City Faith – Red & Green Colors of a Sufi Complex, Outside Jama Masjid
The lights of Sufism.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The blinking spotlight was put up just last week. It first glows red, then green.
Do not confuse this for a traffic signal please. This is the new lighting arrangement in a most extraordinarily colour-coordinated Sufi Shrine in Old Delhi. The dargah is barely the size of a modest drawing room. Half of it is painted red, the other half is green. Even the door, as well as the outer wall, is divided equally into these two shades.
The colour-scheme appears logical once you get familiar with the shrine’s two patron saints. One half of it has the tomb of Sarmad Shahid. A Muslim mystic of Jewish origins, Sarmad was beheaded for apostasy by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. It is said his blood stains would refuse to be washed off, and that explains the red colour in his portion of the shrine.
The other tomb is of Hare Bhare Shah. Not much is known about this mystic except that his name translates to green.
Pilgrims stream into the tiny dargah throughout the day, offering roses (always red, if you really want to know) at both the tombs. The graves are separated from each other by a neem tree that emerges upwards into the sky through an opening in the roof.
Fondly gazing upon the new spotlight, the shrine’s caretaker, Nooruddin, explains, “We purchased the batti from Meena Bazaar. The lights enhance the respect due to the dargah.”
In any other place, such a bulb might have been a distraction, but in this centuries-old shrine, it has effortlessly merged into the landscape. As if it had always been here.
Colors of faith