For those interested in qawwalis, the mazaar of the Naugaza Pir close to Majnu-ka-tila is a new attraction

About 1.5 km north of Majnu-ka-Tila is the giant grave of a Naugaza Pir. Nobody seems to know what his name was but some claim that it was Abdullah Nasir Shah Tilawaley. Of late qawwalis are held near the nine-foot-long tomb of the saint (believed to have been a disciple of Majnu) who rebelled against his mentor when the latter became a follower of Guru Nanak. That would mean early 16th Century. Another belief is that he was a disciple of Shah Alam, a venerated Pir of Firozshah Tughlak’s time (1351-88).

As is the trend these days, anonymous mosques and tombs are being increasingly adopted by those who have started calling themselves Sajjada Nashins or hereditary caretakers. Offerings made amount to a lot every Jumairaat (Thursday) and fill up their coffers. In course of time boundary walls come up around hitherto neglected graves which are renovated and dubbed old miraculous Sufi mazaars. Such seems to be case with the grave of the Naugaza Pir. Dr. Khaliq Anjum, who has written a history of Delhi’s monuments in Urdu, is also of the opinion that the said mazaar has begun to be venerated because of tall tales and gossip, exploited by opportunists. Naugaza Pirs, whose graves are found all over north India, right up to Kashmir, were not giants but their mazaars are large as they were buried along with the green flag-bearing staff they carried. As time went by their stature, as measured by their last resting place, began to draw awe and wonder. Undaunted by such talk, heritage activist Surekha Narain is going to lead an exploratory walk (the first of three planned) around Jagatpur and Wazirabad on Sunday, October 6.

Touted as “History meets culture”, the intro sheet says: “We travel to the outskirts of North Delhi to Jagatpur village riverfront, to see the Yamuna in its pristine glory, free from pollution. Here, upstream of Wazirabad, the Yamuna looks like a real river and not a filthy drain, where you’ll find a vast swathe of fertile alluvial soil with taller-than-human weeds. There’s a ghat (stepped embankment) just north of Wazirabad village, which is actually a cluster of temples, old and new. In Wazirabad what you find is historical monuments from Firozshah Tughlaq’s time! Even a Muslim saint’s shrine-is it also from Tughlaq times?”

Well, it is definitely from that period and known after Shah Alam (not the Mughal king) who was regarded by his followers as a spiritual emperor. On November 10, the heritage group will walk to Majnu-ka-Tila. This Majnu, unlike the one who wasted away for his beloved and gave birth to Nizami’s masterpiece, Alif-Laila, was not a disheartened lover but one lost in devotion to God. When Guru Nanak visited him, he is said to have realised that he had met his true guide. A historic gurdwara, which was visited by other Sikh gurus, now marks the site. Tibetans have started living around Majnu-ka-Tila, making it a virtual Tibetan colony, complete with eating houses that attract a lot of customers. Side by side have come up akharas (wrestling pits) where pehelwans grapple after rubbing mustard oil and akhara soil on their muscular bodies. It is a far cry from there to Nigambodh ghat, the place to which the third walk is scheduled on December 8. The ghat, where Brahma did penance to bring back to memory the Vedas whose knowledge had forsaken him, is named ‘Nigambodh’ because of that. It has a temple believed to date back to Mahabharat times, where the Kauravas and Pandavas worshipped. This is also supposed to be the place with the oldest burning ghats and from where one can look back towards the rear walls of the Red Fort, close to which the Yamuna flowed before changing its course.

However for those interested in qawwalis the mazaar of the Naugaza Pir is a new attraction. On Thursdays a big crowd collects, making communication that way difficult. But the zeal of those gathered is to be seen to be believed, with some going into a trance or “hal”. And among them are women too. Remember that Queen Victoria almost reached that state when a group of qawwals performed in 19th Century England, courtesy her Urdu teacher, Munshi Abdul Karim. Others also who heard the singers at Buckingham Palace became ecstatic, without understanding a word of what was being sung. You may luckily see the same effect at the Pir’s grave.