Basant : When mustard flowers bloom in the Khwaja’s Dargah

Sakal ban phool rahi sarson,
Umbva boray, tesu phulay,
Koyal bolay daar daar,
Aur gori karat singaar,
Malaniyan gadhwa lay aayin karson,

Every field is filled with yellow mustard blooms
Mango buds open, flame of the forest trees blossom,
Every branch echoes with the koyal’s call
The lovely maiden dons her make up
The garden ladies bring fragrant bouquets,

These Purbi lyrics sung in the raag bahar melody herald the beginnings of Basant (on the eve of Basant Panchami) festivities at the Dargah of the Sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the reader were taken aback by these words, this occasion and the connection with a Sufi saint.
Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya (1238-1325 A.D.) was a saint of the Chistiya silsila and the successor of Baba Farid. He is called the People’s saint and was given the title of Mehboob e Ilaahi or Beloved of God. He believed that for a saint the three necessary things were ishq (love) aql (wisdom) and ilm (knowledge.) It was only through this that one could reach one’s goal of fulfillment. He used them all in generous amounts.

His belief was that one can devote one’s life to God through two ways :
1. 1. lazmi or intransitive — where an individual comes closer to God through prayer and meditation, and
2. 2.muta’addi or transitive — where you assist your fellow beings to lead a smoother life.

He practiced both and touched many hearts. Though he lies buried close to many Emperors and noblemen from the medieval ages, his dargah sees more visitors and devotees than any of the Emperor’s tombs. In fact the area where his Dargah lies was called Ghiyaspur after the Delhi Sultan Balban who built his palace there. But today it is known by the name of the saint as Nizamuddin basti.

One of my favourite sayings of Hazrat Nizamuddin which explains the deep devotion that he commanded is
“The wilayat (domain) of gnosis and faith can
suffer decay. The wilayat of compassion can not.”

Altamash Nizami one of the direct descendants of Hazrat Nizamuddin and part of the Dargah committee told me this story about the origins of Basant celebrations in the Dargah.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya did not have children and was very attached to his sister’s son Khwaja Taqiuddin Nuh. The attachment was deep and mutual. Alas a fatal illness took Khwaja Nuh from this world.

His death was a deep blow for Mehboob e Ilaahi and he grieved over the loss and was extremely saddened. His followers particularly Hazrat Amir Khusrau longed to see him smile once again.
One day Hazrat Amir Khusrau saw a group of village women, dressed in yellow, carrying mustard flowers and singing on the road near the Khwaja’s khanqah .
His khanqah ( retreat or monastery) where he spent his life reaching out to people is a little way behind Humayun’s tomb.
He asked them where they were going dressed like this. The women replied that they were going to the temple to offer the flowers to their God. Amir Khusrau asked them whether this made their God happy? On hearing an affirmative answer he immediately dressed up in a yellow Saree and carrying mustard flowers came into the presence of his pir ,Khwaja Hazrat Nizamuddin singing ‘sakal ban phool rahi sarson.’
The Khwaja recognizing his favourite disciple smiled at his get up and song.
This was an occasion for rejoicing and since then the tradition of dressing up in yellow, carrying mustard flowers and singing qawwali on Basant Panchami started.

This year I had the good fortune to attend the celebrations myself. The atmosphere in the dargah was electrifying with a langar ( food for all) being held in the dargah complex and various qawwali groups singing in the courtyard.
After the asr ( afternoon) prayers all the qawwali singers gathered in a lane opposite Ghalib’s grave and the celebrations started from a small by lane there.
I presume the significance of that lane must be that this is the original spot from where Hazrat Amir Khusrau started his song. I asked many people there but no one could give me a satisfactory answer, except that this is from where it has always started.
There was a ceremonial prayer, lighting of incense sticks and then the singing commenced.
Young and old, everyone joined in the procession which went into the by lanes of Nizamuddin Basti, stopping at the grave of Khwaja Tajuddin Nuh and entering the Dargah.
Once in the dargah, they took a yellow chadar (sheet) and holding it above their heads, entered the shrine itself. This is apparently the only occasion on which the qawwali singing is done inside the shrine. On all other occasions it is outside in the courtyard.

After that they all assembled outside and encouraged by the SajjadaNasheen Hasan Nizami, the various qawwals sang and rejoiced.
The qawwali session lasts for a few hours after which they go to the choti dargah or Hazrat Amir Khusrau’s grave and make their offerings there.
The shrine’s courtyard was full of people from different areas, regions and faiths: all united with a common love for the people’s saint, dressed in yellow to celebrate the occasion when he smiled once more on the eve of spring.

Aaj Basant Manaley Suhangan

Aaj Basant Manaley
Anjan Manjan Kar Piya

Lambay Neher Lagaaye
Tu Kya Sovay Neend Maasi

So Jaagay Teray Bhaag, Suhagan
Aaj Basant Manalay…;
Thank You Asif for taking me to the Dargah
Thank You Pari for showing us the sama Room of Mehboob e Ilahi
and a big thank you Syed Mohammad Qasim for these beautiful Photographs

Thank You Raj Prajapati for the photographs

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