The dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya is abuzz with activity for Basant Panchami celebrations. The Hindu spring festival, or Sufi Basant as it is popularly known, dates back to the 12th century when celebrated poet Amir Khusrow dedicated his songs of spring to his khwaja (spiritual master) Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.
Every year Sufi Basant falls on the third day of Jumada-al-awwal, the fifth month of the Islamic calendar, when the dargah smells of mustard blooms and is decorated with marigold flowers. Devotees come dressed in yellow to mark the day. This year, it falls on February 13.
“Who would have thought of Basant Panchami celebrations at a dargah? To me, there can be no better example of communal harmony than this. I am glad to have witnessed this unique integration at Nizamuddin dargah,” said Rakshita Seth, who is a resident of Jangpura.
Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin’s young nephew Taqiuddin Nooh had died and he was grief stricken for six months. One day when Khusrow was sitting near Arab ki Sarai, he saw some women dressed in yellow carrying marigold flowers and singing devotional songs. When asked the reason, they said that it was goddess Kalkaji’s day.
“Very few people know about the origin of Basant Panchami celebrations here. After he saw those women dressed in yellow to please their master, it left him wondering why he couldn’t do the same for his master and that is how it all started,” said Syed Kashif Ali Nizami, a descendant of Hazrat Nizamuddin and in-charge of the dargah committee.
If fables are to be believed, a dejected Hazrat Nizamuddin had withdrawn from the society and his followers began to think of ways to cheer him up. Khusrow had asked those women whether their singing and offering of flowers made the goddess happy and they said it did. Then he decided to do something special for Auliya. He donned a yellow ghagra (traditional Indian long skirt), covered his head with a yellow chunari (scarf), carried a dholak around his neck, mustard flowers in his hands and sung spring songs to his master.
Seeing his beloved follower singing and dancing like a woman, Hazrat Nizamuddin broke into laughter and it was an end of his mourning period. Following this incident, the day is celebrated every year by his followers. It has been more than seven centuries since then and the congregation continues to celebrate Sufi Basant in remembrance of the incident.
“The event starts after asr (afternoon prayers) and qawwali singers gather near Nizamuddin Basti and move towards the dargah. This happens to be the only day of the year when yellow flowers are offered at Nizamuddin dargah,” said Syed Bilal Nizami, caretaker and in-charge of the dargah committee.
Special qawwali programmes are organised on this day and spring songs are dedicated to Hazrat Nizamuddin. Qawwali programme usually happens in the courtyard of the dargah, but an exception is made for Sufi Basant and qawwals perform around the tombs of Amir Khusrow and Hazrat Nizamuddin. “The singers enter the complex holding yellow sheets above their heads and begin the programme. This is the only dargah where Basant Panchami is celebrated with so much passion and dedication,” said Syed Bilal Nizami.