City Faith – A Secretive Sufi Shrine, Connaught Place
Peace in the chaos.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One has seen the whole of Connaught Place (CP), isn’t it? It’s one beloved destination in the capital familiar to almost every Delhiite. Each of us has our own favourite cafe, cinema, showroom or bakery. Indeed, these CP landmarks are part of our biographies involving romances, break-ups, friendships and betrayals.
But one of CP’s best kept secrets is a sprawling Sufi shrine. Half the pleasure of enjoying it is to search for the place.
The shrine is tucked away in the Outer Circle, just across the road from a hotel, which, originally known as Marina, was one of New Delhi’s earliest hotels. On reaching the spot you have to look hard for a narrow lane speckled with painted signboards advertising a number of oddities, including an astrologer’s services. The smallest of these banners, the one you are most likely to miss, says: Dargah-e-Aliya. That’s the destination.
The almost-invisible passageway snakes up into the shrine. A totally different world exists in this marbled courtyard—so tranquil that you feel as if peacefulness is dropping straight from the sky. Rows of graves lie under rows of leafy neem trees.
The dargah is devoted to Shah Abdul Salaam Faridi Chishti, a descendant of Sufi saint Salim Chishti of Fatehpur Sikri. A gentleman perched on the shrine’s dry fountain says that the shrine originally encompassed 60 bighas. This area used to be called Baanskoli, a village that was eventually replaced by Connaught Place, he informs.
The patron saint’s grave is snuggled inside a vaulted chamber. The afternoon sunshine is falling softly, turning the stony surface into a pile of gold. This sprawling compound feels remote. In the city’s heart, this island of astonishing serenity has survived the centuries even as the world it came from has long gone.
How serene is my city