Just across the busy Mathura Road from Humayun’s Tomb, and now engulfed by a busy road network and plush suburbs, the self-contained mahalla (village) of Nizamuddin, with its lack of traffic, ancient mosques and tombs and slow pace of life, is so different from the surrounding city that to enter it is like passing through a time warp. At its heart, surrounded by a tangle of narrow alleyways lined with shops and market stalls, lies one of Sufism’s greatest shrines, the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, which draws a constant stream of devotees from far and wide. The marble dargah is the tomb of Sheikh Nizam-ud-din Aulia (1236–1325), fourth saint of the Chishtiya Sufi order founded by Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti of Ajmer, and was built the year the sheikh died, but has been through several renovations, and the present mausoleum dates from 1562. Lattice screens and arches in the inner sanctum surround the actual tomb (closed to women), which is surrounded by a marble rail and a canopy of mother-of-pearl. Sheikh Nizam-ud-din’s disciple, the poet and chronicler Amir Khusrau – considered to be the first Urdu poet and the founder of khyal, the most common form of north Indian classical music – lies in a contrasting red-sandstone tomb in front of his master’s mausoleum.


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