In the mystic alleys of Delhi – the Dargah of Amir Khusrau

I learnt about Amir Khusrau when I was very young.

During my childhood, we used to live in Old Delhi and our house was almost sandwiched between an ancient mosque and a “mazaar” (Mausoleum). At the Mazaar, every Thursday, a few of the good musicians assembled and played devotional music, which I came to know later on was called “Sufiyana Kalaam” and it was performed as homage to the father of “Qawwalis”, Hazrat Amir Khusrau and his Master, Hazrat Nizammudin Aulia.

Since I was fond of music, I found this kind of music very fascinating and depending on the homework prescribed by my school teachers, I used to attend the Thursday “Qawwali” session sometime. Seeing my enthusiasm, one Muslim gentleman, fondly called “Haji ji”, who lived in our neighborhood, told me a few interesting facts about Amir Khusrau.

 


Humayun’s Tomb


Years passed by and when I was old enough to move around the city by myself, I was introduced to the annual “Urs” at the mausoleum of Amir Khusrau located at a distance of 200 yards from Humayun’s Tomb, close to the Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station.

Last week a friend from England, also an admirer of Amir Khusrau came to Delhi and wished to pay obeisance to him at the mausoleum. That’s how our visit to the edifice was planned.

Before taking you to the “Dargah”, I would like to add a few words about this great scholar, musician and statesman.


Hazrat Amir Khusrau

Ab’ul Hasan Yamin al-Din Khusrau, more popularly known as Amir Khusrau Dehalvi. Amir, which literally means noble, was the title bestowed upon him by the then ruler. Khusrau was his “Takhallus” (alias). He was born in 1253 at Patiali, near Itawah (though some historians trace his birth to Delhi).

He lost his father at the age of seven and moved to Delhi along with his mother, to her parental home. Brilliant as he was, he completed the compilation of his first “Divan” (collection of ghazals) at the age of seventeen and within a year was appointed as the court poet with King Balban’s nephew Mallik Chhajju.

Over the years, Khusrau served as many as seven kings, including Jalaluddin Khilji, Alauddin Khilji, Qutab Ud Din Mubarak, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, Sultan Mohammed Bin Tughlaq and others.

 

He has been called the “father of the qawwali” (the devotional music of the Indian Sufis). He is also accredited with enriching Hindustani classical music by introducing Persian and Arabic elements into it. Moreover, he was the originator of the khayal and the tarana style of music. The invention of the Indian tabla is also traditionally attributed to Amir Khusrau.

He used only 11 metrical notes with 35 distinct divisions. He has written Ghazals, Masnavis, Qatas, Rubais, Do-Betis and Tarkibhands. It is also believed that he made significant contributions to the development of the then existing sitar, the grand Indian lute. He also composed many “ragas”, the most prominent being – Saazgiri, Bakharaj, Ussaq, Muwafiq and Gaman.

Amir Khusrau was as prolific in writing tender lyrics as he was in highly involved prose and could easily emulate all styles of poetry which had been developed in medieval Persia. He was a forerunner to the introduction of dohas and ghazals to the medieval literature. Thus, his contribution to the development of the ghazal and Dohas is particularly significant.

” Khusrau baazi prem Ki, main kheli pi ke sang,
Jeet gayi To Piya Mere, Haari To Pi Ke sang”

(Khusrau says I am playing the game of love with my beloved. If I win he is mine, if I lose I am with him, anyway).

It is believed that Khusrau had immense love for children and composed many “pahelis” (riddles) for their entertainment.

Not only was he a great scholar and a musician, he also was known for his bravery on the battlefield. He fought many a battle along with his masters including the one against the Mongols, in which he was captured. However by using his wits he managed to escape.

Khusrau who had Indo-Turkish parentage was introduced to Khwaja Nizamuddin at an early age. In 1310, he became closer to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and became his dearest disciple. There are endless anecdotes – in oral tradition as well as in documented history about their close and passionate attachment to each other, from their first meeting till the moment of their death.

The popular belief is that Hazrat Nizamuddin on his death bed told his close devotees not to allow Khusrau to come near his grave. He feared that because of his love for Khusrau, the grave might burst open and Khusrau would also sacrifice his life at the grave. Amir Khusrau was, therefore, stopped from entering that mausoleum. He obeyed his master’s orders and did not go inside. However, his master’s death affected him deeply and he sacrificed his life outside the mausoleum because of the grief over his master’s demise.

The death of the master and that of his disciple was also unusual event. It is said that when Nizamuddin Aulia breathed his last, Khusrau was away in Bengal on Mohammad Tughlaq’s royal mission. When he heard the sad news, he couldn’t control himself, and rushed back to Delhi. On seeing his pir’s grave, this great exponent of the “Khari Boli” of Avadh (or Hindavi), is supposed to have read the following Hindavi doha (couplet) impromptu:


“Gori sovay sej par,
Mukh par darey kes;
chal Khusrau ghar aapna, saanjh bhaee chahu des.”

(The fair maiden rests on a bed of roses,
Her face covered with a lock of hair;
Oh Khusrau, let’s return home now,
the dark dusk settles in the four corners of the world).

After this, it is said, Khusrau’s condition started deteriorating and within exactly six months he breathed his last. This episode and the couplet quoted is probably the highest point in Khusrau’s relationship with Hazrat Nizamuddin and also probably the reason for their becoming a combined legend. For the last seven centuries, every year the Urs of both the saints is celebrated within a gap of six months of each other – Nizamuddin Aulia’a Urs too is called the Satrahvin Sharif (Seventeenth day). On both occasions qawwals begin by reciting the above doha, before singing any other qawwali.

