Here’s a glimpse of the activities around the famous Idgah on Rani Jhansi Road since its inception

The Idgah on Rani Jhansi Road was built during the reign of Aurangzeb in the 17th Century, when it struck the Emperor that there was no such place in Shahjahanabad. It is strange that Shah Jahan, who had replicated in Delhi all the public and royal buildings in the old capital, Agra, did not realise that an Idgah was missing here.

Probably he wanted to build one but the war of succession among his four sons didn't give him an opportunity to do so.

How were the first Id-ul-Fitr and Id-uz-Zuha observed at the new Idgah? They must have been a grand affair with the Emperor present on both occasions. The butchers, who had built their hutments nearby, were among the most enthusiastic as Bakrid presented them with an opportunity to not only mingle with the royal entourage but also to slaughter hundreds of sheep and goats in the nearby hilly area.

Camels and buffaloes were sacrificed too, along with bullocks, some distance from the Idgah, but the restrictions on cows being included in the sacrificial animals were generally adhered to so that there were no untoward incidents to cause a breach of the peace.

The Idgah was the favourite spot for prayers at the two festivals and nearby rulers and nawabs made it a point to drive down there in their horse carriages. Wearing kurta-pyjama and sherwanis or velvet jackets, they were conspicuous there even in the post-Partition days.

But earlier it was the likes of Mirza Elahi Baksh, the nawabs of Loharu, Basai Darapur, Jhajjar and Ferozepur who congregated there, along with nawabs Chhatari, Buddhan, Dojana and Datoli. The nawab of Datoli's successor, Faiyaz Khan preferred to offer Id-uz-Zuha namaz at the Agra Idgah, along with his sons, friends and the retainer, Almas. They went in a phaeton and came back loaded with presents for all and sundry.

The sacrifice

One remembers the qurbanis – there were ten – from the forenoon to the afternoon, performed by the butcher Qayam and his brother. A whole lot of poor people living at the boundary of the nawab's kothi assembled a few meters away and were given the entrails of the sheep, rams and goats for their lunch and dinner.

The meat was sent to the zenana where his wife, Dulhan Sahib, supervised the distribution to friends, relatives and acquaintances. The korma, biryani and roomali rotis were sentto neighbours along with sweets. During a shikar trip, the nawab's party once offered prayers at the Kosi Kalan Idgah, which has now become an attraction with imposing minarets.

In Delhi Haji Zahoor had qurbanis done for three successive days. Now his son, Haji Faiyazuddin continues the practice, sending meat and khana to acquaintances as far away as Mayapuri and Gurgaon in a van hired in the Jama Masjid area. Some others do so too but the old nawabs – Dojana, Buddhan and the ones of Jhajjar, Datoli, Basai Darapur and Ferozepore have passed into anonymity.

The last named is famous for the Id gifts he used to send to his mentor, William Fraser, British Resident in Delhi in the 19th Century. Fraser was later murdered on the orders of the nawab for alleged dalliance with his sister. One thinks of all these worthies whenever Id-uz- Zuha comes around and wonders at the delicacies served at the Id feast enjoyed by Fraser and his friend, Col James Skinner (Sikandar Sahib) whose war cry was “Himmat-eh-mardan, madad-eh-Khuda” ( the strength of human endurance and the help of God) to overcome all obstacles.

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