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Follow the scent of the other sufi

Quintessential Dilli, and yet a Dilli that can slip under the radar of popular interest. The Brunch team discovers a slice of their beloved city that’s not often served to those who do not seek!

brunch Updated: Jan 10, 2015, 12:48 IST
Asad Ali
Asad Ali
Hindustan Times

When asked where the dargah of Hazrat Inayat Khan was located, the man, grilling what looked like a succulent seekh kebab, replied without looking up: "Woh cheel ke paas hai."

Weaving through the folds of Nizamuddin’s bustling alleys is an experience in itself. The neighbourhood is an explosion of aromas, colours and sounds that can get overwhelming for the senses. We all know that Nizamuddin is home to the dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya, Delhi’s best-known Sufi saint.

But, close by, also lies the much quieter dargah of another globally renowned Sufi proponent, Hazrat Inayat Khan. Outside the entrance to his dargah hangs a pair of metal-wrought cheel or kite’s wings with a heart in between – a symbol of Sufism.

Every Friday evening, there is a traditional qawwali performance at Hazrat Inayat Khan Dargah.

Inayat Khan (1882-1927) was born into a family of musicians. He developed an interest in Sufism very early in life, and found a teacher in Sayyed Muhammad Abu Hashim Madani, who was a member of the Chishti Sufi Order himself. It’s said that as Madani lay dying, he told Inayat Khan to go West and spread the Sufi message.

And Inayat Khan did as told. He started "The Sufi Order in the West" (now called the Sufi Order International in New York, which has centres across the world) in the early 20th century. And was was conferred the title of ‘Tansen’ by the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Visit this place on a Friday evening to witness traditional qawwals who sing there (often headed by Meraj Ahmed Nizami and Chand Nizami, who have been singing at the Nizamuddin dargah for years).Within the dargah premises is the Sufi Inayat Khan Music Academy, whose overall operation is headed by art historian Dr Farida Ali.

If you have enough time to invest, you can also learn Hindustani classical music and even qawwali. The Academy provides all the facilities though the fees need to be discussed personally with the qawwals concerned. Ali says that it’s usually about Rs 500 for four classes. Classes in the art of Urdu calligraphy, which is becoming increasingly rare, are also offered.

So if you can sing slightly better than your next-door bathroom rockstar, then try your hand, or rather vocal chords, at qawwali. At the very least you can boast of having attempted to learn an almost 750-year-old musical tradition!

From HT Brunch, January 11, 2015

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