June 06, 2013

Amir Khusro & his Tomb, New Delhi

An analysis of Khusro's devotion to Hazrat Nizamuddin, the patron saint of Delhi, his service to the several sultans of Delhi, his major works & contribution to Indian literature & music scene. This article is part of the series about Nizamuddin Dargah Complex, New Delhi (refer Pixelated Memories - Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah)

Dedication - This post is dedicated to Sunidhi Trivedi, one of the most beautiful girls I know & a gentle soul, whose very presence in my life is the reason why I am aware of Khusro's verses. If it wasn't for her, those verses would have had remained mere words for me. 700 years after Khusro passed away, I still resort to his refined words about affection & respect whenever I feel my own are failing me.


Amir Saif-ud-din Balkhi lived with his family & friends in Central Asia where he rose to become the leader of his tribe, the “Lachin”. Living under the shadow of recurrent Mongol attacks, the family was perpetually afraid for their life & property & decided to migrate to the relatively calm lands of India. At that time, a very intelligent & very generous Sultan named Shamshuddin Iltutmish ruled over India. Iltutmish provided shelter to the dislodged princes, artisans, scholars and rich nobles. Saif-ud-din was appointed as a high official in Iltutmish's court where Saif-ud-din was able to meet the high & mighty. After Iltutmish's death, his successors retained Saif-ud-din & in court he struck a chord with Imad-ul-Mulk Rawat Arz, a powerful warlord & the commander of several thousand men (& later a war minister in the court of Ghiyasuddin Balban (ruled AD 1266-86)). Saif-ud-din soon married Rawat’s daughter & they had three sons – Aiza-ud-din Ali Shah, Hisam-ud-din & Abul Hassan. The youngest son, Abul Hassan Yamin-ud-din Balkhi, was born in Patiali (Etah) in 1253 AD & was an intelligent & well-behaved kid. He later came to Delhi with his parents & fell in love with the city at once. He had a life of affluence & power, but he immersed himself in thinking over mysticism & matters of the soul & very soon his thoughts found expression through prose & poetry to which he took like a duck takes to water. When he was eight years old, Abul’s father suggested that he take a young mendicant named Syed Muhammad Nizamuddin as his spiritual master. Abul agreed to accompany his mother to the saint’s Khanqah (meditation chamber) in Ghiyaspur on the outskirts of Delhi (at that time Delhi referred to the fortress of Lal Kot-Qila Rai Pithora that was built by the Hindu Rajputs who ruled over Delhi before the Muslim invasion in AD 1192) on the condition that he would himself choose if he wishes to enter the saint’s tutelage or not. Upon reaching there, he posed a quatrain in Persian as a question to Nizamuddin –

"To aan shahe ke ber aevane qasrat. kabootar ger nasheenad baz garded;
Gharib-e-Mustamande ber der aamed, beaayed andaroon ya baz garded"
("You are such a great king that, if on the roof of your grand palace a pigeon were to sit, it becomes a hawk. A poor and humble soul has come to your door, should he enter or should he go away?")

Immediately on hearing this, Nizamuddin replied back in the same verse –

"Be aayed andaroon marde haqeeqat, ke baa maa yek nafas hamraz garded;
Ager abla buad aan marde nadaan, azaan rahe ke aamed baz garded"
("Do come in, oh truthful soul, so that we may become close and trusted friends. But if you are ignorant and have no wisdom, then you better go back the way you came.")

