[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Every respectable Delhi guidebook tells you to visit the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya on Thursday evening, aka jumeraat, the big night before the Islamic sabbath. That's when the qawwal musicians offer their sacred music in the shrine’s courtyard, the guidebooks proclaim.
The aforementioned shrine is indeed jam-packed on said evenings. The qawwali performance makes for a memorable experience. But qawwalis are offered every evening in the shrine. The singers are less theatrical on other days when they are not obliged to focus their energies to meet the heightened expectations of the secular masses. There's more depth then.
The Sufi music is also performed in Delhi’s many other dargahs. A true snob will avoid the Thursday crowd at Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dargah for some other unsung shrine, whose evenings are not celebrated by our city’s writers, flâneurs and bloggers.
One excellent place to plan an experience is the shrine of Hazrat Turkman Shah near Ramlila Ground. This dargah consists of just an ordinary-seeming room. The saint’s marble tomb is at the center. (The Delhi Walla wrote about the shrine here).
On every Thursday evening, Hazrat Turkman Shah’s grave is decorated with a great amount of marigold flowers. To be sure, his devotees never manage to fill up the small shrine to capacity but they continue to stream in throughout the long evening.
Since qawwalis are not performed here regularly, the jumeraat crowd consists of people who visit the shrine purely out of spiritual and religious motivations. To watch them offer personalized prayers to the Sufi saint helps a curious visitor to get intimate with the raw mysteries and puzzles of faith. Some pilgrims sit and cry, some sing, some light incense sticks and some seek blessings from the shrine's caretaker, who puts on a yellow cap on Thursday. One might miss the fleeting exhilaration as promised in the guidebooks but the sentimental impact of the quieter evenings experienced in the capital's lesser-known dargahs, such as Turkman Shah’s shrine, stays longer in the heart.
The marigold experience