Basant celebration at Auliya Nizam Mohey Rang Basanti Rang De, Nijam
Sakal bun phool rahi sarson, Ambva borey, tesu phooley,
Koyal boley daar daar, Aur gori karat singhar,
malania garhwa le aayin sarson, Sakal bun phool rahi sarson
Araj yaar tori Basant manayi.
Advent of Basant brings a cheer to the flowers longing to sway with a new high of refreshing youngness. Also the environment blooms with lots of beautiful springs in spring that bids an adieu to the fading frost, adds a new leaf to life and to everything around that fills in the surrounding with exotic colours and exuberance. Everything springs up dancing and singing, this all chimes the atmosphere with hundreds of happy bells.
How many of us know that the festival Basant is celebrated by the Muslims too ? It is believed that the Chishti Sufis may have begun the celebration amongst Indian Muslims in the 12th century.
This time the fest started on January 27 around 4 in the evening amidst hundreds of devotees all seemed hued in mustard yellow hue, all wore caps and scarves. Qawwali began at the holy courtyard of the shrine, singing carried with just the beat and clap in sync but without the harmonium as rituals. “This time we went to the abode of the saint where he lived most time of his life and preached from there. We in a big group went there singing all the way. We reached there around 7pm and kept the singing on till past 8. We with all our Hindu brethren, foreign friends and guests dined together at the chilla, where the saint lived”, Sufi Sadiq Nizami averred.
“When the saint Nizamuddin Aulia’s young nephew Taqiuddin Nooh passed away he was in the stream of sorrow, deeply grieved and mourned the river. Following this he withdrew himself into utter seclusion and he had for months no world around him but solitude and silence he too often would speak to. He locked himself behind the world. He lived for forty years in a room at chilla near the Humayun Tomb and adjacent to Gurudwara Dumdama sahib. He, in the rills of tears would spend long hours sitting at his grave. Nizamuddin’s disciple and renowned court poet, Amir Khusrau, could not bear to see his pir’s pain. He began to ponder upon ways to restore the lost smile to his mentor’s lips. The long wait came to an end when Khusrau wore a yellow attire and a stole and marched down singing couplets in Persian, Braj and khariboli with other Sufis and disciples. Singing in praise of spring, and symbolically the mustard flowers were offered to the grave of Nooh. This cheered the saint,” Altamash Nizami, a descendent of the Sufi order, expounded.
The Delhi of the Sufi saints and the Mughals exudes a deep serenity of a vast history which seems buried alive in the ruins craving attention to its historical antiquity that engulfs the entire surrounding. Dargah Nizamuddin, Qutubuddin-Al-Bakhtiyar-Kaki, Lodhi Tomb, Humayun Tomb, gates and baolis are the places having a long story behind their façade. Jamali Kamali is such a place near Mehrauli that has been standing proud with its timeless beauty of two graves erected against time and tide with an ancient mosque in the precinct, the whole structure is surrounded by a sprawling lush green park attracting picnickers. Newly dated cootchie-cooing birds can be spotted around in the park.
Jamali was the pen name of a poet and saint of the early Mughal era. ‘Kamali’ was believed to have been his companion, whose life is inferred from the otherwise mysterious second grave inside the tomb as suspected Kamali of being a rhyming suffix added to the name, like the ‘Mantar’ of Jantar Mantar.
Inside, the ceiling is flat but its circular motif creates the illusion of a dome, ornamented with colour tiles and painted and cut plasterwork. The adjacent mosque, which stands more robust in style, is also quite a gem, that adds luster to this monument.
The use of contrasting colour stones, the design of the corner towers and the arches of the façade are an awesome treat to the eyes. Jamali was the nom de plume of Shaikh Fazlu’llah, also known as Jalal Khan, a saint and poet who lived from Sikandar Lodi’s reign to that of Humayun. The mosque associated with his name lies about 300m south of Balban’s tomb and was commenced in about 1528-29, before his death in 1535-36.
The original gate to the mosque still surviving lies on the south. Its prayer-hall is pierced by five arches, inclining towards a four-centred form and ornamented with carved bands and medallions in the spandrels. The central arch, higher than the others, is more profusely decorated and flanked by fluted pilasters. The niches in the western wall are also decorated, the central and northern ones with Quarnic inscriptions. Two staircases at either end of the prayer hall lead to a narrow gallery running right round the mosque on the second storey with three oriel windows at the rear, one on the south and a small window above the central arch. The rear corners are occupied by octagonal towers. Below the parapet in front are pendant lotus-buds. A single dome covers the central bay.
Architecturally this elegant mosque marks the transition from the Moth-Masjid to Sher Shah’s mosque, with both of which it shares certain features. (SWA)
Basant in history
The impact of this incident was such that the celebration of Basant became an annual affair in the khaneqah of Nizamuddin Aulia, and subsequently in other centres of the Chishti order all over the country. Dilliwallahs set up the fairs for spring, as usual many offer flowers and ittar on the Qadm Sharif. When people heard the announcement of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s birthday, they gushed forth with joy. There was a sea of heads gathered on either side of the Red Fort maidan, the bank of river Yamuna. The curtains of houses, the chadars of women, the turbans of men, and the clothes of children, everything was dyed Basanti—even the candles hanging from the rampart were Basanti. It was as if mustard were growing in every nook and cranny. Indoors and outdoors, people danced the whole night. Thousands of giant balloons made of mustard colour paper, with candles lit inside, were being flown in the air. By four o’clock in the morning, the whole sky became Basanti. It seemed as if mustard were flowering in the eyes of the sky.
Compared to the date of Basant in the past, what we find today in the Dargah of Nizamuddin at Delhi seems more with tradition and rituals. On Basant Panchmi, some qawwals from the Dargah visit a nearby Haryana village to collect mustard flowers. On way back, they offer these petals on the tombs of many saints related to Nizamuddin Aulia’s lineage, including Naseeruddin Chiragh-e-Dehlvi and others near Mehrauli. Back in basti Nizamuddin, some interesting rituals take place—dyeing clothes in the Basanti colour being the most exciting one. One can see hundreds of people wearing Basanti scarves, handkerchiefs, chadars and fezs, almost dancing to the tune of qawwali in Braj, Awadh and khariboli. They take out a procession, offering flowers and fateha (prayer) on each grave laid in the precinct. The beautiful Hindi and Persian qawwalis electrify the atmosphere—mostly ascribed to Amir Khusrau himself—praise the coming of spring and the disciple’s longing to meet his peer (mentor).
Sufis have a long tradition of adapting to the local culture and language of the places they visited to spread their message. The Chishti sufis too, have not only tried to relate to the Indian culture and music, they even experimented and enriched the various cultural forms. Basant is a living example of that. In today’s scenario, while communities are being forced to be polarised into their puritanical identities, Muslims celebrating Basant and Hindus taking part in Eid celebration only in secular India and the trend is well set and experienced at Dargah Nizamuddin Auliya.
By Syed Wajid Ali