Abul was impressed by the mendicant’s answer & was convinced that that young man should be his spiritual teacher. Thus began a long & close friendship between the teacher & the student. Nizamuddin continued to live in his Khanqah while Abul became a poet who would travel with his patrons where they would command him to go. Over time, the boy’s poetry improved, he found fame & wealth & though he began to amass wordly riches while his mendicant-teacher ate dry bread & wore torn clothes, they together embarked on a journey of spiritual discovery through the path of Sufism, becoming a pillar for each other in times of need & grief. Nizamuddin soon found his calling as the beloved saint of the city of Delhi whose inhabitants began to adoringly call him Hazrat ("His Holiness") Mehboob-i-Ilahi (“Dear to God”) Sultan-ul-Mashaikh ("Leader of the Sufis") Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya. Abdul, on the other hand, took up the pen-name “Sultani” & “Khusro” & is even today known by this name as Amir Khusro Dehlavi. His love for the city of Delhi, where he was brought up & where he learnt & mastered all that he could & met the powerful & the mighty, prompted him to suffix his pen-name with the word “Dehlavi”, meaning “belonging to Delhi”.

Hazrat Sheikh Khwaja Syed Nizamuddin Auliya (right) & Amir Sultani Abul Hassan Yamin-ud-din Balkhi Khusro Dehlavi (left) (Photos courtesy - Signatureholidays.co.in)

It wasn’t that Nizamuddin did not come in contact with money & worldly possessions – wealthy devotees made rich donations at his Khanqah, but Nizamuddin remained unaffected by it. He was like a lotus bud growing in a pit, surrounded by muck & grime but untouched by it – he would donate whatever would reach him to the poor & needy who came to his door, his own subsistence would be dry bread & water, & sometimes he would not have even this meager meal in solidarity with the poor & the destitute. Such was his piety that he would even forgive those who hated him or hurt him & even bless them with all the riches & the happiness of the world. He would spend most of his time in prayers & fasting, each day brought him more closer to Allah than the previous. Despite his increasing fame & following, Sheikh Nizamuddin made it a point to shun the company of the powerful, even the emperors. He claimed “My Khanqah has two doors, if a king comes in from the first, I leave from the second” (His Khanqah does actually have two doors, it still exists in Delhi, read about it here - Pixelated Memories - Chilla-Khanqah Nizamuddin). Khusro, on the other hand, rushed to greet & welcome the affluent.

Khusro wrote his first collection of poems at the age of 17. He enrolled himself as a soldier in the retinue of Malik Chajju, a nephew of then Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban. Impressed by his skills, Chajju made Khusro his court poet. Later, Bughra Khan, Balban’s son, absorbed Khusro as a poet at his court. 4 years later, Balban, accompanied by Bughra & Khusro, decided to lead a campaign to Lakhnauti (Bengal) where his deputy Tughril Khan had rebelled. After Tughril was killed & his followers executed, Balban returned to Delhi while leaving Bughra in-charge of the Sultanate’s dominions in Bengal. Khusro then moved on & entered into the service of Muhammad Khan, another son of Balban, who was then sent to Multan (modern-day Pakistan) to counter the Mongol parties that would raid the countryside & drained the Sultanate’s resources. Amir Khusro also enrolled as a soldier in Muhammad’s army & accompanied him to Multan. In AD 1286, Muhammad was killed while fighting against the Mongols. By the time enforcements arrived from Delhi, the Mongols had already spread rape & plunder far & wide & also took many people as slaves, including Khusro. He somehow escaped from the clutches of the retreating Mongols & made his way back to Delhi. Grief-struck, Khusro composed eulogies for Muhammad who was given the sobriquet of Khan Shahid ("The martyred prince"). Soon thereafter, Balban passed away pining for his dear son (In effect, the whole scenario was of Balban’s own making, the complete story can be read here - Pixelated Memories - Balban's Tomb & Pixelated Memories - Khan Shahid's Tomb). Khusro continued to write poetry & compiled some of his early works while being patronized by several rich & powerful Amirs of his time. Balban’s grandson Muiz-ud-din Kaiqubad ascended the throne but proved to be an utterly worthless fellow devoted to the gratification of his sexual & alcoholic desires. He was soon overthrown by Jalal-ud-din Feroz Khilji (ruled AD 1290-96), an Afghan warlord & a general in Balban's army. By now Khusro had composed several major works of poetry, writing both in Hindustani & Persian. A prolific writer, he produced an impressive set of poetic works, riddles & couplets. Impressed by his work, Jalal-ud-din Khilji rewarded him lavishly & frequently & also employed singing girls to narrate the stories & ghazals written by Khusro to him every night. Khusro continued to climb the stairs of fame & wealth, but his heart was still struck at the door of Nizamuddin. As much as he amassed his wealth, he realized that it is only the dry bread of his master’s hearth & the water from his well that satisfied him. Spiritually inclined himself, Khusro seldom, if ever, missed his prayers & observed all fasts. He would recite the Quran regularly & was also a philanthropist. His love & faith for his master & their discourses opened the hallowed portals of mysticism for him & his poetry too continued to be colored with his Sufi beliefs. At the same time, he continued to cater to the royals & the nobles, producing stately poems & introducing new forms of music, verse & rhythms. Among the bulk of verses that he wrote, my favourite & one of the most touching verses I have ever heard is (always works on girls!!) –

