A Qawwali Night At Nizamuddin: All You Need To Know

A Qawwali Night At Nizamuddin: All You Need To Know
A frame from Rockstar (2011) of a Qawwali performance,

Sway to the soothing melodies of Sufi music and experience a piece of history on your Qawwali night at the Nizamuddin Dargah in the Capital

Meenketan Jha
March 14 , 2019
04 Min Read

My first memory of Nizamuddin and Sufi music dates back to the 2011 Bollywood film Rockstar starring Ranbir Kapoor. Playing the role of Jordan, Kapoor discovers the power of music as Irshad Kamil's moving lyrics and A.R. Rahman's melodious composition bring about a compelling narrative. As the beautifully woven words of Kamil in Kun Faya Kun take over the storytelling you are exposed to the many colours of the Nizamuddin Dargah. From the congested corridors, to a ever hustling market, and the mausoleum - Nizamuddin captures ones imagination with its unselfish and welcoming nature. The mesmerising Qawwali nights held at the Dargah further add to the sincerity and honesty of this magically sacred location. And, I couldn't wait to go.

An inscription at the Nizamuddin Dargah


Nearly 8 years later, I finally did go. On a crisp winter January evening with temperatures dropping by the hour I experienced the alluring atmosphere of the Nizamuddin Dargah. The dense ensemble of medieval Islamic buildings in the national capital enamoured the overcrowded pathways. Stalls covered every corner of this already jam-packed corridor. Between the unwavering chatter and clutter, the ever so pleasant tangy aroma of kebabs of all kinds (gaulati and shammi to name a few) eased out any nerves. After wandering aimlessly for a good 20 minutes I, eventually, found myself at the entrance of the Dargah.  

People read prayers in the premises of Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah Complex

I purchased a basket of flowers and an elaborate green and red coloured chaadar to offer at the Dargah as a small token of respect. It is highly recommended you do so as well especially if it is your first visit here. A series of soothing Qawwalis resonated as I weaved through the unending corridors leading to the main courtyard of the Dargah.

Sufism, defined as Islamic mysticism, is an age long practise in Islam tracing its roots back to the 700CE. Sufis are well recognised for seeking truth, love and knowledge through a more personal experience with a greater being. The Nizamuddin Dargah is the mausoleum of one of the Sufi saints of the Chishti Order, Nizamuddin Auliya, and is maintained by his descendants.  

A frame from Rockstar (2011) where a group of individuals perform a Qawwali

The spell-binding Qawwali performance begins at a quarter past 8 on every day other than on Thursdays. Sufi songs such as Kun Faya Kun, Bhar Do Jholi Meri, Aaj Rang Hai, Chaap Tilak Sab Chheeni to name a few, create a hypnotising atmosphere. If you've had a tough day at work, believe me, there is no better place to be at. The Nizami brothers, descendants of Nizamuddin Auliya and whose family has been singing here for more than 700 years, bring a sense of authenticity and genuineness to their commitment. Close your eyes while swaying to the harmonious melodies as a fabulous blend of selfless devotion reminds you of a mehfil that existed centuries before and will continue to do so for many more to come.  

A group of Sufis performing

Things to remember: 

Bring a cloth to cover your head as this is a massively important sign of respect at the Dargah. If you do however forget, the vendors nearby will provide you with a head covering. Also, make sure to wear socks as you will not be allowed inside with shoes on. Since you'll be required to take your shoes off, it would make sense to do it at the stall closest to the Dargah as the mausoleum itself doesn't have a token system. If you are first time visitor, buy a chaadar, flowers, and incense sticks to offer as offerings inside the Dargah.  

What else to do: 

Other than listening to the Qawwali, there are several other locations you can visit inside the complex. You can make your way to Nizamuddin Auliya's sanctum. Here you can pay tribute to the great Sufi saint. Just a reminder that woman aren't allowed to enter the inner sanctum and hence, will have to limit themselves to the outer verandah. They can peak through the lattice screen to get a glimpse of the tomb of the influential Sufi saint. This is also where you can make your offerings. You can also visit the Chausath Khamba (64 Pillars) where one can find the tomb of Mirza Ghalib, a prominent Persian poet in the Mughal era. Especially close to this dargah is that of Hazrat Inayat Khan, a 19th-century Sufi saint, where qawwalis take place on Fridays.

Places to eat: 

You'll find countless restaurants in this narrow corridor but, we recommend a short visit to the Ghalib Kabab Corner. On my visit here, I had the shammi kebab which was an absolutely delightful experience. The tenderness of the meat with the green chutney made for an unforgettable meal. You can also visit the Dastarkhwan-E-Karim to have a plate of some delicious mutton biryani. Otherwise, there is always good old Karim's!

Getting there:

The nearest metro stations to the Dargah are Jangpura and JLN on the Violet line. You can either walk from the station or take an auto to get dropped off at the entrance.  

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