Sufi Basant – “Mohe Rang De Basanti Nizamuddin Aulia”

“Mohay apnay hi rung mein rang ley, Tu toh saaheb mera Mehboob-e-Ilaahi”

The relationship of Hazrat Amir Khusrow, the poet-extraordinaire and musician with his master Mehboob-e-Ilaahi Khwaja Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia is well documented and known by all lovers of Chisti Sufiyana Silsila and Sufi Tasawwuf . Our forum has also dwelled upon it here. Amir Khusrow’s treasure trove of music (Qawwaalis and Poems written in mix of Hindvi, Khari Boli, Urdu and Persian) celebrate his love for the ‘Khwaja’ , his spiritual master and one can experience it through multiple celebrations at the Dargah (Mausoleum) throughout the year.

But the most unique of such celebrations at the Dargah happens every year in Jan/Feb as Northern India marks the onset of Basant Hritu (also pronounced as Vasant Ritu, meaning Spring Season)! Yes, its the Sufi version of the Hindu festival of ‘Basant Panchami’  , an everlasting legacy of Hazrat Amir Khusrow which annually envelopes the Holy Dargah in yellow color and merry music associated with the season of spring!

Legend tells us that Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia, was so aggrieved by the death of his nephew Taqiuddin Nooh, who had a sudden, untimely death that he withdrew himself from worldly affairs, avoided meeting his followers and spent all of his time at his newphew’s grave or in his ‘Chilla-e-Sharif’ (place of residence). His disciples were worried and tried many a ruse to make their Khwaja talk again, make him happy, just as he was before the tragedy. But alas all failed. Even his most favourite disciple, Amir Khusro tried to reason with him in many ways but failed to cheer him up.

Then one day, Khusrow noticed some young women dressed in yellow clothes, adorned with yellow flowers of ‘Gendaful’ (marigold) who were celebrating Vasant Utsav (Spring Festival) with a lot of singing, fun and gaiety, as they went to their temples to pray. Seeing this an idea struck Khusrow, who immediately donned a yellow Ghaagra (Skirt-style Indian traditional dress), covered his face with a Chunni (scarf), hung garlands of yellow marigold around his neck and with a bunch of sarson flowers (mustard) stuck to his Dhol, he landed at his master’s room and began singing and dancing to a self-composed song “Aaj Basant Manaaley Suhagan…Aaj Basant Manaaley Suhagan”.

Seeing this spectacle and knowing it was Khusrow under the woman’s garb who was singing and dancing with gay abandon, it is said that Hazrat Nizamuddin burst out laughing! The spell of gloom was suddenly lifted and the whole congregation of his followers erupted in joy! Since then, every year for more than seven centuries now, Sufi Basant has became a regular festival in remembrance of the incident, at the same time acting as the harbinger of the proverbial spring’s sunny joys after the gloom of winter, highlighting the cyclical nature of nature, the awakening and rejuvenation of life itself.

Even the skies on the day seemed to be tinted golden yellow!
Even the skies on the day seemed to be tinted golden yellow!

 What happens today?

Officials and visitors to the Dargah in yellow
Officials and visitors to the Dargah in yellow
Lending a helping hand!
Lending a helping hand!

What happens today?  The Dargah’s senior priests and Qawwaal singers, dress up in yellow and wear Basanti (Yellow-hued) scarves, chaadars and caps, post which they take out a joyous procession around the Nizamuddin Basti, carrying gendaful (marigold) and pots of sarson flowers (Yellow Mustard) through the narrow alleys, which reverberate with the sounds of Qawwaalis and Dhol (Drums)

The procession and the singers...
The procession and the singers…


Dhol Ki Dhak-ti-na-din...
Dhol ki Dhak-ti-na-din…

Offering flowers and prayers on every important grave in the area they finally reach the main Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and after laying down the offerings of a yellow chaadar and yellow flowers, the Qawwaal singers settle down for a long session of soulful renditions of Hindvi and Persian Qawwalis; Mostly written by Amir Khusrow himself to praise the coming of sunny spring and the disciple’s everlasting love for his master.

Offering of yellow-colored chaadar and flowers at the main dargah
Offering of yellow-colored chaadar and flowers at the main dargah
Sufi Basant Nizamuddin
Offering flowers of Mustard at other graves in the dargah complex
Another round of Duaa (Prayers)
Spcl Qawwaalis being sung in the courtyard after the offering of prayers
Spcl Basant Ki Qawwaalis being sung in the courtyard after the offering of prayers
Sufi Basant Nizamuddin
Holy Prashaad being distributed
Sufi Basant Nizamuddin
Even the young ones have a full day of fiesta and merry-making!

The pomp and splendour has dwindled away over the last seven centuries, and we have noticed a gradual decline even in this last decade or so, that we have been visiting the Dragah on Basant. Still a very merry ceremony of sorts continues to happen, making the community come alive in a celebration that’s worth a visit. So go Dilli go…next year in Basant.

Leaving you with a Sufi Basant Song and its words….Wish you all a very Happy Basant and colorful time ahead of you…

Aaj basant manaalay suhaagun,
Aaj basant manaalay;
Anjan manjan kar piya mori,
Lambay neher lagaaye;
Tu kya sovay neend ki maasi,
So jaagay teray bhaag, suhaagun,
Aaj basant manalay…..;
Oonchi naar kay oonchay chitvan,
Ayso diyo hai banaaye;
Shaah-e Amir tohay dekhan ko,
Nainon say naina milaaye,
Suhaagun, aaj basant manaalay.

Rejoice, my love, rejoice,
Its spring here, rejoice.
Bring out your lotions and toiletries,
And decorate your long hair.
Oh, you’re still enjoying your sleep, wake-up.
Even your destiny has woken up,
Its spring here, rejoice.
You snobbish lady with arrogant looks,
The King, Amir Khusrow is here to look at you;
Let your eyes meet his,
Oh my love, rejoice;
Its spring here again.