After sifting through the myths and authentic historical facts, it can be assumed that Khusrau must have made an impact on those around then by using his creative genius in not only bridging a gap between the court and Nizamuddin Aulia, but also in making a number of innovations in poetry and music – an impact so immense that it has made his name immortal along with Nizamuddin Aulia.

Tour of the Dargah

The entry point to Nizamuddin area is marked by a traffic island with a blue-domed tomb known as Sabz Burj (sabz, green; burj, dome). The blue tiles are reportedly a recent restoration effort, but some of the original green, yellow and blue tiles can still be seen on the walls.

It has high recessed arches on all sides and a double dome covered with coloured tiles which gives it its name. Architecturally, the building probably belongs to the early Mughal period. Reportedly, the British used this building as a police station for many years till the beginning of the last century.

 


Sabz Burz

Even though it is right in the heart of Delhi, you can easily miss the little alley in the Nizamuddin area, closer to Humayun’s Tomb, where the mausoleums of Hazrat Nizammudin Auliya and his dearest disciple Amir Khusrau are located.

We reached Mathura Road and headed for the street leading to the dargah at around 10.00 A.M. On a working day, the usual throng of visitors was missing. I had arranged with a friend, Shamshad, who lives in the area, to use his contacts so that we could gather the maximum possible information about the shrines.

We entered the street leading to the dargah area from New Delhi’s Mathura Road and found a distinctly medieval ambience: labyrinthine alleys, street-vendors, bazaars with cheap eateries, people selling caps, rosaries and religious posters.


Alley leading to the Dargah

Passing by the Ghalib Academy, Urs Mahal and the tomb of one of the greatest Urdu poets of our times, Mirza Asadulla Khan Ghalib, we reached the dargah complex via a very dingy street.

As the street narrowed, we were confronted by flower-sellers who politely urged us to buy a tray of flowers, sweets, or a chadar (cloth) to offer at the dargahs of Nizamuddin Aulia and Amir Khusrau. Before entering the dargah premises, we were required to remove our shoes and cover the head. A medieval archway led us to a veranda that faces the tomb of Amir Khusrau.

The complex houses six important monuments:

1. The dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya
2. The tomb of Ataga Khan
3. The tomb of Maham Anga, the wet Nurse of King Akbar
4. The tomb of Amir Khusrau
5. The tomb of Jahanara
6. The Jamaat Khana Mosque.

(It would be fair to dedicate a complete post to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, one of the greatest sufi saints of all the times, which I will endeavour to do very shortly. I will restrict this post to Hazrat Amir Khusrau).


Tomb of Ataga Khan

On the northern edge of Nizamuddin village outside the dargah complex, is Ataga Khan’s tomb. It is an impressive structure in red sandstone thickly inlaid with marble and coloured tiles. We stopped at this beautifully carved, though slightly unkempt edifice and took a few pictures and proceeded to the mausoleum of Amir Khusrau.

Shamshad introduced us to Khwaja Naved Pasha Nizami, who was a well informed person since seven generations of his family have been in the service of the Dargah. The soft spoken, Nizami Sahib told us the history of the Dargah. Some parts of his narratives have been included earlier.


Dargah of Hazrat Amir Khusrau

Amir Khusrau’s domed marble tomb was constructed in 1605. Intricate filigreed screens (jali) surround the small room that has a tall tombstone constructed in 1496 by Mehdi Khwaja, a courtier of Emperor Babur. We were told that the screens were originally in red sandstone but were now unfortunately, covered with years and years of paint and whitewash. It is believed that in the early twentieth century, Hasan Nizami, a keeper of the dargah, accidentally scratched the paint in one portion and discovered versified dates in Persian etched on the sandstone. We were told that the effort by the authorities to clean the screen at that time was abandoned because of strong objections from the community. Devotees now tie colourful threads to this screen. Men and women can always be seen sitting around the screen either reading the Quran, or simply praying in silence.

Across the entrance to Amir Khusrau’s tomb is a heavy wooden door leading to an ancient room, claimed to have been constructed in the fourteenth century. The room is usually locked, except for the exclusive special gatherings of the Sufis.


Composition of Allama Iqbal

A wall outside this room has a poem written in calligraphy which has been composed in praise of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia by the Urdu poet Allama Iqbal. Thanks to the kindness of Khwaja Nizami, who very kindly opened the heavy door to this edifice and we were able to see this room.

Just outside the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin, a solitary singer, playing harmonium was reciting the popular composition of Amir Khusrau “Chaap Tilak Sab Cheeni re mose naina milayke”. (You have taken away all my looks, my identity, by just a glance)


Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya

The constant crowd of devotees outside Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dargah is testimony to the devotion that the saint still commands amongst his admirers. We were told that every Thursday, after sunset, qawwals sing the compositions of Amir Khusrau.

While Khwaja Nizami was talking about the unbounded love of the disciple for his Master, I recalled the immortal sequence filmed by one of the best film directors of our times, Gulzar in his TV serial on “Mirza Ghalib”. In the serial, Nawab Jaan comes to Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya to pray for the success of her beloved poet, Mirza Ghalib. Coincidentally, he too had come to the Dargah at the same time to seek the saint’s blessings for his unborn child. Guljar masterly crafted the filming of the ghazal by Ghalib ” Ishq Mujhko Nahin Wahshat hi sahi”.

