The syncretic culture of Hazrat Nizamuddin basti was celebrated at the annual Mela by Aga Khan Trust for Culture
The rich pluralistic history of Hazrat Nizamuddin basti was clearly in evidence at the annual Apni Basti Mela. No need was felt to recapitulate the 700 years of living heritage of the basti but still it came out beautifully through insightful anecdotes, moving historical narratives and how this area which now symbolises syncretic culture during the three day event. Aslam Akram Warsi regaled the audience to spellbinding qalams of Khusro like “Chaap Tilak”. He also presented his own composition “Maa Baap ki Ghulami Mere Kaam Aa Gayi” that celebrated family values and wishes of parents. The maestro said he has performed this message-oriented composition in different countries and got the same evocative response.
Sonam Kalra, known for her Partition songs, won the hearts of connoisseurs as well as the common man with her Sufi songs.
Heritage walks were conducted by Sair-e-Nizamuddin group members. Aamir Ahmed, a local whose forefathers have been living in the basti for the past 120 years, conducted heritage walks through Jamat Khana mosque, Nizamuddin baoli, Dargah complex, and Chausath Khamba tomb.
Tales of compassion
Aamir Ahmed conducting a heritage walk
He highlighted anecdotes of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s generosity and how he laid the foundation of the syncretic traditions through his words of love for mankind and incidents that are still remembered by residents, cutting across all religions.
“Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya regularly organised langars, comprising puris, halwa, and vegetables, which was eaten by everyone, cutting across faith and economic divide. When he stayed at the basti, two wells, as well as Yamuna river, were the only source of water,” he said.
A keen observer, one day, the Sufi noticed a woman, belonging to the Hindu faith, dropping by at the basti to draw water from the well. “After noticing this for a couple of days, Hazrat inquired from his khadims why she was not using unadulterated water of the Yamuna (then pollution-free). Her brutally frank answer left Auliya in tears. She said that she didn’t have a husband but had a child to feed. If she gives him the Yamuna water, his hunger would open up. Therefore, she was serving him coarse water of the well so that he would not ask for food. On hearing this heart-rending story, Hazrat Nizamuddin instructed his disciples to provide food to the lady until her child grew up. From the langar, four rotis, halwa, chhole and vegetables were given to that woman,” narrated Aamir.
The significance of langar organised in the dargah by all those who come to pay obeisance at the famed dargah to get their muriyad fulfilled or when their wishes are accepted by Nizamuddin Auliya. “Langar is organised every day and people, especially poverty stricken men, women and children, are fed by those who come to pay respect to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya,” says Aamir.
Inspired by monuments
This year, the women of the basti showcased their craftmanship that was inspired by the designs on monuments like Mazar-e-Ghalib, Jamat Khana Mosque, and Atgah Khan tomb. The centuries-old designs and motifs were made on dupatta, stoles, key chains, TV trolley, and bookmarks. During their visits to the Humayun Tomb and these monuments, these women carefully studied the architectural patterns especially arches, jaalis, domes, shapes and then used them on myriad products.
As stories were narrated against the background of heritage — the dargah, tomb and other medieval monuments, some as old as the reign of Allauddin Khilji — one could imagine visually how the larger than life rulers had an eye for architecture and ensured that everything was done according to their diktats.
Organised by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Apni Basti Mela also had workshops related to Sanjhi art, toy making, and jewellery making. To give space to street artists and bring them into the national mainstream, street art, puppet shows, live sketches, and calligraphy were also conducted.
Also, sparrow nest making and a bee workshop made the event an all-encompassing one for both little ones as well as grown-ups.
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