Qawwali at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah

Delhi Jan 22, 2020
Photo by Tarun Anand Giri on Unsplash

A dargah in Sufi tradition is not just a physical structure; instead, it is a mixture of faith and social connectivity for thousands of devotees who believe in that particular Sufi leader. The tomb (dargah) of a Sufi master consists of his grave, and symbolically it also reflects his mystical station.

The word dargah means a royal chamber or a doorway. Dargah as compared to other forms of Sufi tombs are more extensive in area. It includes not only the grave of the Sufi master but a cemetery, mosque, madrasa and elaborated market such as the dargah of Muinuddin Chishti in Ajmer and Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi.

Visiting a dargah is an integral part of the Sufi tradition. These devotional visits known as ziyarat are embedded within the beliefs and practices of Islam since its inception. Visit the Dargah of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi can an overwhelming and intense experience for the first-timer. Located near the  Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station, the dargah is less than fifteen minutes on foot and 10 minutes on a rickshaw or an auto. The tomb of Humayun is also situated on the road leading to the dargah. The entrance is a full street filled with shops selling goods varying from flowers, clothes to paranthas. The street becomes narrower as it heads towards the dargah. One can find shops of different sizes and nature in every direction in the whole place.

Further, the smell of freshly butchered meat captures the attention of the traveller along with the calls of shopkeepers inviting the pilgrims to remove shoes and purchase flowers from their shops to be presented at the tomb. The shops are antique, like the goods they sell. These shops sell flowers, rose petals, garlands, sheets bordered with golden lace (chadar), ittr (perfume), fragrant sticks, tabarruk (sacred offering) and traditional pieces of metal crockery with calligraphic inscriptions from Quran. The goods used for devotional activities are kept in the wicker baskets. There are shops for religious books, prayer verse books. Some of the shops are stacked with the compact discs and cassettes of qawwalis.

A lesson in loyalty and love

The ziyarat (translates to visit) to Nizamuddin's tomb begins by first paying homage to the gatekeeper of his dargah and his beloved disciple Amir Khusrau. The storytellers say it of the region that Nizamuddin Auliya was on his deathbed and was expecting Amir Khusrau to visit him and passed on instructions that he should not be allowed as he feared that the grief of Amir Khusrau might force him to come back from the death which would be disrespecting the word of God. Amir Khusrau visited the area and was not allowed to pass, and he stayed for six months where he died. Today it is said, is mandatory for every pilgrim to pray at the tomb of Amir Khusrau first 'to seek the gate pass', to enter the tomb of the Shaikh Nizamuddin.

Festive Affair

The most crucial day in the week at the dargah of Nizamuddin is Thursday. The daily visitors and the guides to the dargah stress that the shrine must be visited on Thursdays. The qawwalis are organized after prayers, mostly between 9 to 10.30 p.m. It is the most crowded day of the week. The dargah has its hereditary qawwals, which are attached to this shrine for centuries also claim to be the descendants of the qawwals who sang for Shaikh Nizamuddin himself. The community of these traditional singers trace their origin to those qawwals who were trained by Amir Khusrau himself.

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