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The perfect urban oasis Mayank Austen Soofi

However, if tombs scare you, walk straight to the dargah. Its hushed ambiance is in sync with the pulse of the Naqshbandia silsila, which is known for its silent remembrance of God.

art and culture Updated: May 14, 2010 02:11 IST

Outside is the usual Sadar Bazar chaos. Enter the gate and you step into calmness. Amidst tombs, clustered tightly on a rolling landscape, lie a mosque, a madrassa and the sufi shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Baqi Billah. Founder of the Naqshbandia silsila, Hazrat Billah was born in 16th-century Kabul. He settled in Delhi to spread the ‘faith’. Here he died and was buried, making this burial ground a favourite among Delhi’s Muslims.

However, if tombs scare you, walk straight to the dargah. Its hushed ambiance is in sync with the pulse of the Naqshbandia silsila, which is known for its silent remembrance of God. The Khwaja himself shunned publicity and was selective about initiating disciples. That is why there is no celebratory chaos of other sufi shrines here. There are no qawwals, no beggars; only trees, tombs, the fallen tree leaves and the occasional pilgrims.

They jointly lift you to an above-the-cloud haven where you feel free of worldly trappings. Connaught Place is ten minutes away by auto, but you will refuse to believe it. If you are not a solitary type, climb to the madrassa. You may find children reciting the Quranic verses; each boy rocking to his own rhythm. Step inside; the children would smile.

Once back in the courtyard, try chatting with Salamatullah. He can be identified with his long white beard, a frail physique and sunken cheeks. His children are all married, his wife dead and he himself lives alone in this dargah-mosque-graveyard complex. Known as Peer Saheb, he can be curt in the beginning. But if you continue to show unfailing courtesy, he will open up and tell you all that you need to know about Hazrat Billah.

“Hazrat lived in a mosque in Ferozeshah Kotla but he used to sweep in the graveyard behind (what is now) Maulana Azad Medical College,” he said. One day, Hazrat Billah visited this graveyard and somehow got his clothes muddied which prompted him to declare that this place would be his final destination.

According to a legend, Khwaja Billah had willed his funeral prayers to be led by a man who had never sinned, never missed a prayer, never skipped a night vigil. When he died at 40, a veiled person appeared from nowhere and declared that the Khwaja had asked him to lead the prayers. It was later discovered that the veiled person was the Khwaja himself. Having always stressed on the concept of fanaa, the annihilation of the self, the Khwaja had wanted no dome to be built on his grave. So, in his dargah, you sit under an open sky. They say that even if it is the sunniest day in peak summer, the barefooted pilgrims feel no heat.

Go, check out the claim.
Where:Qutab Road, Singara Chowk, near Sadar Bazar Area Nearest Metro Station Ramakrishna Ashram Timing 4.30 am to 10 pm

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