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A Sufi shrine which shows what makes India work

Last updated on: August 5, 2011 13:16 IST

Image: The shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Sarmad Shaheeh in Old Delhi
Photographs: Courtesy: Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Writer, The Delhi Walla

In our special Independence Day series on the India You Didn't Know, a Delhi-lover on a little known shrine that symbolises India.

Very few people notice this Sufi shrine outside the Jamma Masjid in Old Delhi. It is Sufi saint Sarmad Shaheed's dargah. This saint had come, I think, from Armenia, when the Mughals were ruling Delhi.

As a saint he used to roam naked, which was one of the reasons that Aurangzeb had him killed.

When you think of Old Delhi, the first place that comes to mind is the grand Jamma Masjid. Little do people notice the shrine right under the footsteps of the grand old mosque.

I often go there in the afternoons. This place sees people from all faiths and one hot afternoon, I was standing near the tomb of Hazrat Sarmad Shaheed, when a couple walked in. I could see that they were Hindus because the wife had sindoor and mangalsutra. They started praying with their hands folded like Hindus do.

It was such a beautiful moment. Because, here was a couple who did not believe in Islam, but were standing with folded hands, praying at an Islamic shrine. It was just so peaceful because it said something about India.

For me, seeing that couple with folded hands, illustrates what makes India work, how people of different religions coexist. I am sure that the couple had complete faith in their Hindu Gods, but there they were praying to Hazrat Sarmad Shaheed with the same devotion.

That symbolised the hope in the multi-cultural and multi-religious nature of this country.

The dargah is just below the stairs of the Jamma Masjid, which faces the Red Fort. It is very small. Outside the shrine, there is a lot of chaos: Muslim Bhakti songs, Bangladeshi beggars and other sights and sounds associated with Old Delhi.

But as you take off your shoes and enter the shrine, which is a 20-step walk through a corridor, there is this peace, this tranquility, which is just amazing. I mean, it is difficult to believe that just 20 steps outside is a mad world, full of chaos and noise.

Mayank Austen Soofi, calls himself The Delhiwalla and runs a blog by that name. The best of his blog has been complied in a four volume series called The Delhi Walla. He literally eats, drinks and breathes the capital city. He spoke to Sahim Salim.

Please click More to read Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara Director Zoya Akhtar's account of an India you did not know!

Earlier in this series: 'See the Ganga aarti in Varanasi at least once'