After walking from the metro station through an almost deserted neighbourhood, I cross a road, and get a glimpse of colourful houses behind a flyover. It is the first view I get of Nizamuddin West, an old neighbourhood squeezed between main roads, to the west of Humayun's Tomb. When I leave the main road behind me and walk into the neighbourhood, I suddenly find myself in alleys, and walk through a low gate into alleys where I can touch both sides with my arms stretched. I follow the meandering alleys, past shops and people sitting outside, dodging men who drive their motorcycle through this web of narrow streets. One thing is immediately clear: this is a Muslim quarter, men walk around in taqiyah, the traditional muslim cap, restaurants serve Muslim food, many women are veiled.
The main goal for visiting this neighbourhood is the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya, a 13th century Sufi saint of the Chishti order, but after walking around the neighbourhood in circles, I come back to the low gate where I started. I walk back, and then notice a row of shops with colourful clothes and red flowers, and enter through a marble gate. When I am asked to take off my shoes, I know that I am on the right track. I see a water tank where people walk down the stairs, and after walking around it, reach more small stalls selling flowers and other items. There are beggars everywhere, some badly mutilated, trying to earn some money from the visitors to this shrine. Then, I step into a courtyard, and have reached my destination. The courtyard is filled by a crowd of colourful people. Some sit on the marble floor, others take selfies, talk to each other, buy flowers, wash their feet at one of the basins. The Jama-at-Khana mosque is partly under repair.
It is time to walk around the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya, which is surrounded by a constant stream of people. I have arrived at the end of the day, and I hear live music and singing. Indeed, a few men sit on the ground, and sing their qawwalis. I stand next to the marble tomb of Jahanara, the eldest and favourite daughter of Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, and just watch. There is constant movement. On the ground, women sit with their children. In front of the shrine: people posing for pictures, carrying flowers, getting ready to stand in line to enter the shrine. I nudge closer to the shrine, see women sitting on the ground reading texts while men enter the shrine in a constant line. In the adjacent mosque, people sitting on the floor in prayer. Behind the tomb of Jahanara, I find another small shrine, where people struggle to enter. They all touch the entrance with their right hand before entering. Here, another small group of men making music, and someone burning incense. Here again, I just stand against a wall and watch the constant movement, sounds, colours, smells before my eyes. I stay until the light is almost gone, walk through alleys lined by more shops to the exit, wondering what this busy place must look like on one of the special days of celebration? I might be back just to find out.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (India). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Read more about this site.