Basant Panchami in Delhi is the time to visit the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya, the 13 Century Sufi saint of the Chisti order. A visit to the Khanaqa (hospice) of Nizamuddin Auliya is akin to traversing through several chapters in the rich history and culture of Delhi.
If you have never ventured into Nizamuddin Dargah, then Basant Panchami is the best time to visit it. Now the sun is warm and the air is festive. The story of Basant Panchami celebration at the dargah is associated with Amir Khusro, the poet and musician, who was a devotee and a 'shagird' of the Nizamuddin Auliya, who lived in his time.
This is how the story goes. Says Prof. Sadiq, an expert on Amir Khusro, “It was the time when Nizamuddin Auliya is said to have gone into prolonged melancholia due to the premature death of his beloved nephew Khwaja Taqiuddin Nuh. It is said that he had stopped smiling and eating. Amir Khusro, his disciple was not happy to see his beloved Auliya in that state of mind. During those times the river Yamuna flowed quite close to the hospice of the saint. It was a Basant Panchami day when he was going towards the river. Khusro followed him. On the way, Khusro picked up some yellow flowers from a mustard field and adorned his turban with them, in addition to sticking some behind his ears. Then he started dancing in that state in front of the Auliya. This performance brought a smile to Auliya's face. From that day the followers of Nizamuddin Auliya started celebrating Basant Panchami.”
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This year too, festivities started in the late afternoon. The day started with a procession from the gate of the dargah complex where the followers carried a chadder made of yellow flowers. This chadder was then spread over the grave of the Sufi saint. Then incense sticks and yellow flowers were offered. Followers wore yellow turbans, scarfs, and caps to take part in Basant Panchami celebrations. Special qawwali's were also sung on the occasion.
Once you have participated in the festivity, it is time for you to linger on and explore. The area of the main shrine is a tour of Delhi’s history. In the Sufi tradition, it was considered very auspicious if someone was buried close to the grave of a Sufi saint. As a result, several prominent people from the history of Delhi are buried around the dargah complex.
The first thing to notice is the Mazar of Amir Khusro himself. The famed poet, who wrote 'chhap tilak sab cheeni mo se naina mila ke’ has his grave close to that of the Auliya. Khusro is credited with not only inventing the qawwali but also the Hindustani classical instruments of sitar and tabla, besides composing numerous poems, puzzles, and songs in an interesting mix of Persian, brij bhasha and Urdu.
Then there is the grave of Jahanara Begam, the elder daughter of Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor, who carried the title of Padshah Begam. She died in 1681 and owing to her Sufi bent of mind and unmarried status, she was buried here. Many women can be seen offering silent prayers on her grave.
Muhammad Shah Rangila, 13th Mughal Emperor, who died in 1749, also has his mausoleum built here. Though he did not have much interest in running his state he was considered a great patron of art and music. Many raag based bandish (compositions) of Hindustani classical music are devoted to him, where his pen name Sada rangeele is used. These compositions were composed by Sadarang and his nephew Adarang, two great masters of Hindustani music belonging to the Mughal court. They are credited with changing the style of Hindustani classical singing into the present-day khayal gayaki.
The legendary poet of Delhi, Mirza Ghalib was also buried here when he died in 1869. Also at just a couple of hundred meters walking distance is the 1627 year built mausoleum of Abdul Rahim Khanekhana, popularly known as Rahim, a well-known poet and an expert in Sanskrit. Rahim ke dohe (Hindi couplet), stand out for celebrating the ganga-jamuna tehzeeb and their rich philosophy. He was also a general in Mughal Emperor Akbar’s army and was considered one of the nine gems at Akbar’s court.