Once upon a time, nearly a couple of hundred years back, Delhi was home to a thriving culture of Sufism. So much so, the city, teeming with Sufi saints came to be referred as Hazrat-e-Dilli and Khurd-e-Mecca or the Little Mecca! Becoming one with the beloved God is the ultimate goal of followers of Sufism. This form of eternal and selfless love is reflected in many different stories, including the love of Heer-Ranjha. Even though many of us would wish life came with a manual that could help us understand all things under the sun, everyone would agree that the only manual we can ever arm ourselves with is the one we devise through our own experiences. Sufism happens to be one of those things about which no matter how much one reads, one can get a feel of it only by experiencing it. With this thought in mind we decided to share with you details of some of the more famous sufi shrines of Delhi. Out of the around twenty two sufi shrines located in different parts of the city, we list down here a few shrines which you must visit while in the city.
The first sufi saint to settle down in the city was Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki sometime in the thirteenth century. Part of the famous Chishti silsila or order, he came to the city following the orders of his teacher Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer in Rajasthan. Legend has it, that so long as his tomb existed, the city of Delhi would continue to thrive. While we cannot say whether that is true or not, one thing that is true for sure is the fact that Mehrauli, the place where his tomb is located, happens to the oldest continuously living part of Delhi.
Next on our list is the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia. He was the successor of Baba Farid, who in turn was the disciple of Qutub Sahib. One can spend a mesmerising evening at the Nizamuddin dargah, especially on Thursdays when Qawwallis are organised there. In the air dense with scent of rose water and incense, there is nothing like the walk through the narrow street that is strewn with shops selling flowers that one can offer to finally reach the exquisitely designed dargah. Listening to the qawwals sitting on the plush marble floor bathed in a golden light of the setting sun coupled with an air thick with the scent of rose water and incense makes for a complete mystic experience.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia’s mother, Bibi Zulekha or Mai Sahiba, too was believed to be spiritually blessed. A true sufi at heart, Mai Sahiba was a pious woman wholly devoted to God. It was she who first inculcated values of Sufism in her son, Nizamuddin. Even while dying she devoted her son’s life to God! It is believed that Mai Sahiba cannot bear the sorrow of any woman and immediately grants her blessing to any woman in distress who visits her shrine. No wonder then that thousands of devotees, especially women, continue to visit her shrine to this day located on Sri Aurobindo Marg.
Another woman Sufi’s shrine is that of Bibi Fatima Sam, the adopted sister of Baba Farid. Also known as the Rabia of Delhi, such was the extent of her spiritual inclination, that she was often visited by Hazrat Nizamuddin ji for meditation. Her tomb is located in Kaka Nagar, facing the Oberoi Hotel.
Hazrat Naseeruddin Chirag-e-Dehlvi’s shrine is the one you should visit next. Located in Chirag Delhi village near Kalkaji, Khwaja Naseeruddin was the spiritual successor of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia. There’s an interesting legend about Hazrat Naseeurddin ji acquiring the name of Chirag (lamp) Dilli. During the construction of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia’s baoli, another major ongoing construction was that of emperor Ghyasuddin Tughlak’s fort city- Tughlaqabad. When Tughlak discovered that his labourers were constructing the Baoli at night, he put a stop on the supply of oil to Nizamuddin’s baoli construction site. Consequently, Naseeruddin ji, following the orders of his spiritual master, took the water of the baoli and lit the lamps or chirags, using which the stepwell was finally constructed!
Next on our list is the shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Abubakr Tusi Haidari Qalandari. Popularly known as ‘Matka Peer’, this shrine is more famous for the delicious biryani that can be bought at the small stalls inside the dargah. Located close to Pragati Maidan, meters away from the Mathura Road and Bhairon Marg T junction, the tomb of Sheikh Abubakr Tusi is surrounded by Keekar and neem trees, from the branches of which hang inverted pitchers or matkas. Legend has it that Sheikh Abubakr ji became popular as the ‘Matka Peer’ when he cured an ailing man by offering him water through a pitcher. The ailing man, upon being cured, offered the saint a matka in gratitude and thence on began the tradition of people hanging pitchers on the tree branches as their offerings.