Living to tell the tale

Divine connection

The several centuries of Islamic rule in Delhi has left the City dotted with many small dargahs which were once the residence of many Sufi saints. Many of us live in areas which have a number of such mazaars (tombs of saints) in the neighbourhood, but remain unaware of their quite existence.

Sacred: People worshipping at a dargah.

Some of these dargahs are historically prominent and well-looked after by generations of khadims (caretakers), while others, lost in time, sadly lie in complete neglect and ruin.

The Chirag-i-Delhi dargah, lends its name to its locality in South Delhi. A fortress with at least five gates once upon a time, illegal encroachments have left only the main dargah standing. Another relic of the Tughlaq dynasty--the Masjid Moth also shares its name with its locality. A monumental example of neglect by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), it stands next to a dumping ground and is very difficult to locate among the adjoining construction.

The security guard here says, “The earthquake had shaken the structure so badly, that some stones, weighing in kilos had fallen off. But since no namaaz is read here, nobody bothers about the place.” Its walls bear beautiful but now damaged inscriptions and almost seem to speak to you.

The king’s son Muhammad bin Tughlaq then built this dargah in saint Nasir-ud-Din’s honour. Caretaker Peerzada Zamir Ahmed says, “BabaNasir-ud-din liked calm and quite surroundings during his lifetime. Even today, only those who have been selected by the saint can visit the dargah.”

Another dargah located in the Old Fort area is that of Hazrat Shiekh Abu Bakr Tusi’s (also called Matka Shah Baba) and is perched on a hill-top. The strange sight of earthen clay pots (matkas) hanging from the branches of numerous trees greets every visitor.

According to historical accounts Matka Shah Baba is supposed to have come to India from Iran about 750 years ago. Once the then emperor, Ghiyasuddin Balban sent him a plate of iron balls and mud to test his powers. The saint transformed the iron balls into roasted gram and the mud into jaggery. Since then, the devout have been offering gram, jaggery and milk in earthen pots at this place whenever their wishes are fulfilled.

The khadim here, Qayum Abbasi, informs, “The dargah itself restores your peace of mind. The green and white colours of the mosque are soothing to the eyes, and the open, airy and cool environment heals your soul. Many people just come in to rest in the shade of the trees and soak in the fragrance of the flowers and incense sticks. The fakeers lived to help connect people with God. Today, their dargahs serve the same purpose long after they are gone.”

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