City Landmark - Bedil’s Tomb & Bharat Mandapam, Mathura Road

City Landmark – Bedil’s Tomb & Bharat Mandapam, Mathura Road

Long-ago poet these times.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Delhi is changing so fast. Just across the road are the sleek edifices of Pragati Maidan’s Bharat Mandapam. They came up last year, replacing the decades-old Hall of Nations.

But on this side of the busy Mathura Road, nothing has changed. The dusty leaf-strewn ground is littered with derelict graves. The centrepiece is the tomb of one of the world’s great poets, though forgotten in the city in whose mitti he has found his everlasting rest. Understandable perhaps, for Abdul Qadir Bedil (1642–1720) wrote in Persian, which was a language of the elite in the India of his time. Besides, his poetry is considered tough to crack.

That said, Bedil is a superstar in the countries of Central Asia, which were once a part of the Soviet Union. The Russian-language signboard beside his tomb, unveiled by a Tajikistani President, celebrates a legend who “was nourished by this blissful and fertile land of Hindustan” and whose “celestial verses have greatly benefited the evolution of the poetry of Persia and Tajikistan in the past centuries.” Even Ghalib—who wrote in Urdu and Persian, and was notorious for being dismissive of fellow poets—had utmost esteem for Bedil. Check these words by Ghalib:
Tarz-e-bedil mein rekhta kehna
Asadullah Khan, qayaamat hai
(To write Urdu in the style of Bedil,
that indeed is superlative, Asadullah Khan)

Like most Delhiwallas, Bedil wasn’t originally from Delhi. He was from modern-day Bihar, where his forefathers had arrived from Afghanistan. In fact, one afternoon, an elderly Afghan man was seen reverently stepping inside Bedil’s tomb. Kneeling down on the grave, the visitor from Kabul took out a notebook from his jacket’s breast pocket. With trembling fingers, he jotted down the Persian text inscribed on the poet’s gravestone. He then got up, straightened his frail figure, placed his hand on his heart, and murmured a prayer.

Poetic-minded or not, every Delhi walla ought to spend some time at Bedil’s tomb, if only to marvel at how much our city has changed, just across the road, and how little as well—on this side of the road, by a poet’s grave.