Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What's your sign?

No Open Heads

Continuing the "What's your sign" series...

This, seen in Nizamuddin Dargah, Delhi.

A Dargah is a mausoleum or tomb for a Muslim saint. Nizamuddin Dargah, constructed circa 1563,  houses the remains of Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya, as well as those of Amir Khusro and Jehan Ara Begum.  The tomb of Inayat Khan is in the same neighborhood, round the corner.  There's one area of the tombs into which women are not allowed (I can't remember which, but don't worry, signs are clearly posted).

Thursday evenings at the Dargah feature live Sufi Qawwali music from about 5pm, and continue only about two hours. Admission is always free.

The simplest way to reach the Dargah is just to hop in an autorickshaw and say, "Nizamuddin Dargah" (it's near to Humayan's Tomb, but every driver should know the Dargah).  You can also take Delhi's spiffy Metro to Central Secretariat, but you will still need to take an auto from there. 

Nizamuddin will immerse you in Delhi's rich medieval history of Sufis, Mughals and minarets.  As with Hindu temples, the road to a Muslim dargah is lined with stalls selling appropriate offerings. Rather than oil lamps and sindoor, they feature incense, roses and glittery green cloths to drape on the tomb.  The atmosphere is male-dominated, with some interesting exceptions.  At one stall I saw a woman, head demurely covered and carrying a basket, conversing with the stallkeeper. It didn't even take a second glance to see this was a transgendered person.  She was obviously well-known to the local merchants.  In a previous age, perhaps she would have been a court eunuch or even a court entertainer.  So much has been lost, in a time when Muslim culture is dominated by Taliban and ayatollahs.

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