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Delhiwale: Final retreat for the third sex

Hijron Ki Khanqah is where transgenders from across the country come to feast, sing, dance and pray

delhi Updated: Jul 17, 2017 11:03 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
The Hijron Ki Khanqah, sufi spiritual retreat for ‘hijras’, is situated on the scenic bazaar street of south Delhi’s Mehrauli region.
The Hijron Ki Khanqah, sufi spiritual retreat for ‘hijras’, is situated on the scenic bazaar street of south Delhi’s Mehrauli region. (Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

Beautifully maintained, surprisingly serene, and almost always empty, this is a sufi spiritual retreat for ‘hijras’, or transgenders, who often beg for money by flaunting their sexuality, and yet are fiercely guarded about their private lives.

Situated on the scenic bazaar street of south Delhi’s Mehrauli region, the Hijron Ki Khanqah is entered through an iron grill. Up a flight of six stairs, the courtyard is covered with 50 whitewashed tombs. Forty-nine transgenders are buried here. The principal tomb, covered by a roof, is said to be that of the sister of a man known simply as Sheikh Baba.

This was originally a Lodi-era graveyard that was claimed by transgenders at the turn of the 20th century. The western wall has seven mihrab (niches) indicating the direction of Mecca’s main shrine. Try climbing the stairs; the courtyard view from the roof is lovely.

Transgenders come here from different neighbourhoods in Delhi, and from as far as Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. They arrive in groups of 10, 15 or even 50; usually to celebrate an occasion. Here they feast, sing, dance and pray. Sometimes they cook in the graveyard, sometimes they bring packed biryani. In their absence, the khanqah, with its giant neem tree, remains as still as a grave.