Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin, New Delhi


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About 2 kms south of Purana Qila, on Mathura Road, is Hazrat Nizamuddin, one of the many historic village settlements that continue to exist within modern Delhi. Nizamuddin gets its name from the Sufi saint, Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya, who was born in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh in 1236, and lived most of his life in Delhi until his death in 1325. Among his illustrious disciples were the sultans, Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad bin Tughluq and Amir Khusro, one of India's most celebrated poets.

The entry point to Nizamuddin is marked by a traffic island with a blue-domed tomb known as Sabz Burj (sabz, green; burj, dome). The blue tiles are a recent restoration effort, but some of the original green, yellow and blue tiles can still be seen on the walls. It has high recessed arches on all sides and a high-­drummed double dome covered with coloured tiles which gives it its name. Architecturally, the building probably belongs to the early Mughal period. The British used this building as a police station for many years till the beginning of the last century.

The constant crowd of devotees outside Nizamuddin's dargah is testimony to the devotion that the saint still commands. Every Thursday, after sunset, qawwals sing the lyrics of Amir Khusro.

Shaikh Nizamuddin died in 1325, and his original tomb does not exist any longer. Faridun Khan, a nobleman, built the present structure in 1562-63 during the reign of Emperor Akbar. The area around the tomb of the Shaikh has many big and small tombs that have been built over the centuries since it is considered auspicious to be buried near a saint's grave.

To the south of Nizamuddin's grave is the Tomb of Amir Khusro. Nearby are the marble screened tombs of Jahanara, the dutiful daughter of Emperor Shahjahan and the late Mughal emperor, Muhammad Shah Rangila (1719-48). Princess Jahanara's grave is covered with grass in accordance with the inscription on it, which says ‘let naught cover my grave save the green grass: for grass well suffices as a covering for the grave of the lowly’.

At the northern gate of the dargah complex is a large baoli, the water of which is believed to have healing powers. An interesting legend associated with the dargah is that of the skirmish between the saint and the first Tughluq king, Ghiyasuddin. Shaikh Nizamuddin was getting the baoli constructed at about the same time as the king was engaged in building his fortress at Tughluqabad. The king forbade his construction workers from working elsewhere, and so they decided to work for the Shaikh at night. This made Ghiyasuddin prohibit the sale of oil to Hazrat Nizamuddin, but the workers found that their lamps could be lit with the water of the baoli!

To the west of Shaikh Nizamuddin's tomb lies Jamaat Khana Masjid, veneered in red sandstone. It has three bays, each topped with a low dome. Its arches are fringed with lotus bud decoration as in the arches of Alai Darwaza in the Qutb Complex. The mosque was built by a son of Sultan Alauddin Khalji, and is the oldest structure within the complex.

On the northern edge of Nizamuddin village outside the dargah complex, is Ataga Khan's tomb. It is an impressive structure in red sandstone thickly inlaid with marble and coloured tiles. Sandwiched between two modern buildings, its original grandeur is still visible. Ataga Khan was the husband of Ji Ji Anga, Akbar's wet nurse, and held an important position in Akbar's court. In 1562 he was killed by Adham Khan, son of Maham Anga another wet nurse of Akbar. Adham Khan's tomb is in Mehrauli and is locally known as Bhul­Bhulaiyan.

The tomb of Mirza Aziz, Ataga Khan's son, built in 1623, is known as Chaunsath Khamba, because, as its name implies, it has sixty-four pillars supporting the roof. It is entered through a lofty, arched gateway adjacent to the Ghalib Academy.

In Nizamuddin West is also buried the famous 19th century Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib. Mirza Ghalib's tomb, covered by a small marble structure, is kept locked within the precincts of the Ghalib Academy. The Ghalib Academy has a large library and an interesting museum which, besides some paintings, also has a large collection of rocks.

The Tomb of Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, is on the opposite side of Mathura Road. Abdur Rahim Khan, who died sometime in 1626-27, was the son of Bairam Khan, Akbar's loyal protector during his early years. An influential courtier in the courts of both Akbar and Jahangir, he was given the title of Khan-i­Khanan. Today Rahim is remembered as a popular Hindi poet.

The now completely dilapidated tomb was an architectural landmark in its time. Built of red sandstone, it followed the design of Humayun's Tomb and also had a marble dome. The dome was stripped of its marble slabs, which were later used on the dome of Safdarjung's Tomb.


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