City Faith – Hazrat Naseeruddin Chirag Dehlavi’s Sufi Shrine, South Delhi
Finding tranquility in a secluded dargah.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
What a marvellous place in the winters to while away a sunny afternoon (go away smog!). Here you can sleepily follow the progress of the friendly sun as it ambles along the sprawl of a serene courtyard littered with scores of unknown graves.
This isn’t a graveyard but the secluded shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Naseeruddin Chirag Dehlavi.
The dargah’s haunting spaciousness comes as a surprise, for it is snuggled deep in the heart of a crowded south Delhi village to which it gives its name. The place, in fact, feels completely disconnected from the frenzied pace of the city. Dense foliage of a grand khirni tree leans over the saint’s tomb like a kind protector, while the rest of the courtyard is spotted with a handful of centuries-old ruins.
Even so, only a few people visit the shrine any given day and they, too, happen to be pilgrims more occupied with prayers than in the destination’s soothing ambience. This evening a few folk are sitting cross-legged on the cold floor with eyes closed. A little girl is playing with a rubber ball. A woman is lighting a chirag placed inside an unusually elaborate candle post, a tower-like structure with arched openings on all sides.
The dargah’s most surreal sight, however, has to be of the takhat (wooden bed) believed to be of the shrine’s 14th century patron saint. Hazrat Naseeruddin was born in the holy town of Ayodhya. Raised by his widowed mother, he later withdrew from society and would meditate in the forest. On arriving in our fair city, he became a disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, who made him his spiritual successor. After miraculously lighting earthen lamps with water, Hazrat Naseeruddin acquired the title of ‘Roshan Chirag Dehli’, the glowing lamp of Delhi. He died in 1356 and was buried in the chamber in which he lived.
Today, his tomb, an island of utmost silence, lies immersed in calm darkness. And immediately outside, the courtyard stays bright in its sun-soaked warmth.
A winter refuge