I recently went to the to the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi, which I had been meaning to visit for ages. The place is fascinating. The central focus of this shrine is the tomb of Nizamuddin Auliya, a renowned Sufi saint, though there are also some other tombs there. Many people come to pray at this shrine, including people from other religions.

The tomb seen from outside the marble jali or screen. Being a woman, I wasn’t allowed to enter inside. People tie the red and yellow yarn to the jali while offering their prayers, which you also see at many Hindu shrines. Inside the shrine, cloths of green or pink are offered along with red roses.

The shrine itself is beautiful, with liberal use of gold leaf and ornamentation. Since women are not permitted inside, they sit outside to pray. Outside of the shrine itself, there are lots of people sitting around, eating, talking, just being there. There were quite a few families, as well as a number of children who seemed to be on their own.

These musicians were playing when I happened to come. I got the impression that they are there every day or at least pretty often, though I’m not certain. Though the atmosphere was generally reverent, it was also quite relaxed. Sufism is quite different from orthodox Islam in that it’s not at all dogmatic, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the feeling at the shrine of a sufi saint should be so easy-going.

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