Dargah Shah e Mardan in Jorbagh

Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety, after all it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly.”
Hazrat Ali Ibn Abu-Talib A.S

Hazrat Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet pbuh and according to the Shias his chosen successor because of the Prophet’s pronouncement in Ghadeer :
Man Kunto Maula

Fa hada Aliyun Maula

For those whom I am Maula

Ali is also a Maula

The interpretation of Maula is taken by the Shias as leader and by others as friend.

Except for Naqshbandi Sufis all other Sufi silsilas go back to Ali.

The Safavis of Iran were Shias ( Shia itself means friend and so Shia means friends of Ali) and they were responsible for the spread of Shia faith in Iran and to some other parts of the world.

The fall of the Safavid dynasty and the growth of the Mughal dynasty in India saw an exodus of many Persian nobles to India. Many were all raised to positions of importance in the Mughal court. Nur Jahan was a Shia and many Shias gained high positions in Jahangir’s reign.

Aurangzeb however was a strict Sunni Muslim and did not encourage Shias and many faced persecution under him.

Edward Gibbon the famous British historian said for Hazrat Ali : “The zeal and virtue of Ali were never outstripped by any recent proselyte. He united the qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint; his wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings; and every antagonist, in the combats of the tongue or of the sword, was subdued by his eloquence and valour.”

Ali was the epitome of knowledge, wisdom. Generosity and valour and he was given the title of Shah e Mardan : King of men. Therefore many dargahs devoted to Ali are called Shah e MArdan. In fact there is a qawwali on Ali

Shah-e-Mardan Sher-e-Yazdan


La fata Illa Ali La Saif Illa Zulfiqar

King of men, Lion of Yazdan

Strength of God

There is no one unconquerable like Ali

There is no sword like Zulfiqar.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Ali is the one whose help is invoked by those in time of need.

The storyof the Dargah in Aliganj (Jorbagh) is also related to this.

In the 15th or 16th century ( no exact dates are available for this) a Shia man Arif Shah was running from persecution . He was followed by the army. Tired from running he stopped to rest in Aliganj on the exact spot that his dargah is made and started invoking Ali.

Ya Ali madad.

Very soon he saw a very very gentleman who put his hand on his head and kept pressing it down till he became as small as a 2 year old child. The army very soon caught up with him but to their surprise they saw only a small child and they moved on. Arif Shah soon came back to his normal size and saw that the spot on which his savior Maula Ali had stood was a footmark. The dargah of Hazrat Arif Shah was built on this place. His urs is in the month of sawan.




20140914_140358In the compound of his dargah is  curved Bangla type bulding. It was initially a mosque but today is used for residential purposes by the caretakers and a storehouse.20140914_140426He established a dargah there called Dargah Qadam Sharif.

20140914_142251The photograph below is the actual Qadam Sharif or footmark of Hazrat Ali

20140914_134747This small building made by him was later improved upon and rebuilt on a grander scale by Qudsia Begum, one of the wives of the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah ‘Rangeela’ in 1719–48.

20140914_134740Next to the QadamSharif or footmark is a another shrine which is called Bibi ki Chakki. It is said to be the millstone used by Bibi Fatima the daughter of the Prophet and Hazrat Ali’s wife. Respecting her desire for purdah I have not clicked any photographs of the shrine though this is somewhere I go very often to pray and ask for fulfillment of wishes.

Another shrine dedicated to Imam Musa Kazim has also been built .

20140914_142228Most people wrongly attribute the establishment of the Dargah itself to Qudsia Begum but that is inaccurate.

She was probably responsible for this present structure and the mosques in the compound.

There is a majlis khana which has been added to by the son of Justice Murtaza FAzle Ali as per his wishes.

The Dargah once spread as far as Safdarjung’s tomb. In fact the Nawab’s body was kept in the Dargah while the tomb was being built.

Attached to the dargah is a mosque – Lal Masjid.

The entrance once the Naubat khana is not in a very healthy state today.


Nearby is another enclosure called the Karbala after the battlefield and burial place of Hazrat Ali’s son Imam Hussain who was martyred there along with his friends and family.

Karbalas in India are now a generic name for Shia cemeteries and the place where taziya processions end on 10th Moharrum.

This place is one of the oldest Shia burial places in the city too.

At the entrance of the Karbala is a unique mosque. The only built structure there is a mehrab wall. It is called the Qanaati Masjid (mosque of the awning) after the permanent awning used to provide shelter to the worshippers. This is dated as being late Mughal period. It is said to have had underground chambers which are now inaccessible. It was built of rubble masonry but like many buildings in Delhi and elsewhere has been plastered and painted over.


The only significant structure inside the Karbala is a small mausoleum called the tomb of Mah Khanam. It is not known who Mah Khanam was, but the tomb was built approximately around ad 1726. This is a square building with a vaulted roof; a staircase descends underground on one side, leading to the marble-covered gravestone in the crypt below. Mah Khanam’s Tomb has been plastered and painted over to such an extent that you can’t see any signs of decoration it might have sported earlier.IMG_20140914_143056

The only other significant grave is of Justice Murtaza Fazale Ali.

There are some random graves but today all burial there has been stopped.IMG_20140914_143131

Today the Karbala is a site of ongoing land dispute between the Karbala authorities and a nursery, which has been set up there. It has seen many protests between owners of Rajdhani Nursery and Anjuman e Haideri (the Dargah trust) and local Shias. Today there is a police guard permanently stationed and entry is restricted.

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