City Landmark - Hazrat Amir Khusrau’s 720th Urs, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Dargah

City Landmark – Hazrat Amir Khusrau’s 720th Urs, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Dargah

City Landmark - Hazrat Amir Khusrau’s 720th Urs, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Dargah

A poet-saint’s anniversary

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

As monuments go by, it is not instantly striking. But it is cloaked in rich layers of histories.

In the beginning, it was just a marble grave and remained so for 200 years. Then came a marble headstone erected by emperor Babur. Then came the latticed sandstone enclosure around the grave, erected by emperor Humayun—the inside face of this stone screen has a Persian poem by Humayun himself. Then came the dome erected over the grave during Emperor Akbar’s reign. It was demolished by his son, Emperor Jahangir, who built the rest of the edifice as it exists today.

The memorial, important to so many emperors, is of no emperor. It is of a poet. To this day, Amir Khusrau remains alive with his poetry. The five-day festivities of his Urs, or death anniversary, are beginning today. His tomb lies within the sufi shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, and in Sufism, a mystic’s death anniversary—Urs, the Arabic for wedding—-symbolises the union of the lover with the beloved, God.

This will be the poet’s 720th Urs. The celebrations will start in the evening at 7.30 with prayers and qawwalis in the shrine’s marble courtyard, where qawwal singers daily present Khusrau’s poetry as prayer.

A 14th century Delhi wala, Khusrau died at 72, soon after his mentor Hazrat Nizamuddin’s passing, and was buried across the courtyard from his grave. The dargah’s tradition expects a pilgrim to visit his mausoleum before walking ahead to Hazrat Nizamuddin’s tomb. In March last year, this is exactly what writer Annie Ernaux did on her last evening in Delhi—see photo of the French Nobel laureate in Khusrau’s tomb.

As with Shakespeare and Ghalib, you might already have some unconscious familiarity with Khusrau’s poems, for they have seeped into aspects of our popular culture. His verses tend to be a blend of the courtly Persian and colloquial Brij Bhasha. The film song, Zihal-e-miskin mukun baranjish (lfilm Ghulami), was inspired from Khusrau’s poem, which had alternate lines in Persian and Brij:
Zihaal-e-miskeen mukon taghaful (Persian)
doraaye nainaan banaye batyaan (Brij)
[Do not overlook my misery by blandishing your eyes,
and weaving tales; My patience has over-brimmed.]

This playful duality between languages defined the poet’s style, and duality also defined his life. Devoted to a Sufi repelled by emperors, he made his living by serving in their courts.

During the Urs, qawwalis will be hosted daily in the shrine. Monday will be most special with an all-night qawwali (meaning until about 3am!). While in the dargah, do not forget to have an audience with Khusrau’s headstone, inscribed with an epitaph in Persian that writers can only dream of: “Amir Khusrau, the king of the kingdom of poetry, the ocean of accomplishment and sea of perfection. His prose was more pleasant than flowing water, his poetry purer than limpid water. He was a peerless singing nightingale and a sugar-tongued parrot.”