Khwaja Nizami told us that Shaikh Nizamuddin died in 1325, and his original tomb does not exist any longer. Faridun Khan, a nobleman, built the present structure in 1562-63 during the reign of Emperor Akbar. The area around the tomb of the saint has many large and small tombs that have been built over the centuries since it is considered auspicious to be buried near a saint’s grave.

Very close to the tomb of Amir Khusrau, are two marble screened tombs one of Jahanara, the dutiful daughter of Emperor Shahjahan and the the other of the late Mughal emperor, Muhammad Shah Rangila (1719-48). Princess Jahanara’s grave is covered with grass in accordance with the inscription on it, which says ‘let naught cover my grave save the green grass: for grass well suffices as a covering for the grave of the lowly’.


Jamaat-Khana-Mosque

To the west of Shaikh Nizamuddin’s tomb lies Jamaat Khana Masjid, built of red sandstone. It has three bays, each topped with a low dome. Its arches are fringed with lotus bud carvings as in the arches of the Alai Darwaza in the Qutab Complex. The mosque was built by a son of Sultan Alauddin Khalji and is said to be the oldest structure within the complex.


Baoli

We took leave of Khwaja Nizami and headed for the northern gate of the dargah complex to have a look at the large baoli (pond), the water of which is believed to have healing powers. Shamshad told us an interesting legend associated with the dargah concerning the skirmish between the saint and the first Tughluq king, Ghiyasuddin. Hazrat Nizamuddin was getting the baoli constructed at about the same time as the king was engaged in building his fortress at Tughluqabad. The king forbade his construction workers to work elsewhere, and so they decided to work for the saint at night. This made Ghiyasuddin prohibit the sale of oil to Hazrat Nizamuddin, but the workers found that their lamps could be lit with the water of the baoli!

We then proceeded to the Urs Mahal, where the scholars from all over the country assemble and pay tributes to Hazrat Nizamuddin and his admirable disciple, Amir Khusrau.


Chaunsth Khambe

The tomb of Mirza Aziz Kokiltash, Ataga Khan’s son, built in 1623, is known as Chaunsath Khamba, because, as its name implies, it has sixty-four pillars supporting the roof. You enter through a lofty, arched gateway adjacent to the Ghalib Academy. The Chaunsth Khamba complex located by the side of the Urs Mahal also houses the tombs of some of the eminent personalities of the yester years.


Tomb of Mirza Ghalib

Before calling it a day, we passed by the tomb of Mirza Ghalib, the famous nineteenth century Urdu poet. Mirza Ghalib’s tomb, covered by a small marble structure, is kept locked within the precincts of the Ghalib Academy. The Ghalib Academy has a large library, a book shop, an interesting museum and also has some of the ancient paintings.

Thank you for being with me on this journey through the mystic alleys of Delhi.

81 Comments

  • Jatinder Sethi says:

    Sorry for the wrong name spell.My sincere apologies
    Mr Dhall.

  • Jatinder Sethi says:

    Dear Ram Dall
    I am 6 years too late,but as they say”Deyer Aaiye Per Durust Aaiye”I admire your scholarship and knowledge of our heritage(hope it remains with us)
    . . I only want to show your readers my most favorite couplet of Amir Khusro–no wonder-known as a “TOOTEY HIND”
    In just few simple words he has put in a thought of such great depth.
    ” Khusro Nadiyaa prem kee so ultee behay dhaar
    Jo naa dubaa so dubaa jo” doobaa so paar”

  • Tarun Talwar says:

    Dear Ram Sir,

    After a long time.

    The post is very informative as usual. In the tradition of this series, another place that defines the Delhi culture. Hazrat Nizamuddin and Amir Khusrau are shining gems in my beloved city’s crown. Your prose and the love for Delhi and its traditions make the post even more beautiful.

    The qawwalis on Thursday evening at the dargah are a treat for any sufi music lover and I try to attend whenever I can.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    What a joy hearing from you Jaishree. Though I keep on getting news from Nandan about you and Manish, it’s great to see your response on the re-publication of this post. Please do visit the Dargah at your ease and apprise us all about your views.

    Take care and May God be with you and the family.

  • jaishree says:

    When your story first published in 2008, I expressed my old desire to visit Dargah when Tanmay grows up, who was perhaps 4-5 months old then. He is now 5+ and the desire is still unfulfilled. Not that I traveled any less during these years but somehow it could not happen.
    Republishing of story has rekindled the flame.

    Congratulations for being honoured featured author!

  • Ashok Sharma says:

    very very good post. well researched and beautifully presented.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Ram, as part of ‘Featured Author’ celebration, we are republishing your favourite story. This story has been viewed in excess of 36,000 times and I sincerely hope that it goes much over and beyond. Wishes.

    • Ram Dhall says:

      My grateful thanks to Nandan and the editorial team for re-publishing a story that is very close to my heart. Honestly, I am feeling humbled for your kind gesture.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks for your kind words. It’s an honour hearing from you.

  • m.m. baheti says:

    Very informative and a lot of research has been done by you.I am very much thankful to you for sending me this informative article .

  • ram dhall says:

    Dear Jyoti,

    Thanks for your encouraging words.

  • Jyoti Nair says:

    Sir,

    The information has truly been enriching. The best part has been the way the info has been put forward, in such an interesting manner. No one can start reading and leave it midway.

  • ram dhall says:

    Dear Imran,

    Thanks for liking the post.

  • Imran Khan says:

    Dear Ram Ji… Very descriptive and well written article.. Thank you for your effort enlightment

  • ram dhall says:

    Dear DL,

    I am extemely grateful to you for your very kind words. The fact that you took out time to browse through the series, makes me feel elated.

