend has it that Qamar Ali was a compassionate boy who attracted devotees with his magical healing powers, but he was always mocked by the other boys, because he was never interested in physical activities. He died in his late years, but legend has it that as he lay on his death bed, the Sufi saint cursed one of the heavy stones that local men used for training in order to prove that spiritual power was greater than brute strength. He requested that the stone be placed near his grave and reportedly said:
“If eleven men place their right index fingers under the stone and then jointly call my name, I will cause it to rise higher than their heads. Otherwise, neither by themselves nor together will they be able to move it more than two feet off the ground.”
The Levitating Stone at the Shrine of Qamar Ali Darvesh, in Shivapur, is apparently the same one he cursed over 700 years ago, and men here have been using his formula to perform the “miracle” of lifting it over their heads with only their index fingers. Devotees say that the task can only be performed by 11 men, and only after shouting Qamar Ali’s name in unison. Because the Sufi Saint was a celibate and in deference to his chastity, women are not allowed to perform this feat or even touch the stone.
There are many who believe that the Levitating Stone of Shivapur is a true miracle and a testament to the powers of Qamar Ali Darvesh, but to skeptics, it’s nothing more than a gimmick to scam money out of tourists and naive religious people.
Although some photos and videos show the 11 men using their index fingers to lift the heavy stone off the ground, William Wolfe, who visited Shivapur in 1984, claims that he was one of the 11 men who attempted to lift it and saw the others using their palms and applying considerable force.
“I was one of the 11, and I was unable to pronounce his name, and in fact said nothing. This means that only 10 men were trying, not 11,” Wolfe wrote on Quora. “I also only lightly touched the stone with my right index finger and did this for just a moment, but I carefully observed the other 10 men. They put their entire hand under the stone and applied a considerable force. I could see their biceps flexing. I only touched it for a few moments because they lifted it rapidly with the force that they were applying. There was no levitation, but rather lifting.”
He is certainly not the only one to contest this “miracle”, but the general skepticism doesn’t seem to have affected the popularity of the Levitating Stone one bit. Hundreds of people still flock to Shivapur to witness this “magical” feat with their own eyes.