Thursday, 4 July 2013

Hazrat Nizamuddin: Qawwali, Sufism and Faith

On a Thursday evening I finally decided to unplug myself from all my gadgets and decided to pay obeisance at Delhi’s famous Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, mausoleum of one of the world's most renowned Sufi saints, Nizamuddin Auliya. I did not have a particular prayer on my lips but was simply curious to visit the pious place also famous for its Qawwali. The highlight of the evening – the Qawwali by two sufi singers happens every Thursdays. Under the open skies, they sang till nine that evening.

The cavernous lanes to the dargah was dotted with vendors selling religious offerings. We got ourselves pre-assembled disposable plates neatly stacked with incense sticks, rose petals and ittar (natural perfumed oil). Of course, we bought the Chadar too (available in all varieties - heavily embroidered in brocades or plain ones with gota trimmings). The chadars had religious scriptures painted on them and is offered only by men at the shrine. Two sets of these plates and a Chadar costed us Rs 180. The young sellers could gauge that we were first-timers and Hindus. They were kind enough to apprise us of the procedure inside the dargah.

A glimpse of the compound

We paved our way to the shrine and are greeted by hundreds of devotees, beautiful Persian poetry, Mughal-style cut glass chandeliers, the intangible Sufi culture and sonorous quals -utterances (of the prophet) in the incense-scented air. Truly a magical Mehfil-e-Sama, where all you want to do is find a place on the floor and sway along with the singers. In fact, the chaste renditions of the popular Ali More Angana and Dama Dam Mast Kalandar made us smile in surprise. The tablas and harmoniums reverberated in the closed compounds bringing alive the whirling dervishes in our hearts – all at the same time.

Interestingly the shrine is also visited by a large number of Hindus and Christians. The moment I along with my partner got a bit clueless, we had someone from the crowd or the management helping us with the right directions. He went inside the dargah to offer the chadar and I was asked to stand outside and say my prayers. I caught a glimpse of the proceedings from the carved marble panels. There were a million of red sacred threads (mannat ka dhaga) tied to the cutouts on these panels. We were also urged to buy this “kalawa” before entering the shrine by some vendors at the entrace – talk about judging a person’s religion by just looking at their faces!

For the purpose of pictorial representation

I wore a salwar kameez with dupatta over my head and my partner too used a kerchief to cover his head. We mingled with the crowd with slight inhibitions, but it was probably just our concerns. There was nothing in the atmosphere that was meant to unnerve us. We soaked up the positive vibes and powerful calls of the muezzin and felt very much at peace – we couldn’t decipher a word though!

I definitely want to visit this dargah again, not for some soul-searching sojourn, but for pure enchantment of the senses. It’s a place where a medley of emotions run in high spirits – some thanking the almighty, some seeking blessings for a new journey and a few craving peace in their silent mourning.

Travel Tips:
* It is located in the Nizamuddin West area near Humayun’s Tomb. The shrine gets crowded on Thursdays.
* Footwear is not allowed inside – many shopkeepers will volunteer to keep these for you in lieu of a tip (not compulsory). I recommend you to wear socks.
 Parking is a problem. It’s advisable to park some distance away and walk.
 Always cover your heads in the prayer areas. Though it is not required if you are in the compound for the performance.


  1. Wow, gud to know of the procedures. Always wanted to visit this place but sill not got a chance.

  2. The place has all the reasons for enchantment---Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah along Mirza Ghalib's Mazaar...And yes Karims too is there..Na koi Janazaa uth ta na kahin mazaar hota...And yes,

  3. @anonymous, I agree with u!