    Yes, Razia Sultan (she never liked to be addressed as Sultana) was one of the important rulers of the sultanate on account of her vision, liberalism and the tolerance for other religions.

    As you have correctly said, she was buried at a place called “Bulbul-I-Khana” near Tutkmangate in old Delhi. But there have been some conflicting accounts about the site of the burial. After being defeated by Bahram, she and Altunia (whom she married to escape death when she was made prisoner by Altunia) fled Delhi and reached Kaithal. There they fell into the hands of some Jats who robbed and killed them. Some of the historians believe that she was buried at Siwan near Kaithal.

    However, the popular belief is that Delhi is the site of her burial.

    Thanks and warm regards,

    Ram Dhall

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Dear Ramjee

    I have spent a productive hour or so navigating the mystic alleys of Delhi with your knowledgeable presence for company. It was an amazing tour de force of this ancient city. There are so many interesting stories and anecdotes, ranging from the pages of history to the lives of sunday book sellers.

    I believe that in a forgotten corner of Old Delhi, there is the tomb of Razia Sultana, the only woman to become a Sultan of Delhi. I hope that you write about it in your next post.

    Thank you very much, sir, and looking forward to your next article.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Rizwan Bhai,

    Thank you for liking the post.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Narendra ji,

    I am deeply touched by your kind words.

    Please do try to visit Delhi and feel free to write to me for any assistance in Delhi.

  • Narendra says:

    Such a beautiful, lyrical description of the places you described could come from the pen of a person who loved them and lived there. You have made my virtual visit to the shrine of Hazrat Amir Khusrau memorable. Thank you, sir, for such a wonderful guided tour. I do not know if I shall ever be able to visit Delhi, but if I do, I shall certainly go to the shrine, and may be meet you to express my gratitude.

  • Rao Rizwan says:

    your writing put more spark in me to visit the holy shrine. i have already applied for visa through ministry f religious affairs, here in pakistan. now all depends upon embassy of india or on my fortunate.
    however, grateful to you for such valuable services.

    Rao Muhammad Rizwan

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Kulsoom,

    You are one of the lucky fews who get a chance to do this noble service.

    I am glad that the post was to your liking.

  • kulsoom says:

    i have worked as a volunteer in the basti and know exactly how mystical it is.. your article is just what the place is.. relived every moment i spent in the basti again…through your words:)

  • Manish Kumar says:

    I think this is one of the best series I have seen on Ghumakkar. Will soon go through other post of this series.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks for liking the post Imran Bhai.

    Motivation from persons like you, keeps us going on farther.

  • imran says:

    simply awesome, what a beautiful piece of writing, i am impressed the way you described the location. being a great admirer of Hazrat Nizamuddin and Hazrat Amir Khusro, i am thankful to you for giving such a great detail of the place where these two great personalities are buried

  • amitabh says:

    Thank you for a simple yet insightful article.
    i have been in delhi and at the dargah.

    wish it could be made more visitor friendly by its management.
    like any other temple complex in india, it is bit scaring to enter without being guided by someone

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Muhammad,

    Thanks for your very kind and encouraging words.

    Please do keep on visiting us.

  • Muhammad says:

    I really appreciate your journey of discovery and all the pains you took to post it here. When I am there I wont miss to pay my tribute to the great saint and his disciple.

  • Edward says:

    Great article..enjoyed reading it very much…I will be In delhi later on this year..Unfortunately I will not be in Delhi on a Thursday…Is there anywhere else in the Capital where I might be able to enjoy Qawaali..
    Thanks in advance…Edward

  • sheikh adnan says:

    salam for all people
    GOS is great i love u God

  • I have a photograph taken inside the Qula.I.Khulna Masjid built by Sher Shah Suri pictured on your site. Can you tell me more about this structure. i.e. For whom was it built and circa when? Your assistance would be appreciated. Kind regards, Cecilia

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Dear Junaid Bhai,

    Thanks for your very kind comments – this as well as the previous one.

    Undoubtedly, Hazrat Amir Khusro was a rare genius. To the names mentioned by you, I think we may add Leonardo Da Vinci too.

    Please do keep on advising us your valuable views.

  • Mohammad Junaid says:

    Kabhi kabhi khyak aata hay keh ” Aisa aur bhi koi tareekh ke safhon main chupa hua hay ji itni bohat sari khoobion ka akela malik raha ho. Khalil Jibran, Omar Khayam aur Neolion ke naam obhartay hain. Laikin yeh Turkzada in sab se qadAawar hay.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Rizwan Bhai,

    I am deeply touched by your kind words.

    As the Delhiwallas say – Haunsala afzaai ke liye bahut bahut shukriya.

    Please do keep on visiting and apprise us of your valuable views.

  • Rizwan Khan says:

    Dear Sir,

    Believe me, since my childhood, I have visited many times dargah of Hazrat Nizamudding but I did not know details you have mentioned. Thanks a lot. It will help thousands of Delhi walas to understand these great people. I used to listen these lines in a quwali, ‘Badi kathin hein ghatan panghat ki’ when I was a child. I support you whole heartly, please keep it up. We need people like you who can bring our past infront of us. Hope we can start believing and loving each other as in those days as Delhi walas. Salam to you.

  • Ram says:

    Ash,

    Thanks for your very sweet words.

    May God fulfill your wish of visiting India soonest. Should you need any further information, support or assistance, please do feel free to write to us.

