“I asked my soul: What is Delhi?
She replied: The world is the body and Delhi its life.”
-Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib
Once you’ve transcended and forgiven the horrors of head-ache inducing crowds and traffic, Ghalib’s words might ring true to your ears. Of the myriad experiences that life in Delhi has to offer in terms of its overwhelming sights, sounds and smells, the qawwali at the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin is the soothing balm to the city’s chaos.
The Nizamuddin Dargah is the mausoleum of Nizamuddin Auliya, an eminent sufi saint. The shrine of Amir Khusro, a sufi musician and poet, who was a disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya, is situated within the dargah complex. The tomb of Jahanara Begum, the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan and a follower of Sufism, is also located within the complex. The Nizami Brothers, whose family has been associated with this art for seven centuries, are the traditional qawwals of the dargah. The qawwali session at the dargah has been popularised by its depiction in several recent movies.
Make your way to the dargah on Thursday evenings, at 5:30pm or 9pm (there is just one session at 9pm during the winters), for a unique spiritual experience. At the end of a thronging, narrow market of vivid colours and food, lies the dargah. Women must keep their head covered, and footwear must be left outside, with one of the several shopkeepers at the market. The white marble dome, lit up in soft yellow light, against the evening sky, and the notes of a harmonium guide you towards the courtyards and arches of the dargah; the crowds, gently miling around; evening prayers are to be offered. The smell of rose petals and incense, quiet prayers and gentle connections with a higher power-the experience remains indelible.
A low key tuning of the harmonium, with devotees and tourists alike, gathered around it, gradually develops into a sufi qawwali. The courtyard of the dargah is packed with people, most engrossed in their own spiritual trances, others mesmerised by this declaration of love for the Divine. The power of the music and the lyrics washes over you in waves, as the crowd collectively sways to the music, seated and enthralled. Peace is not as elusive as it usually is.
Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Mathura Road, Old Nizamuddin Bazar, New Delhi
Nearest metro station: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium