As you enter the narrow maze of lanes leading to Nizamuddin Dargah, it is difficult to believe that this is one of the country’s most sacred Sufi shrines. The lanes of Nizamiddin are packed with shops and spilling over with the excitable chatter of people bargaining. Holy books and prayer caps for Muslims vie for space with vibrant ‘chaddars’ or pieces of cloth that are spread over graves at the dargah, while the fragrance of rose petals make the atmosphere quite heady. In the runup to Eid or other major festivals, you may even find shops selling fancy slippers and such, sprung up in the medley of small shops. It is this mixed existence, blending the everyday and the esoteric with ease, that gives Nizamuddin Dargah its enduring appeal.
History of Nizamuddin Dargah: The Dargah contains the tomb of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, a famous Sufi saint or ‘Pir’. Hazrat Nizamuddin, born in 1238, is considered to be of the same spiritual lineage as Moinuddin Chisti, of the Chisti order of Sufism. He had followers across faiths and classes, and his devotees included both rich and poor people. The emperor Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was one of his devotees, and erected the mausoleum where the saint is buried. More on history of India.
Highlights: You enter the Dargah complex through the big doors that are perpetually open, and find yourself in a large space. All around, are verandahs topped with marble arches that remain open to the sky.
Main tomb – The main tomb area is intricately decorated with golden pillars and intricate lattice work or ‘jaali’. On the jaaliwork you often find red thread tied by devotees as a ‘mannat’ or prayer for a heart’s desire to be fulfilled.
Tomb complex – The tomb complex houses the bodies of several famous personalities apart from that of Hazrat Nizamuddin. Aamir Khusrau, the noted poet of the Mughal court and Nizamuddin’s lifelong friend, is buried here. Mirza Ghalib’s tomb is also in this complex. Another luminary of Akbar’s court, his minister and a renowned poet, Abdul Rahim also has his final resting place here. Besides, Shah Jahan’s daughter is buried here as well as the prince Dara Shikoh. A few other structures worth noting inside the tomb complex are Jama’at- Khana Masjid and Kalan-Masjid.
Urs celebration: Nizamuddin Dargah is open all the time, but it comes into its own on two special days. These are the Urs or the day of passing of Nizamuddin Auliya and Amir Khusrau. Urs or the day of passing is a matter not for mourning, but celebration according to the Sufi faith. The Dargah is very crowded on these days and celebrations continue whole night.
Thursday qawwali sessions: Thursdays are also a special time at the dargah. Chisti Nizamuddin composed a phenomenal body of songs or ‘bandish’ which have become a part of North Indian classical music. ‘Bandish’ is something that binds, and each of these songs binds around a central theme. Celebrating the musical legacy of the Sufi master is a part of the tradition at the Dargah. Each Thursday, the tomb complex comes alive to the sound of quaawalis in which quaawals or singers from many surrounding regions also participate. Music flows, and entry is free, so just enter, sit in the courtyard and soak in the rich musical atmosphere that tells you how it must have been many, many centuries ago. Twinkling lights all around add to the peaceful atmosphere, as the qawwalis flow into late evening.
Here are a few points that can help you make the most of your visit to the dargah.
- The tomb is located in the eastern Nizamuddin area, tucked inside Old Nizamuddin Bazaar. It is closest to the Nizamuddin Metro station.
- Quawaalis happen every Thursday once the evening prayers are over. Check local sunset timings before you visit, to time your visit right, so that you can catch the musical session right from the beginning. Usually a good time to get in is around 7 PM, in order to be there early before the crowds swell.
- Anyone can enter the dargah, however the main tomb chamber is barred to women.
- Follow the decorum at the dargah. Open your shoes and cover your head before you enter.
Address: Boali Gate Rd, Nizamuddin, Nizammudin West Slum, Nizamuddin West, New Delhi, Delhi 110013
Phone: +91 98117 78607
Opening times: Monday to Friday 5 am to 10.30 pm.