City Faith – Chitli Qabar Dargah, Chitli Qabar Chowk
Sufi shrine, now and then.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The long, curving crack on the discoloured wall evoked the course of a river. A tiny uneven gap through the same wall disconcertingly showed the flower shop on the other side.
The size of a small household attic, this chamber in a chaotic four-route Old Delhi chowk is a historic sufi shrine. It gives its name to the chowk as well as to the surrounding bazar.
It no longer shows its familiar scruffiness.
Last week, the Chitli Qabar dargah was cleansed of its years-old grime. The long crack has been mended, the gap has been filled up, the walls painted to a barely perceptible pink, the floor is free of clutter. (See the before/after photos).
Unlike those hyperlocal temples and mosques whose steeple or dome consecrates every point of view in their respective chowk or bazar, the centuries-old Chitli Qabar dargah stands discreetly, showing nothing of itself to the Chitli Qabar Chowk and the Chitli Qabar Bazar.
The day-long renovation in fact went virtually unnoticed. It was undertaken by an “anonymous Hindu devotee” from Paharganj, says Waseem Khan of the aforementioned next-door flower shop, whose family has been the dargah’s custodian over the centuries. The young man tells his version of Chitli’s origins: “This whole region was a jungle before Shah Jahan set up the city. Khwaja Majiuddin, whom we now know as Hazrat Chitli, used to live in the bayabani wilds here; and was eventually buried on the spot where he lived. Years later, a buzurg fakir called Haji Rahimuddin would look after his qabar. He too was buried within the same qabar.”
Waseem says the dargah acquired its name of Chitli due to the ”chitai ka kaam (carving work)” once prevalent in the vicinity.
Post its facelift, the shrine’s spirit remains inviolate. This afternoon, the grave is clothed with green chaadar, on which rose petals have been sprinkled. The chandelier too is shrouded in a new, cleaner protective plastic. And Naushe bhai, the street seller of artificial jewellery, continues to be stationed at the shrine’s entrance. He always sits on the sill of the dargah’s narrow door, spontaneously shifting his body’s upper half sideward each time a visitor enters the shrine. The knick- knacks of his stall are decorously strung on the dargah’s street-facing wall—this wall too has been painted afresh.
Miraculously, the bazar’s cacophonous shorogul and bakbak doesn’t disturb the dargah’s shanti. This afternoon, the peaceful tomb chamber feels eons away from the restless present, as if snuggled in some remote past, or in some remote future.
Old landmark, afresh