The Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusro

It is a sultry Thursday evening in South Delhi. The prospect of heading back to base after work does not evoke any particular feeling. Then I remember my impending visit to the dargah of Nizamuddin with my sister. A place that any new visitor to the ancient city of Delhi would find interesting. We set off with intentions of listening to some good Qawwali and also maybe, dig in to some ‘bade’ kabab rolls.

As it turns out, there is a huge crowd gathered at the street that leads to the dargah. The festive atmosphere suggests more than just the presence of weekly visitors and devotees. It is the 713th Urs or death anniversary of Hazrat Amir Khusro, the beloved poet-disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The anniversary had to fall this week, of course! There is always an increase in crowd on Thursday evenings since it is the day before Juma’, the weekly prayer congregation. It is during these evenings, post Isha’ prayer, that the Qawwals gather at the very courtyard of the dargah.

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Offerings.

But today, it is bigger than any other Thursday that I can remember. There are 2-3 Qawwalis in session simultaneously; one in front of the grave of Hazrat Nizamuddin, one in front of the main office of the maintainers of the dargah and a small session at play in front of the grave of Hazrat Amir Khusro. The first song is one of the most popular verses written by Amir Khusro, Chaap Tilak. (The translation of which can be found online as it has seen different renderings through the ages).

چھاپ تلک سب چھینی رے موسے نیناں ملائیکے ایس
بات اگم کہہ دینا رے موسے نیناں ملائیکے ایس
پریم بھٹی کا مدھوا پلائیکے ایس
متوارے کر لينهي رے موسے نیناں ملائیکے ایس
گوری گوری بييا ، ہری ہری چوڑیاں
بييا پکڑ ہر لينهي رے موسے نیناں ملائیکے ایس
بل بل جاؤں میں تورے رنگ رجوا
آپ کی سی رنگ دينهي رے موسے نیناں ملائیکے ایس
خسرونظام بل بل جائے
موهے سهاگن کہ ينهي رے موسے نیناں ملائیکے ایس
چھاپ تلک سب چھینی رے موسے نیناں ملائیکے ایس
بات عجب کہہ دینا رے موسے نیناں ملائیکے ایس

Amir Khusro wrote in the Persian language. The lines above, though it uses the Arabo-Persian script, is called as the Urdu language – a form of Hindustani like Hindi. The Urdu language has a lot of borrowed words from Persian and Arabic, and most of its verbs are from the languages Sanskrit and Prakrit.

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Crowd around a Qawwali session.

It is said that Hazrat Nizamuddin would often tell Amir Khusro, ‘Pray for my life, for you will not be able to survive me long.’ The prophecy came true, for the disciple died of heartbreak, exactly six months after the death of his master. Sadia Dehlvi mentions in The Sufi Courtyard that Hazrat Nizamuddin, towards the end of his life bought a piece of land for his final resting place which grew into the Nizamuddin dargah complex. A village called Nizamuddin Basti came up around the dargah, and for centuries has been home to the descendants and devotees of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.

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