[Reader-list] settlement at hzt niz basti

naveid pasha naveid at rediffmail.com
Sun Jun 27 16:33:51 IST 2004

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  Every time we go to the Hzt nizamuddin durgah we see men dressed in white kurta pajama and topis asking people to donate money to the durgah committee fund and generally telling everybody what to do and how to behave in the complex around the shrine. They tell the women to stay out of the place where the grave really is and where only men are allowed and we’ve even seen them stopping small boys dressed in shorts from going inside the durgah. These people belong to the committee that has been assigned the task of the maintenance and running of the durgah by the government. Interestingly there is quite a dispute over who the successors of Hzt Nizamuddin Aulia really are. Traditionally a peer during his lifetime selected one of his Khalifas(disciples who were given authority by their peer to make mureeds to further the teachings of sufism) as his successor. During the lifetime of Hzt Nizamuddin Aulia there were many speculations about who he would appoint as his successor. There were three very strong contenders, one was the son of his sister who was a great beloved of Hzt Nizamuddin, the other was Hzt Amir Khusro and the third was Hzt Chiragh Dehlvi, both of whom were amongst his favourite disciples. It is generally believed that Hzt Nizamuddin Aulia picked Hzt Chiragh Dehlvi as his successor, and thus the lineage continued. But complications arise when we try to trace the lineage of the present sajjada nashin of the durgah. There are two contenders for this place, both of whom claim to be the descendents of Hzt Nizamuddin Aulia’s sister’s son. One is Khwaja Hasan Sani Nizami and the other, who has now been appointed the sajjada nashin by the government, is also a member of the Nizami family. The latter also has an office in the complex of the dargah with a big hoarding declaring his name and designation. 
     We decided to meet the official sajjada nashin of the durgah and so we entered his room. The floor was covered with a thick old carpet and at the centre of the carpet was placed a wooden desk without any legs. Behind the deck sat a middle aged man of huge proportions resting on large gau takkiyas ( long cylindrical pillows). We told him the purpose of our visit in as little words as possible not meaning to sound disrespectful at all and were told to go to the office of the durgah committee located behind the shrine. The office was situated to the right of the vuzu khana and had another similar looking man sitting inside, showering words of wisdom on two women, most probably mother and daughter, who left just as soon as we had made ourselves comfortable on the dari. 
On being asked, this man said that his name was Nizami and that he was one of the khaadims at the durgah.

What kind of authority do you hold here?
We belong to the family of Hzt Nizamuddin’s sister. Our forefathers have been taking care of the dargah for the past seven hundred years. Thousands of people come here empty handed and leave with whatever they want from the darbar of Hzt Nizamuddin Aulia.

Who is the sajjada nashin of this place? ( we asked hesitantly)
All of us are sajjadas. We have distributed the posts\responsibilities of the dargah committee amongst ourselves and we carry on the work of the dargah.

What about the basti? Do you take any responsibility of keeping at least the access street clean?
No, not at all. All that is private property, we have nothing to do with it. These people have illegally built shops around the durgah. Most of it is unauthorised construction and has nothing to do with the dargah.

Do you take care of the khanqah situated behind Humayun’s Tomb?
Yes we take care of the khanqah sharif and also the chilla sharif which is also situated near Humanyun’s Tomb. The durgah committee takes the responsibility of organising all the urs. On the day of the urs the first fatyah is conducted at the khanqah sharif. 

What about the Urs Mahal?
Well, the Urs Mahal is basically used for receiving the VIPs because it is not possible to get them till the durgah for security reasons.

What are the other functions of this committee?
We take care of the maintenance of the durgah and also look after the nazar niyaz (offerings) made here.

By this time a lot of other people had come to pay visit to this peerzada .So we took his leave and his blessings and left the office of the durgah committee.
    On our way out we crossed a chemist shop called Hamdard Dawakhana. We had been told earlier by somebody that this was amongst the oldest shops in the basti and so the old man doing accounts there became our next target.
    He told us that his name was Azimuddin and that he had been running this shop for the past thirty-five years. He proudly claimed of being a certified pharmacist and told us that before opening his own retail agency he used to work at Hamdard itself. He told us that when he had first opened his shop the marqaz, opposite which his shop is located, was much smaller and there were fewer shops in the basti.

Now the basti has become a popular tourist spot. A lot of people come here not only to visit the dargah but also to eat at Dastar Khane Karim. Those with a smaller budget enjoy the delicacies of the smaller restaurants which line the streets.	

What changes have you seen in the basti over the past few years?
There used to be many jhuggis around earlier, thankfully all of them have been cleared. The place has become much cleaner now but a lot more crowded. 

Apart from some other tit bits of information Mr. Azimuddin was unable to tell us anything of great interest and so we thanked him for his co-operation and took his leave.

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