The Urs of a mystic.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The story of his life has long been forgotten, but his shrine in the Walled City continues to inspire devotion.
Hazrat Hare Bhare Shah’s dargah lies just outside the grand Jama Masjid. The marble tomb is next to the tomb of another Sufi mystic, Hazrat Sarmad Shahid, celebrated in books and magazines, and even the subject of an essay by the freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Not much is known, however, about Hare Bhare Shah. Not the devotees, who daily pray at his shrine, not even the flower seller who has been in the dargah for decades.
One night The Delhi Walla visited Hare Bhare Shah’s tomb. The shrine was lit up with fairy lights. It was Hare Bhare Shah’s Urs, or death anniversary (though it is not exactly known when he died). In Sufism, a Sufi saint’s death is not mourned but celebrated. Urs, meaning “wedding” in Arabic, symbolizes the union of the lover with the beloved God.
The festivity at Hare Bhare Shah’s shrine was led by a troupe of three musicians. They were Old Delhi dwellers who live in the nearby Galli Choori Wallan. The principal qawwal, Ghayyaz Sadiqi, was an elderly man dressed in white from head to toe.
It is a tradition to offer sacred music of qawwali during Urs. Some shrines could command a great crowd on this annual occasion. The Urs of poet-saint Amir Khusro, whose tomb lies in the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, ended a week ago. The entire compound was decorated with light bulbs and flowers, and pilgrims came from far-off villages in packed buses. The qawwals arrived to celebrate Khusro from across Delhi and also from towns outside the capital.
It was midnight when the first qawwali was offered to Hare Bhare Shah. The qawwals sat in front of Sarmad Shahid’s tomb. The shrine is designed in such a way that its tiny courtyard directly looks to Sarmad Shahid’s grave while Hare Bhare Shah’s tomb stands relegated to the side.
The two tombs are separated by a giant neem tree that emerges upwards through an opening on the roof.
The shrine’s unimpressive edifice betrays no hint of its historical and religious significance. The most striking aspect is its color scheme. One half of the building is plastered with red tiles and the other in green. The red symbolizes the sacrifice of Sarmad Shahid, who was executed by Emperor Aurangzeb. The green, or hara, belongs to Hare Bhare Shah. Nobody knows why he was named after this color. In her book The Sufi Courtyard: Dargahs of Delhi, author Sadia Dehlvi only said that Hare Bhare Shah was the “master of Sarmad Shaheed” and was “believed to have migrated to Delhi from Central Asia.”
The scarcity of biographical details was of no consequence to the Urs gathering. Indeed, in a time when Islamist violence dominates headlines across the world, the specter of a small Sufi shrine hosting a thinly attended musical soiree for a little-known Islamic mystic becomes precious.
Oblivious to the celebration, immediately outside the shrine, a homeless woman was quietly fanning herself in the dark humid night.
The heart of Islam