"Hijron ka khanqah?” the man on the cycle looks at me quizzically.
I have been wandering around the Mehrauli market for the past one hour trying to locate it. But none of the shopkeepers or residents seem to know anything about it. Just when I am about to give up, an old man sitting behind a pan shop gives directions.
Sandwiched between hardware and electronic shops, the khanqah is easy to miss. I walk through an entrance in the green iron grille, up a narrow flight of stairs. The hullabaloo of the bazaar fades away. It’s serene, peaceful and beautiful inside.
When an elder from the community passes away, the eunuchs of Delhi congregate at the Hijron Ka Khanqah in Mehrauli.
The khanqah has 49 whitewashed graves. But these are no ordinary graves. Forty-nine hijras (or eunuchs) of Delhi were buried here back in the 15th century during the Lodi period.
In the corner, shaded by a neem tree, stands the main tomb, beautifully decorated with tiles. “This is the tomb of Miyan Saheb, the eldest hijra of them all,” says the Hindu caretaker who has been looking after the khanqah for almost 30 years now.
According to him, Miyan Saheb was the
sister of Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (a favorite of the Lodi dynasty). And that is why he gifted this place to Miyan Saheb and the hijra community.
Today the khanqah is owned and maintained by the hijras of Delhi’s Turkman Gate. They still come here on religious occasions to feast, to celebrate or to just get together during the week. It’s like a spiritual retreat for them. However, no fresh burials are made here, he clarifies.
The walls around the courtyard are tinted yellow with hand prints. I ask about them and the caretaker explains, “When an elder from the community passes away, the eunuchs of Delhi congregate here to pay respect to the deceased soul. Woh nek karte hain, chawal rangte hai. And hence, these hand prints. They come here and distribute food to the poor.”
From HT Brunch, January 11, 2015
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