A Ruhani Sojourn

on Monday, January 16, 2012

"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.