  • Ash says:

    Being a the 2nd generation of the migrant parents from india..And now being in Uk for a while..going to india and visit all theseplaces is almost like adream for me.Thanks for the pics and the writeup ..wish i could visit all these places some day.Amen

  • Mohammad Junaid says:

    Aap ki tehrir, tehrir se ziada aik roohani safar hay. Khoobsurat logon ki haseen tareen baatain.
    “kisay yaad rakkhoon kise bhool jaoon”
    Allah kare zor e qalam aur bhi ziada.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Manish,

    Thanks for your kind words. I am glad that the post was to your satisfaction.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Its a splendid piece of article and beautiful comments by so many readers has further increased its value. Its a wonderful experience going through complete post and detailed comments too.
    Thanks Ram uncle.

  • Bindiya says:

    Ram Sir, let me start, as usual, by complimenting you on your ability to provide details in a manner that enables the reader to be able to visualise the monuments and realise their importance.
    I particularly appreciated the fact that you enriched the write up with precious details on the personalities associated with the monuments.
    My father was an ardent fan of urdu poetry and music and I am sure he would have so enjoyed your article. Despite having been someone who enjoys urdu poetry myself, I have rather limited information on the poets, thanks for the enriching account.
    I enthusiastically await more writeups from your end.

  • Navin says:

    Dear Ram Sir,

    The portrayal of such Majectic Monuments in our Beloved Delhi is wonderful. Your articles really help us all a lot in learning more about these marvellous works of history. For example, I’ve been seeing the Sabz Burj almost every day but never knew its Name and Importance, but thanks to your fantastic and meticulous depicription, i now know what it is and what it stands for.

    Thanks and keep writing.

    Regards,
    Navin

  • Celine says:

    Thank you for your kind words Ram.

    Truly, a lifetime isn’t sufficient. To think that in Delhi alone there are more than 170 monuments is something to feel great about!!

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Celine,

    Thanks for your very sweet words. Needless to say that you are yourself a great source of encouragement to many of us. The brilliant narration of your posts is always fascinating.

    Yes, you have very correctly said that with such a treasure of cultural heritage in our country, even a whole life time is not adequate to explore. Even Delhi is full of such monuments. I will try to cover a few lesser known places in the due course.

    Warm regards and God’s blessings.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Jitendra,

    Thanks for your very kind words. Getting such remarks from a scholar of your standing is an honour.

    Yes, I am familiar with your blog sadho.com. Your film festivals sound interesting. Grateful if you would keep us apprised of your activities.

    Warm regards

  • Celine says:

    Nice to know about your interest in Sufi music. I like it too. Your home in between a mazaar and a masjid must have made your childhood days interesting.

    Beautiful pictures here displaying exquisite art and architecture. I recall visiting the tomb of Isa Khan Niyazi situated in the same complex of the Humayan’s Tomb.

    Like others, I too am keen to visit these places associated with the great Sufi poet, philosopher and musician, Amir Khusrau; his master, Nizamuddin; and the other interesting personalities mentioned in your post. Brilliant job Ram. You are opening the eyes of the reader to these interesting places that make up our country’s rich cultural heritage that has so much to offer that a life time is not sufficient to explore it all.

    Thanks for sharing a wealth of information and your personal experience in the mystic alleys of Delhi. Looking forward to the next part.

    PS: While reading this post, I also remembered Tansen, the other musician extraordinaire.

  • Jitendra says:

    Nicely written, informative and moreover enriched with some gems from Khusro’s work.
    Thanks to my friend Rajesh for sending me the link to this page. I am forwarding it further to friends.
    JR

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Dear Sanjay,

    I am deeply touched by your kind remarks. As a matter of fact, some of your words have shaken me to the core of my heart. In this land of Lord Rama, Gautam Budha, Lord Mahavira, Guru Nanak Dev and the Auliyas, where is the place for violence and treachery! But still these things we see, day in and day out. As you have very aptly said Why my friends, why? .

    I can understand that the politicians have their own axe to grind (though questionable), but it is ironical that even the media comes to their aid in helping achieve their goals!!!

    It is very unfortunate that the press has ample time to write about the lowering of the minimum age for serving liquor to the youngsters, legalization of prostitution or the rights of gays and lesbians, rather than talking of the suitable age at which a child be given the basic facilities of clean water six months, two years, ten years or may be sixty years!. I have read today only in a post by Ajeet that at times the villagers have to cover a distance of over 40 Kms to fetch a match box. Who is bothered about the plight of such sufferers!!

    Anyhow lets talk about Khusrau. I think you can add couple of other good combinations who have done a great service to the Indian literature Ghalib/ Begum Akhtar, Ghalib/ Jagjit Singh, who have virtually brought Mirza Ghalib to the common households.

    Yes, Sanjay we are happy to welcome you to the blog and shall be further delighted if you take out some time to share your experiences with us.

    Warm regards

  • sanjay says:

    dear ram,

    you have done extensive service here. it is amazing that delhi has such a fortunate history of hosting sufi giants such as aulia and khusrau (it may be assumed that khusrau’s writing are profoundly influenced by the philosophy of Aulia) as its very own citizens and is yet considered as intolerant and a distinct violence pervades its cultural fabric. ever wondered why?

    if only citizens of this city were more acquainted with the history and tradition their very own soil emits, absorbs and glows with. but how can they be? perhaps with such write ups for one. if only those FM idiots could give us some real reasons to be proud of “saddi” delhi. or those supplements of delhi based national dailies, which exhort you to be proud of delhi because of some wannabe fashion designers and the guests who attended their parties with snaps of dresses they wore. does one see and understand the magnitude of this tragedy? that radio stations and supplements dedicated to a city have never taken cognisance of the delhi that ram shows us? that people who write and speak on delhi are people who cant write a straight sentence in any language?