"Khusro baazi prem ki, main kheli pi ke sang, Jeet gayi to piya mere, haari to pi ke sang"
(“I play the game of love with my beloved/ If I win he is mine/ If I lose I’m his”)

Amir Khusro on an Indian stamp released on October 24, 1975 (Photo courtesy - Rainbowstampclub.blogspot.in)

Amidst widespread public horror & disbelief, & following numerous court intrigues & battles for supremacy, Sultan Jalaluddin was murdered by his own nephew Alauddin Khilji (ruled AD 1296-1316). Alauddin then had Jalaluddin’s sons & chamberlain blinded & his wife imprisoned. Alauddin gradually established himself as the first true Muslim ruler of India, spreading his domination throughout the country (with the exception of Gujarat, Kashmir, Orissa & a small portion at the tip of the Indian peninsula). Khusro was employed by Alauddin as the court chronicler & travelled with him on his military campaigns to Chittor, Ranthambor & Malwa. Alauddin was never defeated militarily & was given the title of Alauddin Sikandar Sani (“Alauddin, the equal of Sikandar/Alexander”), & yet Khusro reported the campaigns truthfully & audaciously, never failing in his account of the battles or the war excesses that may have been committed then, finally publishing his account of several of Alauddin’s military & administrative victories in his book “Khazain-ul-Futuh”(“Treasure of victories”). Thankfully, the pious & God-loving Khusro was not asked his views after Alauddin’s Deccan (Central India) campaigns when the Sultan’s victories so turned his head that he began considering starting a new religion in his own name (Alauddin’s beliefs & subsequent turnover can be read about here - Pixelated Memories - Alauddin's Tomb & Madrasa Complex). Khusro also composed “Aashiqa”, a poem about the love story of Alauddin’s son Khizr Khan & Deval Devi (who was the princess of the Hindu kingdom of Gujarat & had escaped a previous campaign against her kingdom in AD 1299, but was captured & brought to Delhi from her wedding ceremony when Alauddin sent his trusted eunuch & army commander Malik Kafur to conquer Devagiri in AD 1307. Though forcibly married to Khizr Khan, she did accept him as her husband finally). Apart from Khusro, Alauddin also patronized several other poets, historians & theologians, including Khusro’s master Sheikh Nizamuddin & Amir Hasan, the poet & Khusro's competitor (perhaps that explains why Khusro opted for his pen-name, there was already a poet by the name of Amir Hasan - it is said that Khusro knew him from his days as a soldier-poet in Bughra Khan's & Muhammad Khan's retinue & they both travelled to Bengal & Multan with the princes).

