City Moment – Muhammad Shah Rangila’s Biryani, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Dargah
The remarkable Delhi instant.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One man is carrying a plastic bucket filled with rose-flavoured milk. Another is doling out Parle G biscuits.
It is a miserably humid evening in the month of Ramzan. The Delhi Walla is in the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The Sufi shrine’s marble courtyard is teeming with Muslim men. Sitting on straight rows, they are waiting to break the daylong roza, or fast. The dargah’s caretakers are supervising the distribution of iftari, the light snacks eaten to end the roza. The standard items–samosas, pakodis, boiled channa, slices of watermelons and bananas–have already been served. Today there is vegetable biryani, too. This lavish dish is being served by a grateful devotee as an offering to the 14th century Sufi saint.
Servers are bringing tubs filled with biryani from inside the tomb of Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah Rangila; his marble enclosure lies on one side of the courtyard. Indeed, huge cauldrons are arranged around His Majesty’s grave. This should not shock you – the cramped dargah suffers from a shortage of space and the dead must temporarily make adjustments for the living. One man is scooping out the steaming biryani from a cauldron into a tub. Dozens of plastic plates filled with biryani are placed beside a small unmarked grave. Somebody has kept a green tub on Rangila’s tomb.
The emperor was a character of gentle passions, very artistic and amorous–in one of his commissioned paintings he is seen making love to a woman. To stock the food for the pious in such a decadent man’s tomb is quite a radical act.
Meanwhile, an elderly man at the tomb’s door is looking intently at the emperor’s grave. Suddenly, he laughs. It is a beautiful moment.
Blessed by Rangila
While distributing food is a commendable act, there is something profoundly wrong about using a late-Mughal marble tomb as a store/dustbin ( especially pictures 5 and 6). In their quest for religious credit, these people are unthinkingly causing great harm to beautiful relics. Having said that, I am thankful that the monument has not been painted over or covered with concrete/plaster/bathroom tiles. Thank goodness for small mercies.
Very enjoyable photos.
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