Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Ruhani Sojourn

"Gori sove sej par, mukh par daare khes.
Chal khusro ghar aapne, saanjh bhai chanhu des."

Nestled at the heart of alleys bustling with religious books, flowers and chaadar for worship, food shops to feed the lesser privileged, and beggars hauling you from all sides is one of the most inspiringly spiritual places in all of Delhi- The Dargah of Khwaja Nizam-ud-din Auliya. Whether you visit his dargah with the faith of a devotee, or the curiosity of an explorer- the unmistakable aura in the air flowing through its sacred precincts will touch you in a pleasantly memorable way. Each visit of mine to this dargah has been a mystic experience. Here, I've always experienced tranquility and clarity of thoughts; and an urge to explore the ruhaniyat experienced in Auliya's presence a little more. 

Hazrat Khwaja Syed Nizam-ud-din Auliya was a sufi mystic belonging to the Chishti Silsila (meaning a chain or lineage) of Sufism, the other known name from the same silsila being that of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer Shareef fame.In Delhi Nizam-ud-din Auliya is arguably the most venerated sufi peer, with the largest list of devotees thronging his dargah each day of the week, at all hours of the day. My luck was shining bright the day I made my first visit to his dargah. While I was lost in the magnificent golden hues which reflect off the dome of the main shrine, some enamouring sufi music greeted my eager ears, and I squatted down for close to two hours on the cold marble floor of its courtyard, soaking in the beauty of the whole atmosphere. Maati ke tum deevare, jo suno hamari baat...

One of the gravest anomalies in my life is that I have not found myself touched by spirituality or divinity in the slightest measure. That was precisely the reason why I explored the whole courtyard of Auliya's dargah with a childlike curiosity and amazement. I was informed of Auliya's almost filial love for his mureed, Amir Khusrau, the last in the line of great peers to have consecrated our land with their presence. Auliya willed that a devotee first pay obeisance at Khusrau's dargah (lying in the same complex) before he proceeded to worship at his own shrine- such was his love for his devoted student. Sufi diaries are filled with fables of  the interactions between Auliya and Khusrau. The dance of dervishes first manifests in one of such fable. Listening to these fables in an erudite company while staring at humble heads bowing down in prayer at Auliya's doorstep is an experience I may not be able to put fairly to words.

I do distinctly remember this very fair, middle aged lady, dressed in a rich black fabric, sitting on the right side of the main shrine from my first visit to the dargah. She had her forehead pressed to the wall lining the inner sanctum on which were engraved some religious words in Arabic script which I obviously could not decipher. Upon close scrutiny I realized that she is mumbling something. On closer scrutiny I realized that she is cring softly, huge beads trickling down her cheeks. I checked myself immediately, for it felt grotesque to be intruding in someone's personal moment of connection with her Lord. But I did settle down myself near her. She was reciting one of the chapters of Quran, the Sura-e-yaseen. Did I say reciting? No, she was singing it in a lovely husky but muffled voice, stopping only to kiss the Arabic calligraphy decorating the wall. I sat for almost as long as she did, listening intently to her, not understanding a word, but experiencing something overwhelming. The last thing I remember from that day is some tears in my own eyes before I left the sacred courtyard.

Ever since, I do feel overwhelmed when I visit this dargah. Devotion, faith, amity, honesty, miseries, smiles, desires, gratitude, divinity-all of these are palpable in the very air of this place. Since spirituality is not my domain, I end up shedding soft tears, sometimes in confusions, at others in relief when there. Each time, it is an overwhelming, yet liberating experience of its own kind. There is so much still for me to understand about things which are not easily perceivable. The only thing I understand as of now is that Auliya preached a message of love, patience, tolerance and secularism while he was making his important contributions to our city's rich history around 13th century AD. Tolerance and patience are virtues I am attempting to imbibe in. Love is what I make sure to carry within myself each moment the way Auliya and other sufi mystics preached it. When it is to that love that one surrenders, the peace and bliss we so yearn for can be the only natural thing to follow.

Do visit the Nizam-ud-din dargah complex if you still have not. There are lot of other historically significant sites in the vicinity, more on which I would perhaps write later.

Sultan-ul-Mashaikh Nizam-ud-din Auliya's mysticism is all that has charmed an amateur Delhi explorer's quill as of now.

