City Faith – Hazrat Shah Turkman Bayabani’s Sufi Shrine, Old Delhi
A hidden landmark.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is the whole of it. This small room with pink walls and a white marble grave.
The shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Shah Turkman Bayabani stands unobtrusively beside the entrance of the Walled City of Shahjahanabad. Hazrat Turkman is believed to be one of the earliest Islamic mystics to settle in Delhi. Said to have arrived in the city in the 12th century, he did not care for the crowd. Drawn to a life of wilderness, he settled in an area where he lies buried today. There was no Shahjahanabad then. It was all jungles and hills. In fact, he used to be known as ‘bayabani’, which means “the one who lives in jungle.”
Today, the rough country that was chosen by Hazrat Turkman as his home no longer exists. Instead of ravines and bushes, the shrine finds itself sandwiched between a monstrous glass building and a teeny-weenie police post. Instead of bird sounds, the air hums with the sound of honking. But step inside the shrine and you are instantly transported into a secretive world of privacy and seclusion.
It is astonishing that such a tiny room supports such a deeply spiritual ambiance. There is barely any decoration except for a dusty cobwebbed chandelier hanging from the roof. Come in the morning when the dargah is immersed in darkness, with spots of sunlight falling softly on the saint’s grave. The sight is magical.
Into the wild