City Monument - Hazrat Sarmad & Hazrat Hare Bhare, Old Delhi

City Monument – Hazrat Sarmad & Hazrat Hare Bhare, Old Delhi

Old new world.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Some of us like to perceive the world through colours (to truly see the impressionism of colours in everyday existence, you have to google for the New York street-life snapshots by photographer-painter Saul Leiter!) Naturally, the Covid-era restoration of the twin shrines of sufi mystics Hazrat Sarmad Shahid and Hazrat Hare Bhare Shah, some three years ago, produced mixed feelings—relief for the overhaul of such a historically significant place, and regret for the disappearing of its unique distinctiveness.

This shrine of two graves lie wedged between Jama Masjid and Meena Bazar. The exteriors doesn’t look remarkable at all. Nobody would notice. The meditative interiors are a different story. Inside, a neem tree stands between the graves, its massive trunk shooting up through an opening in the ceiling and sparkling into a forest of leaves. For a long time, this small chamber was partitioned into two colours. One half, hosting the grave of Hare Bhare Shah, was exclusively hare, or green, including the walls. The other half, hosting the grave of Sarmad Shahid, was exclusively red. Sarmad, the mystic who walked the Delhi streets without clothes, was executed by emperor Aurangzeb on charges of apostasy. The red colour symbolises his blood. Not much is known about Hare Bhare Shah.

Whatever, the aforementioned restoration erased the twin colours. The red and green walls were inlaid with uniformly white marble from Makrana in Rajasthan. The two graves were given canopies of the same marble. The Sarmad part of the shrine, which was red, ended up being dominantly white. The Hare Bhare part of the shrine, which was green, also ended up being dominantly white.

As if the red-and-green had never existed.

But some months ago, a new series of work brought back the lost colours. The walls outside the tomb chamber (see photo) have been inlaid with a chessboard pattern of red and green tiles. A plywood closet has been painted half with red, half with green. Ditto, the ceiling—it has been painted green, with adornments in red.

This silent afternoon, the sacred chaadar spread upon Sarmad’s grave is red, and the chaadar on Hare Bhare Shah’s grave is green. The neem tree between the two graves is clothed with many layers of similarly sacred fabrics, in green and red.

While the partial return to the earlier scheme of colours has restored the legends of the two mystics, a white marble panel installed during the fateful restoration has become the most poetic aspect of the place. It is inscribed with Sarmad’s rubaiyat, the verses displayed in Devanagari script. The text is in black with only one word in blood-red — Sarmad’s name.

PS: The photo shows Sayyad Mohammad Shahnawaz, the shrine’s flower man