June 04, 2014

DIG Instawalk - Qawwali Mehfil at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah

Through narrow alleys and past the whiffs of incense and the aroma of kebabs, in our latest installment of regular, curated Instawalks, Delhi Instagramers Guild headed to the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya where time itself seems to have stuck to a medieval-era and the vibrance of intricately embroidered chaddars and the texture of fresh pink petals is a constant companion. Projected purpose of the walk was to attend the qawwali session; several of us had the ulterior motive of gorging on the mouth-watering tandoori dishes and chicken and mutton preparations available in the bazaar surrounding the dargah. Unarguably one of the most historic and religious complex throughout the city and one of the most revered Sufi shrine in the subcontinent, the dargah plays host to the famed Qawwali mehfil every Thursday evening to pay respects to the adored Khwaja.

DIG goes to Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah (Photo credit and poster design - Sahil Ahuja (@pixelatedmemories)) 

Though we had all heard about the qawwalis and the recognition that some of the singers had received in cult movies and print media, none of us were prepared for the huge crowds that gather at the shrine every week for the mehfil as well as the free food that is distributed thereafter. This time around, we had allowed Sahil full sovereignty when it came to the planning, promotion and curating the walk. And so it was definitely a big day for him. In fact we (the admins) were a little nervous since it was also our first time there for the qawwali and also because often times the session is canceled without prior information. A bit apprehensive as more people showed up than we had expected (being a weekday almost everyone had office and we could only give them a couple days notice!), we walked from Humayun’s Tomb parking to the dargah sniffing at the food around, eyeing the choicest cuts of chicken that were skewing on the fire all around us and taking in the colors and the blur that humanity had become in the overcrowded, congested, narrow alleys. People eyed us with surprise; probably the sheer number of DSLRs and phone cameras got their heads turning! The group decided to disperse from the alley and assemble later at the dargah after clicking the bazaar that glimmered with vibrance of chaddars and the luster of ornamental bronze and silverwork and resounded in our ears with the words of devotional music being played in portable players. We had planned to have a short history discussion near the tomb of Amir Khusro but when we finally reached (or shall we say were pushed inside by the waves of devotees), it dawned that it would be easier to pay our respects first and later gather for the discussion. Of course, a few calls were made and we looked for the ones we knew in the crowded fair place that the dargah seemed to have morphed into!

Watching humanity turn into a blur (Photo credit - Rahul Jain (@rjclick))

We never imagined that the place was going to be swarming with devotees. The queue of devotees waiting to get inside Amir Khusro’s tomb was so long that it took us almost 30 minutes. We adorned it with chaddar and flowers bought from the bazaar outside. As mentioned in the previous posts (refer links in the post footer), womenfolk are not allowed within the two tombs and the ladies of the DIG family waited patiently outside for the guys to return from the tombs. Meanwhile, the qawwali had started in the courtyard while some of us were still stuck in the queue within Khusro’s small, bejeweled tomb; and a few of the late comers were still busy photographing the bazaar. Thankfully, most of the members were able to attend the qawwali, although it was a really short session – Chand Nizami and Shadab Nizami, two of the most famous devotional singers in the country and the most revered in the Sufi music scene, had themselves led the session, belting out the “Kun Faaya Kun” track from the critically-acclaimed Bollywood movie “Rockstar”. Those still struck in Khusro’s tomb were cut out from the outside because of the space constraint as well as the press of people and chatter around and could only catch some strains of harmonium and tabla being played. By the time all the group members gathered, qawwali had already ended.

Devotion and music (Photo credit - Rohan Madan (@rohanwildermadan))

Once we located everyone, we decided to sit close to the walls of the massive Jamaat Khana mosque where we discussed in detail the lives of Amir Khusro and the Khwaja, their devotion and foresightedness, the invention of Qawwali as a form of Sufi music by Khusro, and the socio-historic evolution of the dargah complex and the entire heritage zone around it. What most of the members found interesting were the legends of Hazrat Nizamuddin’s ability to gaze into the future and control mythical creatures like djinns and dwarves; almost everyone was surprised to know that the tomb enclosures near where we sat housed the remains of a princess (Jahanara Begum) and an emperor (Muhammad Shah “Rangila”) of the country. What was more fascinating (rather morbid because of the shrill shouts that accompanied) was an exorcism that was being performed in the dark and narrow space between the mosque and the tomb enclosure – much to the amusement of others, a few of us were perennially glued there to observe the scenes. Of course, we spared not a single occasion to tease them through the rest of the evening!! One thing that we really abhorred about the complex was the frequency of beggars. There was no relief from them – anywhere you go, any side you turn, they were there! Some would ask once or twice before moving on whilst others would pester, harass and talk with authority as if we were the ones supplicating before them. Some would even badmouth or question our intentions when they weren’t given alms – worst being the sajjdanashins (caretakers of the tomb and descendants of the Auliya through his sister’s side). They too made some foul statements when donations weren’t made – might have been just a mood-spoiler had we not respected the Auliya and his spiritual legacy as much as we did – the sajjdanashins totally lost our respect and adoration.

Glitter glimmer - The Auliya's tomb (Photo courtesy - Mohit Sehgal (@pinkupanther))

The next qawwali session was supposed to start at 10:00 pm but most of the DIGers had left by then since it was getting late; the crowds, the pushes and the shoves made it impossible to click the group photograph too. When the qawwali didn’t begin by 10.15, we decided to call it a day and left the dargah to check out the food scene outside. The numerous eateries and roadside joints that line the roads leading up to the dargah were totally clogged with people, cannot even begin to describe the width and spectrum of the crowd that seemed to fill up the roads and alleys and the buildings to the seams. But as one of the foremost (and the most important) rule of Delhi Instagramers Guild states – an Instawalk has to end with a foodwalk, no matter what, we headed to New Friend’s Colony nearby to feast on shawarma rolls and chicken tandoori at Al bake.

Vibrance and colors - The Dargah bazaar (Photo credit - Sahil Ahuja (@pixelatedmemories))

The funniest part was when a few of us decided to get clicked with skullcaps on – the faces and expressions of those being clicked and the jokes we cracked on their expense had us split with peals of laughter. Despite all the constraints and the milling crowds and even the troubles with clicking good photographs that we faced, the Instawalk did prove to be a unique experience filled with transcendental music, Sufi ambiance and delectable food riding high along with a dose of history, photography and companionship – an evening that will be remembered. That’s how we live, that’s how we DIG – now eagerly planning and waiting for the next installment of DIG Instawalk. Stay tuned for more. Join us on our Fb page (www.facebook.com/groups/delhi.igers) and follow us on Instagram (www.instagram.com/delhi_igers) for more. And as we like to say, keep DIGing!

Assalam valeikum! (Photo credit - Prateek Ahuja (@purplekarma))

Previous posts regarding Hazrat Nizamuddin's Dargah - 
  1. Pixelated Memories - Amir Khusro & his Tomb
  2. Pixelated Memories - Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
  3. Pixelated Memories - Jahanara Begum's Tomb
The Admin team - 
  1. Hitika Paul Ahuja - Hitika.wordpress.com and Instagram.com/funjabi
  2. Prateek Ahuja - Purple-karma.com and Instagram.com/purplekarma
  3. Tarun Bidani - Instagram.com/travellertales
  4. Vipul Raghav - Instagram.com/vapsyraghav
  5. Sahil Ahuja

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