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A must-see sight before you die.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One of the things to do in Delhi before you die is to watch the daybreak at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, the shrine of the 14th century sufi saint.
Embedded within a village of the same name (Nizamuddin Basti), the Dargah is accessible through topsy-turvy medieval-era bylanes. If it’s winter, reach by 5.45am, in time for the morning prayers.
Park the car in Mathura Road, next to Nizamuddin police station, and start walking. The usually bustling Basti streets are empty, save a rag picker or two. Avoid stumbling into people sleeping at the Dargah's entrance. Inside, candles are burning on a few unknown tombs jutting out from the floor. A pilgrim is sitting in meditative contemplation. The door to Hazrat Nizamuddin’s tomb is already open for the day. Sneak in to take a look (if you are a woman, peek through the stone jaalis for you will not be allowed in). Fresh roses are placed on the saint’s grave.
Built in the same courtyard and period, the Jamatkhana mosque, a few steps left to the Dargah, has a dozen odd people praying in front of its Western wall. Maybe it’s the pre-dawn darkness, or the moment’s sanctity, or the building’s historical worth or a mix of all, but the sights and sounds feel as illusionary as an early morning dream.
You are not a Muslim? No worries. No faith has the power to restrain its spiritual surge only to its followers.
Meanwhile, the black sky above the courtyard is changing to pale blue. Against this backdrop, the Dargah’s dome is looking as heartbreakingly beautiful as your lover’s teardrop. Take a last look. The courtyard is stirring to life. The magic hour is starting to fade. Beggars are waking, people are entering. Congratulations, you just lived one of Delhi’s best experiences.
Streets are empty except...
The crowded entrance
Candle on a tomb
A meditative pilgrim
Inside the Saint's shrine
Another shrine, of Amir Khusro's
The Jamatkhana mosque gathering
Good morning, God
Really pious or just morning birds?
The day is breaking
The magic moment
A fire somewhere
Jamatakhana Mosque (left), Nizamuddin Dargah
The magic is now fading
The spell is broken but there's always the chai