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.
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.
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.
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!