Khusro's Tomb, part of Nizamuddin Dargah Complex, New Delhi

Alauddin’s death was followed by great upheaval through the capital & its power circles. Malik Kafur had Alauddin's 6-year old grandson Shihab-ud-din Umar placed on the throne & himself began acting as the reagent while at the same time imprisoning Alauddin’s wife & sons Khizr Khan & Shadi Khan. Both of Alauddin’s sons were blinded by Kafur in the tryst for throne, several nobles & commanders were also murdered. It took more than a month to subdue & eliminate Kafur & place Alauddin’s other son Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah (ruled AD 1316-20) on the throne of Delhi. An unworthy successor to his father, Mubarak had his brother Khizr Khan, cousin Asad-ud-din & nephew Shihab-ud-din Umar murdered. Though he did not fast or pray, he declared himself Imam & took up the titles "Commander of the faithful" & "Viceregent of God". Even the mighty Balban & the warlord Alauddin Khilji had acknowledged the legal sovereignty of the Turkish Caliphate over the Islamic Indian territories, but Mubarak decided to end it. He showed animosity towards Nizamuddin Auliya & disrespected him, but despite this Khusro continued to serve Mubarak & penned his “Nuh Siphr” (“Nine Skies”) dedicated to Mubarak Shah. At times, this Janus nature of Amir Khusro amazes me – how can he be a faithful to Nizamuddin while also serving his enemies?? & yet Nizamuddin trusted Khusro more than his life, he considered Khusro to be a close associate, so much so as to exclaim that he can get fed up with everyone around himself, even his own self, but never with Khusro!!

Qutbuddin Mubarak came under the influence of Hasan, a convert from Hinduism who was once a shepherd, but Mubarak raised him to the position of prime ministership & gave him the title of Khusro Shah. This Khusro was a clever & ungrateful man & he beheaded his own master & ascended the throne of Delhi. Sadly for him, Turkish nobles & army commanders did not like the idea of the administration being in the hands of Indian Muslims & the governor of Punjab Ghazi Malik assisted by his son Muhammad Juna Khan besieged Delhi & had Khusro Shah killed even before he could complete 6 months of his reign. Thus ended the reign of the Khiljis & began the rule of the Qaraunah Turks aka the Tughlaqs. Ghazi Malik ascended the throne of Delhi with the title of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq (ruled AD 1320-25). He went on to build one of the most formidable fortresses of Delhi, Tughlaqabad, it was the construction of this fortress that brought Ghiyas-ud-din in a direct conflict with Nizamuddin & the latter prophesied his death & the abandonment of the fortress (for the complete tale of the conflict & the fortress’ details, refer Pixelated Memories - Tughlaqabad Fort). Interestingly, Tughlaq continued to patronize Amir Khusro & the latter repaid the favour by composing “Tughlaqnama” (“Book of the Tughlaqs”) where he examined the military & administrative policies of Tughlaq. Khusro’s works still form a major source of contemporary historical narrative & chronological description for historians.

Graceful calligraphy - The roof of Khusro's Tomb's anteroom

Tughlaq did pass away as prophesied by Nizamuddin, some historians claim that his own son Muhammad Juna Khan plotted to kill him & usurp the throne. Unlike his father, Sultan Muhammad Juna Tughlaq (ruled AD 1351-88) was an ardent devotee of Nizamuddin & even built the large congregational mosque (“Jamaat Khana”) in what is today the Nizamuddin’s Dargah Complex. By this time, Sheikh Nizamuddin had become the patron saint of Delhi & developed quite a following. People came from far & wide to visit his Khanqah & ask for his blessings. Muhammad Tughlaq wished that Nizamuddin should be buried in the Jammat Khana that he built, but that was not to be as Nizamuddin wanted something else & Muhammad Tughlaq (or anybody else) did not dare disobey him (more on that later). Muhammad Tughlaq became the seventh Sultan to patronize Amir Khusro starting from Ghiyas-ud-din Balban. Khusro literally saw Delhi's history in front of his eyes, attributing all his success & recognition to the blessings of Nizamuddin.

