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Resting in peace

Beautifully maintained, surprisingly serene, and almost always empty, Hijron ka Khanqah in Mehrauli is a sufi spiritual retreat for hijras, or eunuchs, who beg for money by flaunting their ambiguous sexuality and yet, are fiercely guarded about their private lives.

entertainment Updated: Mar 10, 2010 01:26 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

Beautifully maintained, surprisingly serene, and almost always empty,

Hijron ka Khanqah

in Mehrauli is a sufi spiritual retreat for

hijras

, or eunuchs, who beg for money by flaunting their ambiguous sexuality and yet, are fiercely guarded about their private lives.



Situated on Mehrauli’s scenic bazaar street, the Khanqah has to be entered through an iron grill. Up a flight of six stairs is a courtyard dotted with 50 whitewashed tombs. Forty-nine hijras are buried here. The chief tomb, covered by a roof, is said to belong to the sister of a man known simply as Sheikh Baba.



The Khanqah was originally a Lodi-era graveyard that was claimed by eunuchs at the turn of the 20th century. Its 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.



Kinnars

— the polite term for

hijras

— come here from all over Delhi as well as from other cities. They come in groups of 10, 15 or even 50 to celebrate an occasion; they feast, sing, dance and pray. Sometimes, they cook in the graveyard; at other times, they bring packed biryani. In their absence, the Khanqah, with its giant neem tree, remains as still as a grave.



Where:

Main bazaar street, Mehrauli