Nizamuddin Auliyah, Hazrat

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Basant (spring)

The tradition

Masha Hassan, Sufi Basant Says Goodbye To Winter, Feb 7, 2017: The Times of India

Once again the dargah is decorated with bright yellow marigold and mustard flowers. Adults and kids with their yellow chunnies, bands and turbans are ready to offer beautiful, bright yellow chaddars to the shrines of Nizamuddin Auliyah. Even from a good distance, your eyes can't miss this dazzling colour. This is Sufi Basant ­ marking the departure of winter and the beginning and celebration of spring.

Though it is the norm to perform qawwali within the premises of the dargah, only on the occasion of Basant festival the qawwals sing praises of the saint in a procession, moving towards the dargah. This has a spiritual significance, indicating internal as well as external exuberance. Nature is dancing with abundance and devotees are rejoicing at the sight of their beloved Sufi saint.

Vasant in Sanskrit and Basant in Urdu mean `spring'. The festival is celebrated all over India not only from a spiritual perspective; it conveys a strong sense of unity and prosperity . Whereas in some parts of India like Punjab, you will find the skies crowded with colourful kites cutting through the bright rays of the sun. In Chishti dargahs, Basant festival comes alive with exhilaration by qawwals singing in high spirits, taking you to another level of consciousness.

Originally the Basant festival, expressing rejuvenation and awakening of life was only celebrated by Hindus, highlighting the cycle of nature. It was much later that the Sufis imbibed this joyous celebration into their culture. t When the 12th century saint, Nizamuddin Aulia ­ aggrieved spe by the death of his nephew tr Taqiuddin Nooh ­ withdrew from the world and spent all his time at Nooh's grave, his disciple, Amir Khusro, tried hard to cheer him up but he failed. One day, while Khusro was walking in the fields, he saw some young women dressed in yellow clothes, celebrating Basant. Khusro also donned a yellow ghagra and covered himself with a chunni and sang the qawwali, “Sakal basant aayo ri“. Seeing him thus, Nizamuddin lightened up.

Since then, every year for more than seven centuries now, Sufi Basant has become a regular festival of joy , in remembrance of the incident. On this day , devotees dress in yellow and offer marigold and mustard flowers to the Khwaja.

In Islam, the colour yellow stands for wisdom. This colour being the most luminous, can never go unnoticed, it has the power and the ability to stand out and capture our eyes. In almost every part of the world, especially in Asia, this radiant shade of the spectrum means happiness, warmth and sunshine.Yellow in a lot of cultures has a strong spiritual significance. Amir Khusro sang: “This spring, please dye my scarf for me, O Nijaam, protect my honour ... Beholding your appearance, O Nijaam I offer myself in sacrifice.“

So in this Basant season, let us celebrate all that the colour yellow stands for ­ joy, sunshine and cheer, qawwals and the scent of mustard. It is the right time to break any spell of gloom and let the yellow shine through your soul.

“Rejoice, my love, rejoice, It's spring here, rejoice.

Bring out your lotions and perfumes, And decorate your long hair.

Oh, you're still enjoying your sleep, wake-up.

Even your destiny has woken up, It's spring here, rejoice.

You snobbish lady with arrogant looks, Amir Khusro is here to look at you; Let your eyes meet his, O my love, rejoice; It's spring here again.“

The story behind the tradition

Manimugdha Sharma, Yellow’s the colour of amity at dargah, February 8, 2019: The Times of India

700-YEAR TRADITION: Sufi Saint’s Shrine To Don Colour Of Basant Panchami Tomorrow

The Sufi saint who lived between the 13th and 14th centuries helmed the Chishtiyya tariqa (order) after taking over from Fariduddin Ganj-i-Shakar. He never married, but was fond of his siblings’ children. One of his nephews was Taqiuddin Nuh, son of his sister Zainab. He was very attached to him and was crushed when he died young.

“Woh itne ghamzada thay ki woh bade sanjeeda rehne lage (He was so pained that he became a grim man),” said Altamash Nizami, a peerzada at the dargah, and a direct 21st generation descendant of Nizamuddin. The saint’s disciples were worried about him and looked for ways to cheer him up. One day, poet Amir Khusro saw a group of merry women wearing bright yellow and carrying mustard flowers close to where Humayun’s Tomb stands today. They were singing and playing a dholak and going somewhere.

“Hazrat Amir Khusro asked them the reason for such merry-making. They said that it was Basant and they were going to the temple. Khusro then put on a yellow robe, started playing a dholak, and went to Nizamuddin singing and dancing,” Nizami narrated. Accounts say Khusro dressed up like a woman, though Nizami disputes this. But it must still have been quite a spectacle, the oddity of which brought a smile on Nizamuddin’s lips. When Nizamuddin asked him why he was dressed that way, Khusro replied that it was to bring back the smile on his face.

Journalist Meher Murshed writes in his book, Song of the Dervish: Nizamuddin Auliya: The Saint of Hope and Tolerance, that Basant is celebrated at Nizamuddin’s dargah every year to “mark the day Khusro got the master’s smile back from the depths of grief and depression”.

The tradition has continued for over 700 years. On Saturday too, the dargah will don a yellow look for Basant Panchami and devotees will come in their thousands wearing yellow and carrying mustard flowers to greet the patron saint of Delhi, who, in his lifetime, found happiness in a Hindu spring festival. “This custom has been followed at other dargahs too,” said author Rana Safvi. “Dargahs are places where all are welcome and the saint becomes part of the devotee’s family. So, it makes perfect sense for devotees to celebrate their festivals with the Pir and the dargah to celebrate with them.”

Nizami shared another tale he heard from his elders: “Once Hazrat Nizamuddin went to the dargah of Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki with his disciples, including Amir Khusro. On the way, they saw a farmer draw water from a well in a field and sing in Hindavi, ‘Ram manaiyo, baarhi laiyo’ (please bless me, Lord Rama, with rain). Nizamuddin was pleased to hear this and told his disciples that every faith had its own way of finding god.”

That thought later found utterance in Amir Khusro’s poem: ‘Har qaum raast raahe, din-e-wa qibla gaahe’.

The importance of Nizamuddin’s dargah in the Indian conscience can be gauged from the fact that during the turbulence of Partition, when there were fears of an impending communal attack on the dargah, the then home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, personally visited the dargah after telling his colleagues, “Let us go to the saint before we incur his displeasure.” No harm came to the dargah and its people.

Nizami said the Sufi saint’s 13th-century message of peace and amity still has meaning today. “With so much polarisation happening in society, the dargah provides an alternative. It has always given space to people of all faiths and their different ideas,” the peerzada said. “Basant Panchami is a Hindu festival celebrated at a Muslim’s shrine. It is part of our Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. It unites us. There is a need to spread its message. Yeh Hindustan ki barkat bhi hai aur taqat bhi (this is India’s blessing and strength).”

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