City Walk - Gali Mazar Wali, Old Delhi

City Walk – Gali Mazar Wali, Old Delhi

A Walled City street

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The name promises a grave. And there is indeed a grave. Somebody’s mazar flanks the entrance of Gali Mazar Wali, here in Kalan Mahal locality.

A mazar often—but not always—tends to be the tomb of a peer, a sufi mystic. In fact, a street elsewhere in the old city is named Gali Peerji Wali (featured recently on The Delhi Walla pages) But that peer’s identity is lost to history, so is his mazar. Over here, while the mazar of Gali Mazar Wali physically exists, its legends too have receded into unremembered territory. Nobody seems to know just who lies buried under the grave.

The grave nevertheless cannot be missed. Its size is substantial, wrinkling up a side of the pathway. Its surface is smoothened with a chessboard pattern of green and white tiles, laid some decades back, a passer-by remarks absentmindedly.

The Walled City is sprinkled with such mazars. Chitli Qabar Chowk is named after the mazar of Hazrat Chitli. Turkman Gate has the mazar of Hazrat Turkman Shah Bayabani. Turkman Gate Bazar has a beautiful marble grave under a roadside tree, where gali gossipers kill the hours over glasses of super-meethi chai. Outside the Jama Masjid lies the twin mazars of Hazrat Hare Bhare Shah and Hazrat Sarmad Shahid, close to which lies the mazar of freedom fighter Abul Kalam Azad, close to which lies the garden tomb of General Shah Nawaz Khan (with wife Begum Karim Jaan), a patriot convicted for treason by the British in 1945.

The narrow Gali Mazar Wali is stamped on both sides of its short passage with doors and windows, which are stamped with posters of many types. An eye-catching yellow flier promises cure for “cancer, kidney, lever, asthma, heart, blood pressure, obesity, addiction, skin diseases, and diabetes.” The adjoining banner praises a beauty parlour specialising in “bridal makeup and normal makeup.” The most hyperbolic poster is of a spiritual baba promising instant fixes for “court matters, pyar me dokha (betrayal in love), and sautan se chhutkara (translate it yourself!).” A Hindi-Urdu flier pasted on the wall above the grave cautions “this is a mazar, throwing garbage is prohibited.”

Although the tiled mazar is steeped in anonymity, the mazar’s gali enjoys the privilege of boasting double signages. One is the usual municipal board. The other, installed by the gali’s residential welfare association, is colourful and artistic—it is the work of Purani Dilli’s iconic sign painter Shakeel Artist, the celebrity already celebrated in these pages.