A Sufi Basant at Nizamuddin Dargah

Symbolising cultural unity on Basant Panchami

Culture

February 17, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah in New Delhi witnessed a beautiful amalgamation of different faiths on Tuesday, as devotees of different beliefs gathered together to celebrate the onset of spring season or Basant Panchami.

 

 

After a rather cold and often bleak winter, the very idea of a festival marking the onset of spring is uplifting, but when it also brings with it the fragrance of a syncretic culture, it becomes incomparable. Such is the annual celebration of Basant Panchami at the dargah (shrine), in New Delhi, of Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya (1238-1325 C.E), of the Chishti order.

As winter began to give way for spring, devotees wore their yellow robes and gathered for the Basant Panchami celebrations at the dargah. With marigold flowers and yellow attires lining the way, qawwali programmes scheduled specially for this occasion, the conglomeration maintained social distancing to keep it a safe affair. The qawwalis, were performed by Nizami brothers Ghulam Sabir and Gulam Waris, who have been a key part of the celebrations for years.

The holy shrine was awash in mustard yellow with flowers, colourful lights and bright trinkets. The attendants draped in yellow scarves and offered yellow chadar (sheet) and flowers on the grave of the saint. The main function started after Asr, or afternoon prayers. All-day long, thousands of devotees, old, young and even children kept visiting and offering prayers on the occasion.

Visitors joined the procession through the by-lanes of the Nizamuddin settlement, stopping at the grave of Khwaja Tajuddin Nuh, before finally entering the dargah. Once inside the dargah, the singers took out yellow sheets that they had carried with them, and holding it above their heads, entered the shrine. This is the only occasion on which the qawwali singing is done inside the shrine, where the grave of the saint is located. On all other, occasions it happens outside, in the courtyard.

“Devotees at this shrine, have been celebrating Basant Panchami festival for over 800 years now. People from all parts of Delhi and even from outside, flock here to become a part of this auspicious celebration,” Sayyad Afsar Ali Nizami, chairman of the dargah tells Media India Group, adding that the tradition was started by Hazrat Amir Khusro. “I send my best wishes to all for the onset of the spring season and Basant Panchami festival,” he adds.

Nizami continued, “The Sufis have a long tradition of adapting to the local culture and language of the places they visited to spread their message. The Chishti Sufis not only tried to relate to the Indian culture and music but they also experimented with and enriched the prevailing cultural forms. The spring festival is a living example of this.”

The ceremonial prayer inside the dargah was led by the Nizams, descendants of the saint, who administer the shrine. They placed a yellow sheet and mustard flowers on the saint’s grave, and then lit incense sticks, as the qawwals sang hymns about the arrival of spring and thousands of devotees stood mesmerised.

Nizami says that this annual celebration goes beyond religious barriers in society today, where people of all sects and classes come together to celebrate and pray for peace and harmony for all.

Allauddin, one of the devotees present at shrine feels that in those rousing moments when the dargah is a sea of mustard yellow and the qawwali reach up to the sky, it is difficult to remain a mere spectator. “I  feel that tI am are breathing in the fragrance of the Auliya’s message of love, exemplified by his beloved disciple Khusro who weaved an eternal spring of cultural syncretism in the subcontinent,” he says.

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