More than his relationship with sultans, it is his relationship with Nizamuddin that interests us. Throughout his life, Khusro remained a firm believer in Nizamuddin’s spiritual prowess. Nizamuddin was touched by Khusro’s gestures & poetry & would have wanted them to be friends even after death for he commented “If religion would allow it, I would prefer me & Khusro were buried in the same grave”. Once Khusro was travelling to another part of the country & Nizamuddin was meditating & listening to the people’s grievances at his Khanqah when a very poor man came to him asking for alms. Nizamuddin did not have anything to give to the man except his torn slippers & blessings. The dejected man agreed to take them. He was on his way to some other part of the country when he met Khusro returning from his travels accompanied by camels loaded with royal wealth. Khusro immediately went to him & exclaimed “I smell my master, I smell my master”. On hearing the entire story about how Nizamuddin gave away even his slippers in charity, Khusro traded his entire belongings & treasure that he had accumulated for his master’s slippers!! When Nizamuddin heard of this, he admonished Khusro, saying “You bought them cheap, my dear friend”.

Here lies Khusro, a true friend & even faithful student

Besides being a court poet & chronicler, Khusro was also employed as a special envoy by the sultans, given his proficiency in the native languages as well as Persian - could speak Turkish, Arabic, Sanskrit & several vernacular languages then prevalent in northern India including Khari Boli, Braj Bhasha & Awadhi.. A few months after Muhammad came to throne, he called upon the services of Khusro & sent him on an official tour of Bengal. While Khusro was away, Sheikh Nizamuddin passed away. The year was AD 1325, Nizamuddin was buried in the courtyard of Muhammad Tughlaq’s Jamaat Khana according to his wishes, with half the city in attendance, tears welling their eyes, shrieks of grief filling their throats. When Khusro heard of it, he came rushing back to Delhi. But Nizamuddin had given clear instructions to be followed after his death – Khusro was not to be allowed to come near his grave, for he feared that his body would forget the laws of the mortal world & break open the grave to embrace Khusro. Further, Khusro was to be buried close to Nizmauddin & if any devotee wanted to pay obeisance to Nizamuddin after his death, he would have to first pay his repects at Khusro’s grave. Bereaved, Khusro respected his master’s last wish, did not go near the grave, blackened his face, tore his clothes, rolled through dirt, threw dust in his hair & mourned for his friend, himself wishing to die soon. He broke into an impromptu doha (quatrain) on seeing his master’s grave –

“Gori sove sej par, Mukh par daley kes; Chal Khusrau ghar aapnay, saanjh bhaee chahu desh” 
(“The fair maiden rests on a bed of roses, Her face covered with a lock of hair; Come Khusrau let’s go home now, darkness settles on the world now.”)

Such was his passion for his master & grief over his death that Khusro resigned from his plush job & donated all his wealth to the poor & the needy. Mourning, he pined for his friend & his health deteriorated. Six months later, he too passed away with Nizamuddin’s name on his lips. He was buried close to Nizamuddin in the courtyard of the Jamaat Khana built by the Sultan. In fact, Khusro’s tomb is the first thing that comes into view as soon as one enters the Dargah complex. The unusual event of the combined death of the two marked a very high point in Sufism & contributed to the development of the legend behind Khusro’s untamed devotion & passion for his master.

Inside Khusro's Tomb (Photo courtesy - thedelhiwalla.com)

