City Food – Iftar Snacks, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Dargah
Breaking the fast.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The platter consists of a jalebi, a samosa, a litchi, a banana, a sliced piece of water melon or papaya, and a glass of Roohafza sharbat. This food is served every evening during the month of Ramzan at the dargah of 14th century Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Central Delhi.
It was in Ramzan that the Quran is believed to have been sent down from heaven and revealed to Prophet Muhammad. The 30 days that culminate in Eid are devoted to purifying the soul through prayer and abstaining from negative thoughts. It is mandatory for every Muslim who has attained puberty to observe roza, or fast, from sunrise to sunset. The fast is broken in the evening with iftar, which consists of light snacks, and could include dates, chickpea salad and cut fruits.
In Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dargah, which is lit up especially for the occasion, the iftar food is arranged on paper plates and offered to thousands of devotees who gather in the courtyard every evening. The iftar is prepared at the women’s section of the shrine’s Jamat Khana mosque.
In Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook, author Kathleen Seidel writes:
Shaikh Nizamuddin often fasted, and always ate sparingly, usually no more than a small loaf or portion of bread at iftar, with bitter vegetables or rice. At meals he would offer morsels from his plate to everyone else at the table; he might take a bit of rice, but never touched the meat. When asked whether he was satisfied by what little food he ate, the Shaikh answered, “Well! I could eat one more bread, but I do not.” Offered pomegranate seeds dipped in rosewater, or black sugar cane out of season, he accepted the gifts, but gave them away to all present. He vicariously enjoyed the delicious food and drinks relished by his disciples and guests. When he quoted a saint as saying, “People who eat food in front of me, I find their food in my own throat, that is, it is as if I am eating that food,” he was, in fact, referring to his own state.
Since the courtyard fills up by evening, a number of fasting people settle outside the walls of the dargah. They arrange their iftar plates around the various unknown tombs that dot the area.
As the siren booms at the sunset hour signalling the end of the fast, hundreds of hands reach for the food.
Irrespective of your faith, you are free to join the iftar feast and share one of the most sacred moments in Delhi’s culinary experience.
Where Hazrat Nizamuddin’s Dargah, Nizamuddin Basti Time Around 7 pm Nearest Metro Station Jangpura
The sunset ritual