By Sadia Dehlvi
Feb 07, 2014
The Basant festivities at the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya are something I look forward to. Basant in the courtyard of Delhi’s great Sufi saint is a 700-year-old tradition. Sufis have traditionally adapted local languages and traditions to spread their message of peace.
Each year, on the eve of Basant, prior to the sunset prayer, groups of Quawwals enter the Dargah compound wearing yellow scarves. They come in holding bunches of mustard flowers and singing Basant songs, written and composed by Hazrat Amir Khusrau.
This is the sole occasion when the Quawwals sing inside the inner chamber containing the blessed grave. Barring a Dholak and the Duf, the tambourine, the use of any other musical instrument is prohibited inside the sacred chamber. After making their offering of mustard flowers and Khusrau’s verses to Hazrat Nizamuddin, they move to the inner chamber of Hazrat Amir Khusrau’s Dargah. The Quawwals then sit in their usual place, opposite Hazrat Nizamuddin’s mausoleum, and sing till night falls over the city.
There is a history to this tradition. With no children of his own, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya nurtured Khwaja Taqiuddin Nuh, his sister’s son as his own child. Khwaja Nuh reciprocated this love, reiterating that the purpose of his own life was none other than living for his mentor’s sake. Once, when Hazrat Nizamuddin fell ill, Khwaja Nuh prayed that God accept his life in lieu of his uncle’s. Soon, Hazrat Nizamuddin began to recover, whereas a fatal illness consumed Khwaja Nuh.
After the death of Khwaja Taqiuddin Nuh, Hazrat Nizamuddin became stricken with grief. His disciples longed for the sight of his radiant, smiling face. The great Sufi master was usually happy in Amir Khusrau’s company, but after this loss, even Khusrau failed to bring cheer back into his mentor’s life.
One day, while strolling outside the Khanqah, Khusrau came upon a group of villagers. Dressed in yellow, they were singing and dancing joyfully. He enquired where the villagers were going and why they were dressed in this unique fashion. He was told that it was Basant, the harvest festival, when they sought to please their gods.
To please his Master, Amir Khusrau decided to imitate them. He wore mustard coloured clothes and arrived at the khanqah, singing. Seeing the courtier poet dressed in this colourful style, Hazrat Nizamuddin smiled, asking Khusrau the reason for his behaviour. Devotees and disciples rejoiced at seeing Hazrat Nizamuddin cheerful again. Since then, celebrating Basant at Hazrat Nizamuddin’s courtyard has become an annual festivity, attended by devotees from various faiths and backgrounds.
Sakal Ban Phool Rahi Sarson,
Amva Bauraaey Tesu Phuley,
Koyal Boley Daar-Daar,
Aur Gori Karat Singar,
Malaniya Gadhva Laain Karson,
Sakal Ban Phool Rahi Sarson
Tarha Tarha Ke Phool Lagaaey,
Le Gadhva Haatan Mein Aaey,
Nijamuddin Ke Darvaaje Par,
Aavan Kah Gaye Aashiq Rang.
Aur Beet Gaye Barson
(The fields burst with the flowers of mustard/Mango-buds bloom and the trees are aflame/ On every branch the cuckoo cries/As the beauty smears kohl to her eyes.
Maidens bring in flowers, clustered/And the fields burst with the buds of mustard.
With blossoms in their tresses woven/They bring flowers from their gardens chosen.
Nizamuddin’s love promised to return/But many springs have passed by since
And behind his door sits my master, sequestered.)
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at