After reading Shamsur Rahman Farooqi’s ” Mirror of Beauty” I was very intrigued by a description in it of a very popular and revered shrine called Qadam Sharif .
Having spent a lot of time in Delhi I was surprised because I had never heard of this shrine and was determined to find out out where it was and go there.
In the “Mirror of Beauty” when misfortune strikes Shamsuddin Khan of Loharu, Wazir Khanum makes a trip to the shrine. The author describes it as a very beautiful and busy place with supplicants and mendicants both going about their business. In fact the impression I got was of a ‘mela’ the kind one sees on ‘urs’ days in the Dargahs.
In Qadam Sharif the annual urs is held on Barawafat , the Holy Prophet’s pbuh birthday. On that day the slab with the imprint of his foot is immersed in water and that water as ‘tabarruk’ ( prashad) is offered to devotees
A painting and description from Thomas Metcalfe’s ‘Imperial Dehlie’written in 1844
Qadam Sharif is the an imprint on a marble slab of the Prophet Mohammed pbuh which was acquired by Feroz Shah Tughlaq.
“The Tradition is that in the time of the Emperor Feroze Shah about five centuries ago, a celebrated Devotee and a Disciple of the Emperor’s was deputed to Mecca (to which all true Mohummudans are bound to make one Pilgrimage, if they hope for Salvation) to obtain from the Caliph of that place a Khillut or Dress of Honor.
The Boon was granted, and in addition as a mark of high consideration the Slab in question was also consigned to the care of the Devotee.
It was brought to Dehly. The Emperor and all his Nobles proceeded to a Distance of 15 Miles from the City to do Honor to this precious Relic. It was escorted with much Pomp and finally deposited by order of the Emperor in the Royal Treasury.”
The stone with the Prophet’s footprint was brought from Mecca by Makhdum Jahanian Jahan, the spiritual guide of the Sultan.
Once Feroze Shah asked his favourite son, Fateh Khan what he would like from the imperial treasury. The young prince asked for the Qadam Sharif. The Sultan, refused, but promised that it would be buried with whoever amongst them died first.
Unfortunately, the Prince died first (1374) and as per his promise the Sultan erected this tomb and had the precious slab with imprint kept on the grave of his son.
It is said that Feroze Shah had built the tomb for himself earlier but I find that suspect because the Emperor would surely wish to be buried in the premises of Tughlaqabad : his tomb is in Hauz. Khas.
Having read all these accounts I set about attempting to reach the shrine and make my own supplications and ziarat’
I had googled it and learnt that Lucy Peck’s guide book on Delhi was the only way to reach it.
Confident of finding it I caught the metro to New Delhi station and got off and went towards the Paharganj side.
Since I didn’t have an idea of distance I hired a rickshaw.
‘Dargah’ Oh yes I know where it is and we set off.
In a bit I reached the dargah and went inside. There were many graves there but I knew that it had been a favourite burial ground so it was expected
Children who live near graveyards grow up with a nonchalance about death, I feel. For them life goes on amidst death.
I entered the courtyard to find a beautiful mosque. Very well lit and maintained.
I asked the people there where the qadam sharif and tomb was. They looked at me in surprise, as this was the mosque and shrine of Hazrat Baqi Billah the founder of Naqshbandi silsila in the sub continent.A very serene and beautifully kept shrine.
One of the boys there offered to help me reach Qila Qadam Sharif. And then began a heart breaking journey.
The road to it went through narrow bylanes and galis of Paharganj
The road leading upto the dargah is called Nabi Kareem Road !
We could not even respect the name.
And we entered the dargah through what must once have been a splendid entrance
But today it is a dilapidated structure used as a dumping ground.
From that gate we took another turn to reach this scene. The three iron gates to the Dargah were shut, there were children playing outside (Cricket on the graves seemed fun!) and there was a goat which seemed to have blended in with the tree.
The first thing that strikes you is the utter state of neglect and disrepair
The dusty grave of Fateh Khan
Once upon a time Emperors and nobles came here during the ‘urs’. Today it lies forsaken and neglected
The slab was later taken out of the grave complex and kept for ‘ziarat’.
It is now with the khadim who keeps it in his house for safekeeping. On my request he brought it out.
Sultan Bhai as he is known is the mutawalli of the dargah and it was from him I heard of the sad tale of the degenration of this beautiful shrine. According to him during the Partition hordes of refugees took shelter in and around the place and later settled down. The encroachments are very clearly visible
The majalis khana which was added later is barely surviving.
Since it was the grave of his favourite son, The Sultan built it with a lot of care, love and grief. There was a madarsa attached to it and a well or tank which was filled with aab e zam zam ( water from holy well in Mecca).
I didn’t find traces of that in the premises I saw.
Even today it is called the Qila Qadam Sharif because of the fortified walls and gates the Sultan had built.
It became the graveyard of many luminaries including Shamsuddin khan of Loharu. It was only in the late 19th century that the British stopped burial there and in other holy sites within the city.
Some of the graves there.
I end with description from “Muraqqa e Delhi” written by Dargah Quli Khan a young visitor to Delhi from the Deccan in 1737-41.
“Every Thursday the courtyard of the Dargah is so full of visitors that it is difficult even to approach the Place and touch it. Pilgrims and ascetics come from countries far and near to seek fulfillment of their wishes.”
He goes on to rather disapprovingly describe the behaviour and demeanour of the crowds where there are beautiful women carrying porcelain bottles of perfumes, uncontrollable crowds and ecstatic singers with the mehfil becoming gay.
Alas today I did not find the spiritual solace I went to find there and came back with a heavy heart at the general air of neglect which hangs in the tragically run down place .Location : In Paharganj