Death is beautiful.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The aroma of freshly cooked mutton biryani is wafting in the air. The old woman in white is whirling round into a blur. Two boys are lighting candles. Qawwals are singing. Children are running around. Women are talking. It’s a joyous mood.

Tonight (June 9, 2010), the sufi shrine of Hazrat Shah Farhad in Bagicha Peerji, near Pratap Nagar Metro station, is lit up with electric lamps. It is Shah Farhad’s Urs, his 286th death anniversary. He died on 25 Jumada al akhira 1135 Hijri; in 1723 AD. In Sufism, the death of a saint is celebrated as the occasion when his soul gets freedom from the body and is united with that of his beloved, the God. Urs means ‘wedding’ in Arabic.

Shah Farhad was born in Delhi but grew up in Burhanpur in central India where his father was a governor. As a child, he got attached to the sufi mystic Dost Mohammed who initiated him in the Abul Ulai order, an offshoot of the Chishti order. The young Farhad became involved in the remembrance of God, and to the despair of his father, he gradually let go of his worldly existence. He stopped paying attention to clothes and food. He reached the state of baqa, continuance in God, and gained a reputation of purifying the souls of people by his glance alone. Shah Farhad later settled in Delhi where he acquired a large following among Delhiwallas, both Muslims and Hindus. This evening’s crowd is a proof of his popularity.

Every morning before opening their stores, the traders in the neighbourhood come to the dargah to get their shop keys blessed by Shah Farhad. Childless women come asking for children. Students come to get their books blessed. “This shrine has a lot of benevolence,” says Sadia Dehlvi, author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. “Your wishes are granted here.”

Shah Farhad’s shrine is also a place where you come to get rid of djinns, the mysterious beings who, according to Islamic beliefs, are made of smokeless fire. These supernatural creatures are everywhere but remain invisible. Sometimes they trap vulnerable people in their spell and make their life miserable. These possessed men and women then visit shrinks and shrines to become normal again. Some come to the dargah of Shah Farhad, also known as Sheikh ul Djinn, the master of djinns. Clinging to the grills, the tormented scream and shiver in agony, asking the djinns to leave them. If they become free, they become life long followers of the saint. There must be many such people in this multitude tonight. Who knows there may also be djinns.

Where Near Hindu Rao Hospital crossing Nearest Metro Station Pratap Nagar

Celebrating the Union

In Him we trust

All lit up

Is there a djinn in your life?

Help me

Help me

Help me

Go djinn, Godjinn, godjinn

Sense of the night

Freezing the mood


The chosen one

Mysterious and spiritual

When death is beautiful

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