Shab-E-Baraat Celebrations in Dilli…

Across the country today one of the most auspicious of Muslim festivals is being celebrated with a whole night of offering special prayers and reciting of the Quran, religious fervour and rituals and ‘Dua’ for ‘divine blessings’. Tonight is the auspicious 15th night of Shabaan, also called “Shab-e-Baraat”, that the Prophet Muhammad taught his disciples to be the beginning of a New year in the spiritual realm, when the affairs of human beings are arranged in the Divine Presence and it is believed that the destinies of all men are written for the coming year taking into account their past deeds.

On this exalted night, the Muslims pray and seek forgiveness for sins of the past 12 months and visit the graves of their relatives and offer flowers, light lamps at/on the graves and seek God’s blessings for the departed souls of their forefathers.

On this intervening night of 24th/25th June, the major and minor Dargahs of Delhi are the best places to feel and experience the unique celebrations of the night of Shab-E-Baraat. The Dargahs of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki in Mehrauli, Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya and Dargah-e-Matka Peer in central Delhi and Khwaja Chirag-e-Dehlvi near Malviya Nagar even have their streets being illuminated with lights and candles.

SHAB-e-BARAAT
Walking among the tombs on the night of Shab-e-Baraat is like floating on a carpet of stars.

Flowers, incense sticks, oil-lamps(Diyas) are offered at the graves of the deceased family members and Sufi Saints. Many unmarked graves and graves of long-forgotten people are also cleaned and flowers and oil lamps are offered by the community of people living nearby, as a mark of respect to the long-departed souls.

SHAB-e-BARAAT

One of the holiest and most significant nights of the Islamic calendar, next only to Lailatul Qadir (27th night of Ramadaan) in auspiciousness, the night of “Shab-e-Baraat” is observed 15 days before the start of the holy month of Ramadaan/Ramazaan. The night is known as Laylatul Bara’ah or Lay-latun Nisf-eMin Shaban in the rest of the Arab world, while the Indian sub-continent we popularly know its as the night of “Shab-e-Baraat”.

You will see lamps(Diyas) glowing inside almost all houses around these Dargahs as most of the houses have been built over graves, especially in Nizamuddin Dargah Basti.
You will see lamps(Diyas) glowing inside almost all houses around these Dargahs as most of the houses have been built over graves, especially in Nizamuddin Dargah Basti.
 pattering feet giggling away trying to keep the flames alive, walking among the tombs on the night of Shab E Barat is like floating on a carpet of stars.
Pattering feet and children giggling away while they keep trying to keep the flames alive! A religious fervour thats a spectacle in itself.

There are displays of colorful fireworks and lighting at the Dargahs and sweets like halwa-paratha, sweet-rice pulao and other mithais are distributed as part of acts of charity performed for the poor and needy.

Halwa Paratha, a treat in the bylanes around the Dargahs make for a fitting end to our exploration last year.
Halwa-Paratha, a treat in the bylanes around the Dargahs made for a fitting end to our exploration last year.

Chhadeeyon ka Mela

Guest Post by Ankita Goel

Delhi is vast. It is a vibrant city, always on the move, thousands of people flocking to it daily. A mega-city surrounded by ‘bustling-at-their-seams’ suburbs. And amidst all the chaos, the teeming millions and the thousands visiting the city daily, the events creating political upheavals in our capital city we tend to miss events of a very unique nature, events that for centuries have held true to their traditions and faith.

Dargah Sharif of Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.)
Dargah Sharif of Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.)

One such special event takes place in Dilli every year yet is not known to many, except by the residents of the labyrinthine maze of Mehrauli, while the rest of the city does not even hear or read any news about it. Not one, not two, but for three days the event graces the oldest village of Delhi as we know it, but the city doesn’t pause to take a moment and give a glance to what is happening. Sad. But a fact.

We at DBF have been a regular for many years to this unique event, but this year that few of our avid followers and friends also joined us to enjoy the experience of this unique mela, popularly called ‘Chhadeeyon ka Mela’ alternatively spelt ‘Chhadiyon ka Mela’. (Chhadee or Chhadi literally meaning in Hindi a stick in this case a ‘walking stick’)

A tradition which started almost 700 years ago, this event heralds the beginning of the annual ‘Urs’ festival (anniversary of attaining union with the Almighty) at the Dargah Ajmer Sharif of Gharīb Nawāz Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer. Like all Islamic occasions, the actual date of the ‘Urs’ is decided on the actual sighting of the moon yet about 15-20 days before the ‘Urs’, fakirs and devotees from all over India start assembling at the Dargah Sharif of Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.)  in Mehrauli.

The traditional belief is that a visit to Dargah Ajmer Sharif is considered incomplete if the devotee has not visited the Dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.) before going to Ajmer. Hence fakirs, soofis and devotees from all over the country start pouring into this Dargah at Mehrauli. They arrive on foot, by cycles or by other means of transport. The assembly starts at a small park near ‘Gandhak ki Baoli’ also known as the Tikona Park or the ‘Chhadiyon ka Mela’ Park. As the number of fakirs and devotees increases, small make-shift camps sprawl all over the neighbourhood of Mehrauli. These people assemble for about 2-3 days and on the 3rd day’s evening, the procession normally starts on foot for Ajmer. Yes, a distance of almost 400Kms from Delhi to Ajmer, all on foot! Normally a few members of the Dargah management also travel with them. This procession is a visual delight as all the members carry an ‘Alam’ which is a small Chhadi (walking stick) carrying a Sufi flag on the top. Hence the name of the Mela.

Halwa & Paratha at Chhadiyon Ka Mela, Mehrauli
Halwa & Paratha at Chhadiyon Ka Mela, Mehrauli

The entire atmosphere is festive, with stalls springing up across the area selling goodies to eat like ‘Halwa-Parantha’, ‘Lassi & Sherbet’. It is an interesting sight where you see the fakirs dressed up in all kinds of attires. We came across one who was wearing multiple iron rings in his neck. Interestingly, you also come across some women fakirs in this mela.

During their stay at Mehrauli and before the procession begins, the fakirs often do ‘Mehfil-e-Sama’ in the evenings, where devotional songs, qawwalis, nazms etc are sung. At times, there are multiple mehfils happenings in the same vicinity.

Wandering bards & fakirs congregate and sing through the nights
Wandering bards & fakirs congregate and sing through the nights

The local resident-fakirs of Delhi who normally stay at other Chisti Silsila/order Dargahs in Delhi also join these travellers. The ‘Sajjad Nasheen’ (Head) of the Mehrauli Dargah blesses all of them and ID cards are issued to each and every fakir.

This year the dates of the 3-day celebration are from 25th – 27th April, but it is the ‘khaadims’ and the senior priests of the Mehrauli Dargah who stipulate when the procession may begin, either on 27th April midday or may even start early on 28th April morning.

PS: We will keep updating new pictures on each of these 3 days, so keep watching this space!

Mehrauli - Chhadiyon Ka Mela
Mehrauli – Chhadiyon Ka Mela