    Khusrau is a delight. he is easily our very own da vinci. one wonders what he didnt do and did not do well. it is said he was the one who modified the mridangam to make a dhol and from thence the tabla. so with sitar from veena. we ascribe khadi boli as his invention.

    if there is one person who does exemplary service to khusrau it is undoubtedly nusrat sab.if khusrau imagined and desired the qawwali to attain trance states in the the performer and the listener, then nusrat achieves it with aplomb. be it man kunto maulo or chaap tilak. indeed lesser performers when seen and heard live also rely, apart from the rythm of the qawwali form, on the substance of khusraus words. khusrau and nusrat, is perhaps as rare and divine a combination as khusrau and Aulia. and all this is simple. qawwali lends easily to the ear. its classicism is not heavy on the laymman either. yet it languishes in a city where it could attain the highest form.

    why anyone why?

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks Geetha. Your sweet words are always very encouraging. Getting such comments from you is an honour.

    God Bless You

    Rajesh,

    Your very sweet remarks always enthuse and encourage me immensely. I am glad that you found the post satisfactory.

    About the blending of the rich Persian language and the Awadhi, I shall be grateful if you would see my response to Aparna ji.

    Rajiv,

    Thank you very much for your kind and generous remarks. I too am an ardent admirer of Hazrat Amir Khusrau. This post has been written from the point of view of a visitor to the shrine and I have made this humble submission describing what I saw, observed and was very kindly told by some of the learned persons at the Dargah Sharif.

    As Rajesh has said in his comments Amir Khusraus teachings have the power to heal the wounds conferred upon us in these sensitive times and as you have aptly said Let the Ganga-Jamuni sweetness prevail over the bitterness. Amen.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Subash ji,

    I am deeply touched by your kind remarks. I am glad that you would like to visit the shrine along with your grand daughters. After the visit to the Dargah, please do walk down to Dastarkhwan-e, Karim the best Mughlai restaurant in the town, located at a few paces from the shrine and savour some of the delicacies. You will find it a good experience.

    Ruqaiya,

    I am very grateful to you for informative additions.

    Please do keep on visiting us and sharing your experiences.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Subhash Bhai,

    I am glad that the post revived the memories of the good old days.

    Yes, I do remember having met Ali Sher, the Golf Champion at Grindlays Bank, your shows as well as at the Golf Club.

    Ever since you migrated to Hyderabad, Hamaara To Theatre World se Naata Hi Toot Gaya.

    May be the next time when you come to Delhi, on a Thursday evening we would endeavour to attend the Qawwali session and visit the Ghalib Academy.

    Mohit,

    Thank you for your most kind words.

    Please do keep on sharing your views with us.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Aparna ji,

    I am overwhelmed to the extent that I am just not in a position to find suitable words to express my gratitude.

    Getting such kind words from a scholar of your standing could be a great honour for anyone.

    I am a very humble and simple person. Aapki Zarra Nawaji ke aapne mujh naacheez ko miskinon mein shumaar kiya hai.

    Shabaan-e- hijraan daraaz chun zulf o roz evaslat, chun umar kohtaah
    Sakhi, piya ko jo main na dekhoon, to kaise katoon andheri ratiyan”

    (The nights of separation are long as the dark tresses of my beloved,
    While the day of rendezvous is as short as the life itself, /
    How can I, O Sakhi (female friend), spend the dark and desolate night without seeing my beloved.)

    (Translation by Respectful Dr. Zoya Zaidi)

    Well thats the beauty of Hazrat Amir khusro First line of the couplet is pure Persian, while the other is in Khari Boli.

    Please do keep on visiting us.

  • Dear Ram,
    Thanks for another informative and lucid post. Reading it refreshed the chapter on Amir Khusro learnt many moons ago. He is so much more relevant in the current times and circumstances. Sufism is inherently a tranquil practice, one in which surrender of one’s self is central.
    On verses, I am a huge fan of Nusarat and Rahat Fateh Ali Khans. While on the topic I would recommend ‘tumhe dillagi bhul…’ by NFAK.
    I am a prouder Awadhi today. It is so heartening to note that the sweet and warm dialect is living on in Qawwalis and Ramcharitmanas.
    Let the Ganga-Jamuni sweetness prevail over bitterness and Siwaiyan of Eid continue to be part of the Diwali festivities. Looking forward to next from you.

  • Deepak says:

    Dear Ram sir,

    Thanks for the timely info ,z out for a couple of days ,couldnt write..

    Ruqaiya,

    Thanks for the info,

  • Subash Kapor says:

    Dear Mr Ram
    How easily you have generated interest in a topic whose existence lot of us even fail to notice. I myself have crossed the area of Nizamuudin many times but was never excited enough to notice the historical importance of the place. Today, I promise that before my granddaughters leave Delhi (they are here for another six months or so), I’ll take them to such places so as not to have any regrets later. ‘Mystic alleys of Delhi’ needs continuation so as to generate interest in lesser moratls like us.
    Subash Kapoor

  • Ruqaiya says:

    Dear DEEPAK,

    I m here to tell u why normally people visit there on Thursdays n why this prog also takes place on thursday ? its jst bcoz in islam Friday is the most imp day and as a islamic point of view the day starts jst after the sunset and this thing Ram uncle(the great) had already told u and 1 thing is also there that in Islam, muslims believe that 1 day will come, which is known as the day of judgement and most probably the day of “QAYAMAT” and that day will be Friday and muslims prophet and their god also like this day thats d reason.

    anything u want to ask related to this, u can ask.

