City Faith – Sufi shrine, Redeveloped Central Vista
First day in the new Central Vista.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This Sufi shrine tucked in the Central Vista lawns, close to Janpath Road, used to be a little island in the pond. Circled with trees, it had four graves. Following the vista’s redevelopment, it has altered but slightly. It is no longer an island. This is perhaps a good thing because you no longer have to risk a fall by jumping across the slippery rocks on the pond water. A tiled track connects the pathway to the gentle mound that makes up the dargah.
And yet, the shrine continues to feel as secluded as before. This evening the place is cloaked in solitude. A painted sign on a painted stone slab identifies the place as the burial place of Hazrat Shabbir Shah Baba. There is no knowing about this mystic, but then Delhi is full of small and big Sufi shrines. The patron saints of a few of these shrines are known across the world, while the biographies of a great many have been lost to history. Many such shrines are also believed to have disappeared over the years, as the expanding metropolis added more buildings to its already limited space.
The absence of a substantial architecture makes it impossible to determine the age of this secretive landmark. Perhaps it’s 500 years old. Perhaps 50. The mystery makes the shrine truly enigmatic. In a furiously changing city, this spot of land has managed to survive unnoticed. It doesn’t figure in any noteworthy guidebook. Nobody might have noticed its passing if it had been lost in the makeover. But it has survived, still a part of our city’s undocumented history.