Kushk e Mehndiya’n painting by Daniells
11th Rabi us Sani, the Islamic month, marks the gyarvin sharif or the urs of the famous Sufi saint, of Ghaus-ul-Azam – Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, whose shrine is in Baghdad
It has always been an important date in South Asia and was was celebrated here in various ways.
In Delhi, a circular tower which measured 118 feet × 88 feet was built on a 12 feet high plinth. It had arched entrances in the lower portion with four burjis on each of the four sides and one in the centre.
There is no authentic proof of the name of the builder but as per legend, a nawab saheb who had great faith in Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani, Ghaus-ul-Azam, built it in 1354 CE.
In Sufi traditions, particularly in India, urs celebrations are held to commemorate the death anniversaries of sufi saints.
Mehndiya’n was for celebrating the urs of Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani. The custom was to make bamboo structures, cover it with bright coloured paper and light lamps on it. This was called menhdi.
This nawab saheb also used to take out a menhdi. When he became rich and in a position to do something for his saint, he got this built in the same shape as the bamboo menhdi. He would illuminate this building and give charity on the day of the ceremony. Nothing else is known about him, though.
This monument became famous as Kushk e Mehndiya’n. It was immortalized by the Daniells (William and Thomas) in watercolour and it is one of the most iconic paintings of medieval India. The Maulana Azad Medical College now stands on this location.
According to Bazm e Aakhir, The month of Rabi-us Sani is called Meeranji. On the eleventh day of this month, the day of the urs of Ghaus-ul-Azam, there is a celebration in the Qila. All kinds of fireworks, some in the shape of animals, are set off in the courtyard of the Diwan-e-Khas. A bamboo frame covered with shimmering red paper, called a mehndi, is placed in the Diwan-e-Khas. It is made for illuminating candles and lamps. The dastarkhwan is spread out and every type of food is laid on it. The Badshah lights the mehndi and consecrates the food in the name of Ghaus-ul-Azam.
When the fireworks display starts, the food is distributed.
In Search of The Divine :Living Histories of Sufism in India