Khusro is today remembered as a legendary poet, composer, musician, linguist, inventor of musical instruments & historian. He was also a scholar of astronomy, literature, grammar, philosophy, logic, religion & mysticism. He wrote in Persian, Hindi & Urdu. In addition to verses, ghazals, qawwalis, riddles & short stories, he wrote over 90 books in his life time – it is said that he was so prolific that he would compose at least one ghazal every day & he could compose verses with words given to him in the course of a conversation. He is also credited with compiling the first dictionary (“Khaliq-i-bari”) consisting of Hindavi (Hindi & Urdu) & Persian words. He is credited for inventing theTabla (Indian drum) & Sitar (Indian lute)(There is some debate about the later though, some scholars believe that it was Khusro Khan, a descendant of the musical maestro Tansen on his daughter’s side. Tansen was the court poet of Mughal emperor Akbar (ruled AD 1556-1605)). An intellectual giant, Khusro's love & passion for Nizamuddin is documented through several oral & written anecdotes. Though his indulgence in material possessions might confuse those who study him today as being at loggerheads with his spiritual inclination, his love for Sheikh Nizamuddin somehow seems to justify & even nullify his actions. He reveled in duality – he would serve brutal & calculating emperors, but was also the companion to the gentle & benevolent Nizamuddin who disliked emperors, he would seek company of the wealthy & the powerful, while also partaking the meager meals served at Nizamuddin’s Khanqah - somehow he balanced it with finesse. His prowess in the world of mysticism & spirituality is undisputed, so is his respect & love for his teacher. A great poet, Khusro is considered the inventor of classical Hindustani music including the Ragaas & is credited for modifying Qawwalis to transform them into the form we know today. He is in fact considered to be the “father of Qawwalis” & also the self anointed “Tooti-i-Hind” (“Parrot of India”). Most of the classical music forms still widespread in India & Pakistan can be traced back to the rules introduced by Khusro to govern rhythm & melody. His poetry is still sung today at Sufi shrines throughout the Indian subcontinent. Even the mystical dance performed by the Sufi dervishes, spinning on their toes with their hand raised towards the sky, is traced back to Khusro – he wanted to dance but dancing is forbidden in Islam, so Sheikh Nizamuddin suggested this form of dancing to symbolize an urge to reach God (sky) while pushing the materialistic world (Earth) away with their toes.

Amir Khusro on a Pakistani stamp released on October 24, 1975 (Photo courtesy - Rainbowstampclub.blogspot.in)

Irrespective of any distinction of religion, faith or sex, millions of followers today accord the status of a Sufi saint to Khusro too. His name is accorded the same respect & titles as his master & the ruler of hearts Hazrat Nizamuddin – he is now Hazrat Amir Khusro Dehlavi (Rahmat-al-Alai/blessed by God"). Every visitor to Nizamuddin’s Dargah is first ushered to Khusro’s Tomb, which is a small rectangular structure with a small pyramidal roof on top. The roof is built of marble & is topped with two small flower vases also sculpted in marble. The tomb is an enclosure built with intricately carved marble filigreed screens (“jalis”) & is further surrounded by another enclosure of even more exquisitely carved red sandstone screens. All visitors can enter the outer enclosure, however women are not allowed to enter the inner enclosure & they sit in the space between the two praying & beseeching the saint for the fulfilment of their desires. The women tie sacred red thread (“roli”) to the jali as a mark of their respect & with the belief that this would urge the saint to fulfill their wishes at the earliest. When a devotee’s wish is fulfilled, they are expected to return to the Dargah & remove one of the threads. Much of the architecture here dates to a much later period – the inner enclosure is said to have been built in the year 1496 by Mehdi Khwaja, the Mughal emperor Babur’s brother-in-law by replacing the original, simpler structure that stood here (though I read this statement passed off as a fact on many online sites & ebooks, I cannot vouch for its correctness – Babur came to India in AD 1526, while the tomb is dated to having been built three decades earlier), the outer enclosure was added in AD 1605-06 by Tahir Muhammad Imad-ud-din Hasan in the reign of Babur’s great-grandson Jahangir (ruled AD 1605-28). Since then, the tomb has been renovated several times & also subjected to frequent paint work. The outer screens are covered in layers & layers of paint now & the designs, dates & names that were once etched in the sandstone are buried deep under the paint now. A large board, struck to the tomb, informs devotees that they are required to first pay the customary visit to Khusro’s tomb before they visit Nizamuddin’s tomb. Announcements are made over the microphone in the Dargah complex about the same.

