City Faith – Shah Turkman’s Dargah, Near Delhi Stock Exchange
In search of your self.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The room is small. The roof is of tin. The four walls are pink. The earthen pots are filled with water. The white marble tombstone is inscribed in Urdu and Hindi.
The shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Shah Turkman Bayabani is situated at the entrance of the Walled City of Shahjahanabad.
Shah Turkman is believed to be one of the earliest Sufis to settle in Delhi. Since he preferred seclusion, he came to be known as ‘bayabani’, which means “the one who lives in a jungle.”
In his book The Delhi That No-One Knows, author R.V. Smith writes:
The Baba came to Delhi perhaps in the wake of the invasion of Muhammad Ghori after the second battle of Tarain (1193). But he did not live in Mehrauli where the new rulers had taken up abode. He belonged to a sect of Sufis who like to dwell in the wilderness (bayaban) and meditate. In those days this area was a jungle where roamed many wild beasts, but this man of God did not have anything to fear. His needs were simple and he ate wild fruits and drank water from the pond that occupied the place where the Ramlila Ground is now situated.
Today, the rough country that was chosen by Shah Turkman as his home no longer exists. The aforementioned Ramlila Ground, which regularly hosts political rallies, is two-minutes walk from the dargah. The glass building of Delhi Stock Exchange is on the left of the shrine and a Mughal-era gateway is on the right – it is called Turkman Gate. The constant traffic of auto rickshaws, bikes, and cars flows unsmoothly on Asaf Ali Marg. Inside the shrine, however, the very air is suffused with privacy.
Mr Smith further notes:
Though he (Shah Turkman) dwelt far from human habitation his fame spread and people came to visit him and seek his blessings. He did not encourage them but still they came. The Baba died in 1206, the same year that Muhammad Ghori was murdered.
Author Sadia Dehlvi has a dissimilar version in her book The Sufi Courtyard: Dargahs of Delhi:
Not much is known of Shah Turkman except that he was a disciple of Shaykh Shihabuddin Suharwardi of Multan and a contemporary of Khwaja Qutubuddin Kaki of Mehrauli. Sufi manuals record some conversations between Shah Turkman and Khwaja Qutub. Shah Turkman died on 24 Rajab 637 Hijri/1240 AD. At the time of his death, Muizuddin Bahram Shah, who overthrew Razia Sultan, ruled Delhi.
The dargah’s interiors offer no clue to Shah Turkman’s life and times. The most noticeable elements of decoration are the chandeliers hanging from the tin roof. They have been allowed to become fragments of mere (dust-covered) glass. One still burns. Its blaze is feeble but in the night it sets the small room aglow. This light is extraordinary. The pleasure of its heat is fashioned for men who are doomed to wander in a crowded city in search of their souls. This is the place for those lost people. As any devotee of the saint would testify, one moves away from the entire world when one sits close beside Hazrat Shah Turkman Bayabani.
Where Near Turkman Gate Time 7 am to 9 pm Nearest Metro Station New Delhi
Once it was a forest