  • Subhash Gupta says:

    Dear Ram Bhai,

    You took me down memory lane when I staged a short play on Ghalib in the academy some three decades ago under IPTA on his anniversary. The same day I had visited other places in the area, fainting memory of which is now freshened by you fascinating post.

    To be an audiance to the Sufiana recitles has always been mismerising effect which remains for days, you know it better. Your post has transcended me to one of such recitles I attended in the past.

    Though I several times visited the place with my friend Ali Sher (two time India Open Golf Chamipion and Arajun Awardee) who lives just a stone away, but most of the time it was in the nights to drop him back. I now regret why didn’t I took time off to visit these places with exclusive purpose of seeing them.

    Warm regards

    Subhash

  • Geetha Saravanan says:

    Ah ! One more gem of a story… Its amazing where you find these subjects and the wealth of information on them too.
    Wonderful experience accompanying you all through it!

  • aparna srivastava reddy says:

    Its a great piece…. or shall I say ‘peace’.

    Khusrau is the ulimate symbol, zenith and genesis of the ganga-jamuni tehzeeb that stands for the best in modern India.

    Being from the old city, I loved the descriptions and the feel they generated.

    And the introduction is both brilliant and touching.

    je haal-e-miskin….

    cheers from one miskin to another.

    its always a great feeling finding more of the ilk

    aps

  • Mohit Kumar says:

    Dear Sir,

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful knowledge with us. After reading this post I am feeling really unlucky because I have born in Delhi and till today have not visited such an important place of a great personality. But now I feel that with in the 20 minutes have gone through the entire place. I am planning to visit this place very soon. This is the beauty of your articles that the viewers feel as they are physical their among the hole post. As per my view it is due to the realistic photographs and the fine details of the post.

    Great work once again please keeps it on Sir. Eagerly waiting for the next informative post.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Patrick,

    I am glad that the bitter memories of the past have been taken care of. Honestly, I also experienced the similar pestering, though thanks to Shamshads company, this experience was short enough to command a mention.

    Thank you for the sweet remarks.

    Cuckoo,

    Your words are as sweet as your name.

    May God bless you and your family.

    Akshaya,

    I am glad that you liked the post.

    Thank you for adding Chaap Tilak, which happens to be my favourite composition too.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Jatinder,

    I read your kind remarks in the morning, before starting for the office.

    My first reaction was – You have made my day.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences of the yester years and for reviving our memories of the good old college days.

    Patrick Jasper / Deepak Mohapatra: Thank you for your kind words.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Nandan,

    Your words are very kind and encouraging. As a matter of fact, I am lucky to be around and sharing my thoughts with you all. Its Gods mercy that my humble submissions are to the satisfaction of some of the visitors.

    Deepak,

    I am deeply touched by your generosity.

    I am glad that my post has drawn your attention to the Dargah Sharif.

    About the specific timings, I have given the information in my response to Arun. Addressing your other query, I think Friday being the most auspicious day (like Tuesdays in Hindus), the religious activities get a special mention on that day. Incidentally, as per the lunar calendar (which is followed in most of the Islamic Nations), the date changes immediately after the sunset. Accordingly, at sunset on Thursday the date changes and the night of the Thursday is called Juma-e raat. Hence the Qawwali sessions start at around 6.30 P.M. onwards.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Arun,

    Thanks for your sweet words.

    The rendition of Qawwalis starts every Thursday evening at around 6.30 P.M. at the compound outside the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.

    As submitted by me in the post, The Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusrau is celebrated on the seventeenth day of ID Ul Fitr, which happens to be October 18, 2008. The session will start at around 10.00 P.M. and goes until the early hours of the next morning. The venue for this will be Khwaja Hall, close to the Dargah.

    On October 19, 2008, there will be a Seminar attended by few scholars, who would talk about the works of Hazrat Amir Khusrau. There will also be an exposition of some of the musical instruments developed by him.

    Please do feel free in case you require any further information.

    Venkat,

    Thanks for visiting and your very kind remarks.

    I am in total agreement with what you have said about the universality of the human spirit.

    Also my grateful thanks to you for the advice of submitting a post on the Persian influence on the Indian and the sub-continental literature and the architecture.
    I would endeavour to make an attempt.

  • Rajesh Kumar says:

    First of all, I express my heartfelt happiness and a sense of nostalgia that you have created in this simple and intriguing trip through the narrow by-lanes of Delhis history. Right from my childhood, I have kept and maintained a keen interest in Khusraos writings, I prefer to call them transcendental verses. This because he has so elegantly amalgamated the rich Persian language with the sweetness of Awadhi.

    I have grown-up listening to his renditions of the famed composition Chhaap tilak innumerable times. Amir Khusrao has not only been a writer class apart but also a true Sufi saint.

    Your well-researched works succeeds in taking me back in time and vicariously experience the blending of multi-cultural ethos emblematic to Khusrao. I support you whole-heartedly for bringing up the historical chapter that fits so rightly in the present circumstances. Amir Khusraos teachings have the power to heal the wounds conferred upon us in these sensitive times.

  • akshaya says:

    Seems like some portions of my earlier comments were not published properly since they were Hindi (fonts problem??).