Inside Khusro's Tomb (Photo courtesy - thedelhiwalla.com)

The tomb is small & it is difficult to accommodate many people inside at the same time, & given the number of visitors that the complex commands, the tomb is always filled with those with a wish yet to be achieved. A tall grave, covered with a brilliant golden-hued embroidered cloth sheet ("chaddar") & rose petals, exists just outside the inner enclosure. I always wondered who is the person buried here?? Is it someone Khusro knew – perhaps his wife?? Or his poet son Malik Muhammad or perhaps his daughter Afifa?? Finally I asked the caretakers of Khusro's Tomb about this mystery - the grave belongs to Shamshuddin Mehru, Khusro's nephew. But even the caretakers are not aware as to where were Khusro's wife, son & daughter buried - all they can say for surety is that they were not buried with Nizamuddin Dargah Complex. Urdu verses are inscribed inside the enclosure & on the roof, mostly in praise of the poet & Sheikh Nizamuddin. Khusro sleeps underneath a large grave in the inner enclosure & is perennially covered with colorful chaddar & layer of rose petals that are offered by the devotees. Both the chaddar & the petals can be bought from the merchants who have their shops in the narrow lane that leads to the Dargah. It is said that the letters that Khusro & Hazrat Nizamuddin wrote to each other when Khusro was away travelling to different parts of the country were also buried alongside him. The inner enclosure is splendidly ornamented with colorful glass arranged in symmetrical patterns & illuminated brilliantly with several CFL lights. The tomb is a sight worth seeing, its beauty cools the eyes, an oasis of peace despite the hordes of visitors moving & talking around it. The only sight that is a bit disappointing is the faithful women sitting around the inner enclosure with their fingers intertwined around the crevices of the jali & head resting on it. Khusro is known to have laughed & joked with women who would ask him to amuse them with his riddles, & now women who believe that even his grave can do wonders cannot enter the tomb.


Khusro’s Urs (death anniversary of a saint, an occasion of celebration since it marks the unshackling of the saint from wordly desires & their communion with God) is celebrated 6 months after Nizamuddin’s Urs every year – it is calculated according to the lunar calendar & falls on the 16th day after Id-ul-Fitr. Even today, the Qawwals (“Qawwali singers”) who gather at one or the other of the numerous dargahs that dot the subcontinent begin singing poetry by first reciting the quatrain that Khusro uttered on seeing Nizamuddin’s grave. Every Thursday evening, the courtyard of Nizamuddin’s Dargah complex plays host to a gathering of Qawwals who come from far & wide to sing in order to pay their respects to both Khusro & Nizamuddin. The complex sees huge presence of visitors on special occasions that are associated with the two saints, such as their Urs & Basant Panchami (the Hindu festival celebrating the advent of spring).

What I doubt is the visitors to the dargah even understand what was Khusro’s relationship with Nizamuddin. Does a layman know who Khusro was & what his contribution to Indian music & spiritual scene was?? In this age of instant love when SMS, phone calls & Facebook chats define the blossoming of love, do the youngsters even relate to Khusro & Nizamuddin’s love?? Half of them would not even know who Khusro was, even though there is an increase in those professing a belief in Hazrat Nizamuddin who has been transformed into a cult figure by the Bollywood movie “Rockstar” & its song “Kun Faaya Kun”. & what about the man who vandalized Khusro’s Tomb in the year 2005 & broke the glass panes & light fittings?? (& I thought that those who scriible on monuments are idiots & deserve to be punished!!) Perhaps now is the time to try & involve the locals & the youngsters with Khusro’s legacy, something that the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is trying to do in all earnesty through its Jashn-i-Khusrau (“Celebration of Khusrau”) musical events & awareness campaigns. AKTC has worked hard to conserve & restore the monuments within the Humayun’s Tomb Complex & Sunder Nursery Complex. Work is on in Nizamuddin Dargah complex & the surrounding settlement. Lets hope Khusro’s name is further propagated & his life & deeds given to critical academic emphasis.
Personally, if I had to ask something from Hazrat Khusro Dehlavi, it would be an opportunity to experience the Qawwali programme on a Thursday evening in the Dargah – let’s see when this wish comes true!!

