Situated in the Nizamuddin area of Delhi, you can easily miss this little town (mohalla) if you are new to Delhi, even though it's in the heart of the city. The Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin, as it's known today, was the quaint village called Ghayaspur when young Muhammad Nizamuddin migrated to Delhi from Badayun (in UP) in the early thirteenth century. One enters the dargah Nizamuddin finds a distinctly medieval ambience: labyrinthine alleys, crowds of beggars and street-vendors, bazaars with cheap eateries hawking kababs and other delicacies, people selling caps, rosaries, religious posters, and so on. One of the lanes on the left leads to the well-known Mughlai restaurant Dastarkhwan-e-Kareem. Further ahead is the modern building of the Ghalib Academy, established to honour the 19th century Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib. It has a well-stocked library and museum, and an adjoining compound where Ghalib is buried. You to buy a tray of flowers, sweets, or a 'CHADUR' (Cloth) to offer at the dargahs of Nizamuddin Aulia and Amir Khusrau. Before entering the dargah premises, you have to remove your shoes and preferably cover your head. A medieval archway leads to a verandah that faces the tomb of Amir Khusrau, customarily visited first. Here you will find many claiming to be the Sajjadah-nashins (keepers) of the mausoleum, requesting money for their blessings. The maintenance and upkeep of the dargah, including a daily 'langar' (community meal) for the poor is run with the help of alms and offerings here.

A belief thing

In the early twentieth century, Hasan Nizami, a keeper of the dargah, accidentally scratched the paint in one portion and discovered versified dates in Persian etched on the sandstone. An effort by the government to clean the jali at that time was curtailed by strong objections from the community. Devotees now tie colourful threads to this jali. Men and women can always be seen sitting around the jali either reading the Quran, or simply praying in silence.

Incidentally, the place where Nizamuddin Aulia's tomb is located is not where he established his khaneqah, or monastery. When he came to Delhi with his mother and sister, he had aspirations to become a qazi 'JUDGE' in the town. However, the spiritual world of Sufis, especially the Chishtia order, attracted him, and soon he joined Baba Fariduddin Ganj-e-Shakar's monastery in Ajodhan, Punjab (now in Pakistan). After spending a few years with Baba Farid, he was appointed his spiritual emissary for Delhi. Nizamuddin settled near the Yamuna, about a kilometer east of the present-day dargah, immediately behind Humayun's tomb. This is where he prayed, meditated, and met hundreds of people attracted to his spiritual message. More than seven hundred years later, that attraction still continues. There is also a belief that if you are planning visit the Ajmer Sharif (Dargah of Moinuddin Chishti) then first you have to pay a visit to Nizamuddin Dargah.