Indischer Maler um 1630 001

Sufi Maulvi (teacher) meditating

Chilla-nashini (Persian: چله نشینی) is a spiritual practice of penance and solitude, known mostly in Indian and Persian folklore. In this ritual a mendicant or ascetic attempts to remain seated in a circle without food, water, or sleep for forty days and nights. The word 'chilla' is adopted from the Persian word 'chihli', meaning 'forty'.[1] The nashini is the person who does the forty-day fast and remains seated in the circle of seclusion. It is believed that those who try it but do not succeed usually die or suffer madness.[2]

Chilla-nashini is a severe penance. A circle is drawn on the ground by the penitent's own hand; for forty days and nights he must not step out of the circle, he must forgo food, water and sleep. He must face whatever comes. Chilla-nashini is known to both Sufi and Vedantic ascetics.[3]

The chilla is performed for worldly attainments, psychic abilities (siddhis), or complete enlightenment depending on the desire of the pilgrim who performs it.[4]

People who have performed partial or complete chillas

The most famous case of a chilla-nashini is found in the biographies of the 14th century Sufi poet Hafez of Shiraz.[5][6][7]

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad performed a chilla of solitude for forty days in 1886.[8]

Sheriar Mundegar Irani, father of Meher Baba, performed thirty days of a chilla in 1884, but could not complete the required forty days.[9]

Similar accounts in other cultures

Jesus fasted in the desert for forty days and forty nights.[10]

Moses fasted for forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai.[11]

Elijah fasted for forty days and forty nights during his journey to the mountain of God.[12]

Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment after fasting and meditating under the Bodhi Tree for forty nine days.[13]

Saint Patrick fasted for forty days on mount Croagh Patrick before expelling all the snakes from Ireland.[14]

See also


  1. The Path of Khalwati and Shabani
  2. Meher Prabhu, Bhau Kalchuri, Manifestation Inc. 1986, VOL I, p.129
  3. The Nothing and the Everything, Bhau Kalchuri, p.78
  4. Infinite Intelligence, Meher Baba, Sheriar Press, 2007
  5. Teachings of Hafiz: Translated by Gertrude Lowthian Bell
  6. Hafiz حافظ Biography
  7. Iran Chamber Society
  8. Al Islam: The Official Website of the Ahmadiyya Mustlim Community
  9. Bhau Kalchuri, Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, The Biography of the Avatar of the Age, Meher Baba, Manifestation, Inc., 1986, p. 129.
  10. New Testament Bible, Matthew 4:2
  11. Deuteronomy 9:9
  12. "The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, 'Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.' So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God." 1 Kings 19:7
  13. Sacred Destinations
  14. "In imitation of the great Jewish legislator on Sinai, he spent forty days on its summit in fasting and prayer, and other penitential exercises." Catholic Encyclopedia

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