1. The couplet at the beginning was composed by Amir Khusrau at the time of Auliya's demise. Succinctly, yet hauntingly it captures Khusrau's crestfallen state when his object of devotion had escaped from his mortal body.
2. Sultan-ul-Mashaikh is an epithet for Nizam-ud-din Auliya, often used as a prefix before his name. It toughly translates as the "King of spiritual guides".
3. A rickshaw ride from the Jangpura Metro Station on the purple line is what you would need to have your own personal rendezvous with Delhi's greatest sufi peer, and also his mureed.


  1. His Sense of humor was amazing, check this out.

    रात समय वह मेरे आवे। भोर भये वह घर उठि जावे॥
    यह अचरज है सबसे न्यारा। ऐ सखि साजन? ना सखि तारा॥
    नंगे पाँव फिरन नहिं देत। पाँव से मिट्टी लगन नहिं देत॥
    पाँव का चूमा लेत निपूता। ऐ सखि साजन? ना सखि जूता॥
    this is a wonderful piece of puzzle poetry by Amir Khusro, describing conversation between two gals, here narrator talks about her lover and the shyness and humility won't let her admit that she is talking about the beloved one.

    for example --

    शोभा सदा बढ़ावन हारा। आँखिन से छिन होत न न्यारा॥
    आठ पहर मेरो मनरंजन। क्यों सखि साजन? ना सखि अंजन॥

    In simple hindi --

    jinke sparsh se nikhar nikhar jaun
    ek kshan naa nayano se dur paun
    har jagta pal jiske ke liye pagal,
    "kyon sakhi sajan?",
    naa Saheli, ye mera Kajal

    This kind of poetry is called Murkiyan and is considered as one of the base-stone to Indian poetry

    Salute to founding father of hindavi or hindi as we know today.

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful biographic post

  2. i really need to explore the city in which I have lived since the day I was born. Your blog inspires me to do that. You never know I'll force you to come along with me in my exploration and your re-visits. Beautifully written!!!

  3. @nuktaa
    I must thank you copiously for sharing such wonderful pieces of Khusrau's poetry, along with that information on "murkiyan". Honestly, I am a novice when it comes to the royal world of Hindi poetry, but whatever couplets of Khusrau I have read, I have thoroughly enjoyed. Your comment inspires me to read more of his poetry. In total agreement with you, salute to the founding father of Hindavi, and also an ardent propagator of secularism in Delhi and adjoining areas.

  4. @Vrinda
    Finally, a compliment on my writing. Thanks!!!!
    And ab toh I have a fair idea of things around Delhi, so we can go exploring whenever you are back here. My next stop is Mehrauli. I want to see the Qutub complex, Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki's dargah and Ghalib's haveli. Will tell you my experience at these places too :)

  5. @Anonymous
    I think I know who you are. Thanks :)

  6. You are not that lazy as u tell me to be:P...Ghoomti kam ho...par jahan bhi jati ho..achi jagah jati ho;)
    Sigh....this was a beautiful post. Honestly Im still thinking the kind of relationship we two share with each other and I hope it only grows and matures.
    You are a cauldron filled with plenitude of emotions that I cannot even name, for I havent even acknowledged them all. More so its ur writing which give me a glimpse into you, every now and then. So it helps:)
    these words of urs :" There is so much still for me to understand about things which are not easily perceivable". well..I think this will stand true forever. Clarity is something perhaps we should not always aim for, for some things are meant to be vague and that's the way that is.

    More on my kinda spirituality sometime soon....till then. tkcr:)

  7. PS: pls kisi din Nizamuddin Auliya saath mein chalte hain??

  8. @Aakriti
    My company is usually more than awesome to take me to all these awesome places. In fact, today I made a stop at perhaps the oldest dargah in Delhi and it was such a serene experience.

    I am game for going to Auliya's dargah with you. In fact, there is a lot to explore in it's vicinity too. I shall plan soon. And then lets have a ruhani experience together. Looking forward to it.

    PS-Since I am not allowed to venture out in the evenings, I am telling you this. If you can manage, go to Auliya's dargah on Thursday evening. A nice qawwali mehfil is set up, much to the delight of curious amateurs like us. All the required information about the route and what all to see there I shall give you.

    Much love!

    1. You have been tagged.. Do visit http://jbabel.blogspot.com/2012/01/tag-and-some-things-about-me.html.. Hope u wil do the tag..Thanks.. Cheers

  9. Thanks Jyoti! I was waiting for this. I will definitely do the tag.
    :) :) :)