The Nizamuddin Dargah, or Shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya, is the oldest Muslim institution in Delhi and among the oldest Muslim shrines in India. Located at the heart of the very old and very busy Nizamuddin neighborhood, this venerable mosque is both a local center and a major destination for hundreds of thousands of Muslims every year. It draws even more visitors thanks to its proximity to the neighboring Tomb of Humayun, and is popular among Hindus and Christians as well.
Nizamuddin Auliya was one of India’s great Sufi mystics, a member of the order founded by Moinuddin Chishti. In fact, Nizamuddin was born in 1238, just two year after the death of Chisti. Born into a Muslim family, he was influenced by the Sufi teachings that were popular in Northern India at the time.
Nizamuddin studied Sufism in what was later Pakistan, and became a follower of Baba Farid. Excelling in his studies and devotion to the Chishti order, he was eventually named the successor to Baba Farid, which he did when still in his twenties. He settled in Delhi where he established Sufi house for the feeding of the poor.
During his lifetime, Nizamuddin established the Chisti Izami order, which went on to become a popular Sufi order in Northern India. From its ranks later came some of the greatest Sufi mystics in India’s history. He died in 1325 leaving behind a positive and popular legacy among the region’s Muslims.
Among his many disciples was one Amir Khusrow, a well-known poet and musician. According to tradition, he either created or refined the musical instrument known as the sitar. Khusrow died the same year as Nizamuddin and was given the honor of burial within the shrine. In later years, Jahanara Begum, a princess and daughter of Shah Jahan, was also later buried on the site of the shrine.
The Nizamuddin Dargah was established at the time of the Sufi saint’s death. Most of the current complex was completed in 1562, though there are older elements as well. The complex includes a mosque, the house where Nizamuddin once lived, his tomb, the tombs of Jahanara Begum and Amir Khusrow and other buildings.
The two principal structures of the complex are the mosque and the tomb of Nizamuddin. The mosque, known as the Jamaat Khana Masjid, is a red-brick structure crowned with a white dome that was built during the Mughal era. It is a much smaller and more intimate structure than the grandiose mosques constructed in the city in later year by Shah Jahan. The tomb is an external pavilion adjacent to the mosque. It is a white columned building crowned with another small white onion dome. The tomb in the center is frequently draped in flowers and other tributes.
The Nizamuddin Dargah is located in the center of the Nizamuddin district, just west of Humayun’s Tomb and about four miles south of the city center. There is no cost of admission. Web: www.nizamuddinaulia.org (official website).
The Nizamuddin Dargah is located in an area with several major Muslim sites of interest. One of these is the Tomb of Inayat Khan, founder of a Sufi order which is now popular in Europe and North America. Also nearby is the Tomb of Humayun, one of the Mughal emperors who once ruled India.