Location: Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, Nizamuddin (West)
Open: All days, sunrise - sunset. Also open throughout night on celebrations such as Nizamuddin’s Urs, Basant Panchami
Nearest Metro Station: Jorbagh (however it is some distance away & one needs to take an auto)
Nearest Railway Station: Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station
How to reach: Take an auto from the metro station/railway station to the Dargah. If you are eager to walk a few kilometers (approx 2 km) in order to see some of the other medieval structures that exist close to the Dargah (including Chila-Khanqah Nizamuddin), take the straight road that is flanked by the rubble walls of the Humayun's Tomb Complex  from Platform 1 of Nizamuddin Railway Station. Keep walking till you reach a small domed-tomb (Sabz Burj, see for identification Pixelated Memories - Sabz Burj) standing on a traffic-roundabout, turn left, cross the road & enter into the narrow lane that leads inside the basti. Keep walking straight to reach the Dargah.
Entrance fee: Nil
Photography/Video charges: Nil. However its better to take permission for the same from the caretakers of the Dargah, the office is right next to Amir Khusro’s Tomb.
Time required for sight seeing: 20 min
Relevant Links - 

  1. Pixelated Memories - Alauddin's Tomb & Madrasa Complex
  2. Pixelated Memories - Balban's Tomb
  3. Pixelated Memories - Chilla-Khanqah Nizamuddin
  4. Pixelated Memories - Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
  5. Pixelated Memories - Khan Shahid's Tomb
  6. Pixelated Memories - Sabz Burj
  7. Pixelated Memories - Tughlaqabad Fort
Suggested Reading - 

  1. Abdaal.wordpress.com - Of Sufism
  2. Angelfire.com - "Walking the mystic alleys" by Yousuf Saeed
  3. Aparnaonline.com - A Relationship Par Excellence: Amir Khusrau and Nizamuddin Aulia
  4. Ektaramusic.com - Amir Khusrau: Bibliography
  5. Hindu.com - Article "Khusro must be turning in his grave" dated Feb 21, 2005 by R.V. Smith
  6. Allpoetry.com - Amir Khusro (Must read)
  7. News.outlookindia.com - Article "Man arrested for vandalising Amir Khusro's tomb" dated Feb 8, 2005
  8. Scribd.com - Amir Khusrau, Memorial Volume by Govt. of India
  9. Thedelhiwalla.com - Amir Khusro
  10. Thehindu.com - Article "Chasing Khusro" by Omar Rashid dated July 23, 2012
  11. Wikipedia.org - Amir Khusrow


  1. AnonymousJune 14, 2013

    Hi Sahil,

    Another wonderful account of Delhi's history. It is a great place to visit too and the devotion of the faithfuls towards Khusro's grave is seen to believed. Visitors first visit Khusro's grave and then come to Nizamuddin's grave. This is similar to what Moinuddin Chisti decreed that people should first visit his disciple Qutb Sahib's dargah in Mehrauli before coming to Ajmer.
    There used to be great spirit of respect and companionship between guru and disciple of those times.

    But what is surprising how Khusrao managed his material and spiritual sides. Material by working for a range of Sultans and spiritual by following Nizamuddin Aulia. No wonder Khushwant Singh has not been very charitable about Khusro in his book. But then those sycophancy traits had to be inculcated to keep your head intact in those days.

    Nicely written. You have a way with the words.

    Time to replace photos with your own!



  2. Hey Nirdesh,

    Reading your comments & feedback always brings me a smile.

    Indeed the devotion that visitors feel for Khusro & Hazrat Nizamuddin has to be seen to be believed. I have seen men & women sit there for entire day praying for some wish or deliverance from problems. The day after I wrote this post, I visited the shrine for the third time (I do have photos I took, am just too lazy to edit & post!!)

    Indeed Khushwant Singh hasn't been too charitable to Khusro. Even I feel that Khusro was Janus-like in his nature, but then he did prove where his loyalties lay when he broke down after Nizamuddin's death & passed away soon afterwards.

    Shall soon be doing a post about Jahanara's Tomb & also that of Atgah Khan.
    Thanks again for stopping by. Awaiting your posts eagerly.