August 16, 2012

Dargah Dhaula Peer, Saket, Delhi

"O son of Adam, you will die alone and enter the tomb alone and be resurrected alone, and it is with you alone that the reckoning will be made! Be with this world as if you had never been here, and with the Otherworld as if you would never leave it."
– Hasan al-Basri, 7th-century Persian preacher-theologian

Lying curled up in bed, researching the annals of medieval Delhi’s history, smoke curling around in wisps at the end of the cigarette whose grey-speckled ash tail is already dangling too long, one cannot occasionally help but reflect upon repetitively about how many of the city’s existential myths and documented architectural and cultural heritage trace in one form or another their origins to the legendary 14th-century feud that assumed gigantic proportions between the benevolent mystical Chishti Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin and the megalomaniac ruthless Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (reign AD 1320-25). It is of course well documented that Ghiyasuddin’s son Muhammad Juna Khan (reign AD 1325-51) and nephew Feroz Shah (reign AD 1351-88) revered the dervish saint and had commissioned numerous structural and artistic additions to the latter’s mausoleum complex (refer Pixelated Memories - Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah). It has also been repeatedly conjectured that the conspiratorial and ambitious Muhammad Tughlaq might have himself orchestrated, under influence of the wordsmith saint, the accident whereby a canopy pavilion collapsed upon his father and younger brother Mahmud Khan and claimed both their lives.

Desolation! - Dargah Hazrat Dhaula Peer

But one often wonders what about the other members of the Tughlaq clan and the extended Qaraunah Turk brotherhood – what did they think about this all-engulfing clash between religion and regime? What sides did they choose and why? Apparently, a piece, unarguably miniscule, of this historic jigsaw puzzle is camouflaged in plain sight as a mediocre decrepit structure that not many would bother to grace with a second glance in the very shadow of Sultan Ghiyasuddin’s bewilderingly colossal fortress complex (refer Pixelated Memories - Tughlaqabad) which has since then been accusatorily rendered as being the notorious root cause of the said extraordinary quarrel even though the latter itself is celebrated and even esteemed in religious and contemporaneous literature, folk lore and bardic traditions. Close to Lado Serai Crossing, in the immediate vicinity of some of the most renowned monuments that dot the city’s verdant beautiful landscape, including the majestic Qutb Complex and the lush, architecturally prominent Mehrauli Archaeological complex, exists the small, long forgotten, perennially ignored, sacred mausoleum ("Dargah") that also lends its name to the little known bus stand adjacent – Dhaula Peer.


Hazrat Makhdum Sheikh Haidar “Dhaula Peer” happened to be another nephew of Sultan Ghiyasuddin who too, enchanted by Hazrat Nizamuddin’s engaging sermons and insistent emphasis on brotherhood, compassion and religiosity, became his disciple. He quit both the royal palace and the lavish lifestyle and chose instead to earn his livelihood through honest permissible business as prescribed by Islamic jurisprudence (“Sharia”) – for the purpose, he set up a modest soap factory and within no time, through his proficiency and business acumen, rose to become a leading soap merchant-manufacturer who nonetheless continued to frequently attend to the saint and also philanthropically contribute to noble causes. Besides his near-constant immersion in prayers and devotions, his pilgrimages (“Hajj”) to Mecca and the eminent scholarship of Islamic jurisprudence and religious legalities he professed to, he was also renowned for his insistence on always being attired in unblemished white, which earned him the sobriquet “Dhaula Peer” (“White Mystic”). Upon his demise in AD 1357, his grandson Muhammad Kabir commissioned a remarkably simplistic square mausoleum to shelter his mortal remains at the exact same location where he contentedly spent most of his adult life.

The structure, illustrious of Tughlaq no-frill architecture focusing essentially on bare functionality while entirely ignoring ornamentation and artistic superiority, is an elegantly simplistic chamber surmounted by an unusually massive, slightly oblong dome. As in life so in death, the Sufi’s shrine is drenched in spotless white and bears no adornment except the beautifully subdued minimalist highlights in red and blue paint and the huge golden finial that rests, crown-like, upon the large dome.


The interiors too are equally evocatively unsophisticated and the only decoration, besides the golden-brown copper-gilt chandelier that is suspended over the green-shrouded grave, are the framed posters of Islamic religious calligraphy and numerous photographs of the hallowed shrine of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer (Rajasthan) who established the Chishti sect of Sufi saints in India.

On either side, the mausoleum is flanked by a functional mosque-madrasa (Islamic seminary) complex and a twelve-pillared, flat-roofed pavilion (“Baradari”) where recline and share news and gossip the aged visitors to the mosque at almost all times of the day. The arid tract of land around the mausoleum, as if attempting to obliterate all signs of its sacredness, is pockmarked with a well, a few decrepit graves and the remains of old cycles and broken furniture. Considering the devout Islamic belief that the mausoleum of a holy man accords sanctity to the entire area surrounding it, especially surprising is the relatively fewer number of graves and the absence of thick covers of vegetation and foliage around the shrine. The shrine itself very nearly disappears from sight when viewed from the perennially crowded arterial Mehrauli-Badarpur road opposite – one cannot help but imagine that the evasive saint-prince still prefers his reclusive isolation.

The associated mosque - A straightforward religious affair

Location: Mehrauli-Badarpur Road, 700 meters from Lado Serai crossing in the direction of Tughlaqabad/Badarpur
Nearest Metro station: Saket (400 meters away)
Nearest Bus stop: Dhaula Peer
Nearest Railway station: Tughlaqabad
How to reach: All the buses plying on MB Road stop at Dhaula Peer. Alternately, walk from Lado Serai crossing/Saket metro station.
Entrance fees: Nil
Photography/Video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 20 min
Other monuments/landmarks located in the immediate vicinity - 
  1. Pixelated Memories - Ahinsa Sthal
  2. Pixelated Memories - Azim Khan's Tomb
  3. Pixelated Memories - Mehrauli Archaeological Park
  4. Pixelated Memories - Qutb Complex
  5. Pixelated Memories - Tughlaqabad - Adilabad - Nai-ka-Kot Fortress complex
Other prominent Tughlaq-era monuments in Delhi - 
  1. Pixelated Memories - Begumpur Masjid
  2. Pixelated Memories - Feroz Shah Kotla
  3. Pixelated Memories - Hauz Khas Complex
  4. Pixelated Memories - Khirki Masjid
  5. Pixelated Memories - Satpula

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