    Here is the poem again:-
    Chhap tilak taj dinhi re tose naina milaike
    Baat atham keh dinhi re tose naina milaike
    Prem bhati ka madva pilaike
    Matvali kar dinhi re mose naina milaike
    Gori gori baiyan, hari hari churiyan
    baiyan pakar dhar linhi re mose naina milaike
    Bal bal jaoon main tore rang rajva
    Apni si kar linha re mose naina milaike
    Khusro Nij?m ke bal bal jaiye
    Mohe suhagan kinha re mose naina milaike
    Baat atham keh dini re mose naina milaike

  • akshaya says:

    A very good post. For a person like me who is a regular visitor to these shrines, this is like walking through those lanes once more. Thanks for writing it in so much detail with those pictures.

    Amir Khusrow is a legend and the greatest reward for him has been his own tomb so close to a Saint like Hazrat Nizzamudin.

    Here, I would to write one of my favorite poems of his:-
    ??? ???? ?? ???? ?? ???? ???? ???????
    ????? ??? ?? ???? ???????
    ?????? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ???????
    ???? ???? ?????, ??? ??? ????????
    ????? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ???????
    ?? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??? ????
    ???? ?? ??? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ???????
    ????? ????? ?? ?? ?? ???
    ???? ?????? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ???????
    ??? ???? ?? ???? ?? ???? ???? ???????

  • Cuckoo says:

    Waah ! What a post on the auspicious day !! You are an institution of writing at ease and teaching us all.

    The pictures look live and the type we see elsewhere.

    Thanks for sharing. Waiting for the next one now.

  • JATINDER SETHI says:

    EID KA DIN HAI, MUBARAK HO,RAM, for bringing alive Khusro, the creator of Hind Bhasha,as A llama Iqbal has said on the door (your photograph) :Hind ka Data hai tu””and later on picked up by poets like Mir and Ghalib.I remember I used to live in Nizamuddin East, just before the station ,in mid-fifties, when I was doing M.A. from Delhi University., and most of us at that time(known as India Coffee House crowd) were deeply into urdu poetry and suffism.And visits to Auliyas, on Friday nights used to be almost must.But recently, the visits are for eating at Karim etc(shame though).
    It was a difficult subject (Kathan) but you have enthused fresh life .
    I wonder if I can write this correctly in Roman, but Ill,anyway put it down

    :’ bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki,
    kaisay main bhar laaun madhava say matki
    Paniya bharan ko main jo gayi thi,
    daud jhapat mori matki patki
    bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki
    Khusrau nirjaam kay bal bal jayije
    laaj rakho more ghoongat ki.”

    I can still recall Qwals singing these at the mazar.
    Like an old man, I can onlyu go back in time–but what great times.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Although the intention wasnt exactly sightseeing I went near the dargah years back. Intimidated by the aggressive flower-sellers, fled the place in a hurry. Had no idea then that so much beauty lies within those walls surrounded by dingy lanes swarming with people.

    You have polished such forgotten jewels and showed us its worth. It erased the bitter memories!

  • patrick jasper says:

    What a post! The pictures are also fantastic. Waiting for part to of teh post on hazrat Nizamudin.

  • Deepak says:

    Dear Ram,

    Thanks for writing this I would say its a very colourful
    and the same way its shown in yashraj movies for eg fanaa,
    Jhoom barabar jhoom ..Etc
    i pass this place twice everyday .. while going and coming back from my office in mathura road

    but after reading your post ,now i will stop and visit it for sure
    can you please tell are there any specific timings for sufi devotional music
    at Thursdays at the Dargah?,normally people visit on thursdays ,any specific significance
    once again thanks for writing for apnii Delhii

  • Deepak Mohapatra says:

    i feel very good and after reading i and shall plan to move to visit all these places.
    Also i thank to Mr.Ram Dhall for his hard and sincere efforts to prepare such type of documents.

    i feel very much intresting about the kabali chapter.

    Dear RamSaheb i am requesting please keep up your such journeys always. Deepak Mohapatra

  • nandanjha says:

    Eid-Mubarik Ram.

    What a post. I sincerely hope that the text of your posts is used to educate more people. We are simply lucky to be around. Splendid.

  • Venkat says:

    Ram,
    The article is well researched and informative.
    The sufiana kalam has been revived extensively by quawali experts like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Sabri brothers. In India too this style of music is becoming popular and, in view of the fundamentalists rearing their heads, all the more relevant as sufis speak of the universality of the human spirit.
    I feel your next article should be on the persian influence, particularly on beauty aesthetics and spirits!! Keep it up.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Terence,

    I am totally overwhelmed. Your remarks have been very kind and generous.

    And thank you very much for annexing the enlightening composition of Simon and Garfunkel.

  • Arun says:

    sounds tempting.. thanks for the write-up. Earlier this month, gave a brief visit to Hazrat Nizamuddin on a Friday, hoping to find some Qawwalis, but did not. May be I should call you for help next time I am in Delhi :)

  • Terence says:

    Dear Ram,
    BRILLIANT!

    The introduction was superb and so simple/simply down to earth.
    And from that simple childhood throwback, you lead us through a fascinating education.
    I liked the local photographs as well as the fact that it is amazing how, sitting in Delhi, most common folks like me, get to learn so much about the place.

    Till such time as we read from you, we are like the people in the song by Simon & Garfunkel (Sound of Silence) http://www.ladynwavs.com/soundofsilence.html

    People talking without speaking
    People hearing without listening

    I would beg to deviate and say “People seeing without observing”

    Thanks and God Bless!

    To more and more from you!
    Cheers!
    Terry.

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