New look, old mood.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Each of the two tombs is now surrounded by a grille of white marble. The floor has been laid with smoother tiles. These are among the new attractions.
The Sufi shrines of Hazrat Sarmad Shahid and Hazrat Hare Bhare Shah have undergone a major renovation. Situated on the footsteps of Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid, both the graves lie within the same compound. It took two years for the red-and-green walls to be demolished and replaced by new red-and-green walls. The colors correspond to Sarmad Shahid (red) and Hare Bhare Shah (green).
Sarmad Shahid was born to an Armenian Jewish family in what is now Iran. He later converted to Islam and lived as a naked fakir in Mughal-era Delhi where he was eventually executed by Emperor Aurangzeb for his refusal to succumb to religious orthodoxy. Not much is known about Hare Bhare Shah, though some devotees told The Delhi Walla that he was an eunuch renowned for his wisdom, generosity and asceticism. Sarmad Shahid was said to be Hare Bhare Shah’s disciple.
The money for the tomb’s rather haphazard restoration came in bits and pieces from donations offered by devotees of Sarmad and Hare Bhare Shah. The biggest contributor was a wholesale dealer of denim jeans. He lives in the nearby Matia Mahal Bazaar and wishes to remain anonymous.
The restoration is still not complete but the shrine has started to inch closer to its final look. Those who would visit it after a long gap might long for the frayed carpets and the chipped walls of the old times that gave the place its familiar charm. The shining tiles might even upset the strict-minded aesthetics.
At least, the giant neem tree, which separates the two tombs, is still there. As always, you can only see its thick trunk inside the tomb chamber. The tree is viewed in its full majesty from outside the shrine—its green leafy branches snaking out through an opening in the roof and spreading over the entire shrine as well as an adjacent tea shop.
To be sure, the original structure is lost to history, but the alterations made to its most recent appearance may not be easily acceptable to a regular visitor. Nevertheless, it is calming to watch an occasional devotee offer rose petals on the grave of either of the saints, or pin a handwritten sheet of prayer beside Sarmad’s or Hare Bhare’s headstone. The emotional effect of lounging in the shrine, therefore, remains out of this world.
Lovely as always