City Faith - Basant Panchmi, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Dargah

City Faith – Basant Panchmi, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Dargah

City Faith - Basant Panchmi, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya's Dargah

Season’s greetings.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Someone today will put on a yellow scarf. Somebody else might pick up a yellow turban, or perhaps a yellow kurta. Some other might do with a yellow rose, though yellow mustard flowers are more traditional.

This evening, the dargah, or sufi shrine, of Hazrat Nozamuddin Auliya will be packed with citizens in yellow, gathered to greet Basant Panchmi, Delhi’s brief spring season.

The tradition of celebrating the Basant in the historic shrine began about seven centuries ago, remarks Peerzada Altamash Nizami, whose family has descended from the aforementioned sufi through his sister’s side (Hazrat Nizamuddin never married). The mild-mannered gentleman in white kurta-pajama vividly details the origins of the dargah’s connection to the festival.

Back then there was no “Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dargah,” which was built later, as a mausoleum to house his grave (though the baoli and the mosque, parts of the modern-day dargah complex, were already there). The great mystic lived in his khanqah on the banks of Yamuna —today, the remains of that retreat lies sandwiched between the posh Nizamuddin East and Humayun Tomb. After his beloved bhanja’s (nephew’s) death at a very young age, Hazrat Nizamuddin fell silent, prompting his devotees to search ways to temper his sadness. Among his ardent devotees was poet Amir Khusro. One day, Khusro chanced upon a group of women walking and dancing, each in a yellow dress with yellow flowers. They told Khusro that they were heading to a mandir to celebrate the Basant. Khusro too put on yellow clothes and appeared in front of Hazrat Nizamuddin, whose face instantly lit up into a smile.

Naturally, the qawwals who bring Khusro’s poetry to music everyday in the shrine’s courtyard exercise a significant role in the celebrations. This evening, holding yellow mustard flowers, the singers shall walk through the cramped lanes of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti—the centuries-old village that surround the Dargah—chanting one of Khusro’s many Hindi poems: “Aaj Basant mana ley suhagan.” The ritual walk shall start from the shrine of Hazrat Taqiuddin Nuh, the nephew whose passing had propelled Hazrat Nizamuddin into gloom. The nephew’s grave lies within the Basti, in a locality called Dildarnagar. The walk shall conclude in Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dargah (see photo, from a previous year). After the evening prayers, the qawwals shall settle down in the sufi courtyard to offer Khusro’s poems, heralding the Basant. Reach by 4pm.