Qawwali at Nizamuddin Dargah ,a 700 years old spiritual and multicultural tradition.

kumar abhishek sharma
3 min readApr 16, 2020

Qawwali as a form of devotional music has been performed by the Sufis to stimulate religious devotion and a sense of spiritual closeness to God since long. The origin may be traced back to the Persian culture, but the second migration from Persia around the 11th century brought the practice to the Indian Subcontinent. The Chishti Sufi Order can be credited for popularising the practice amongst the common masses of India since the 13th century. The dargah (shrine) of Nizamuddin Auliya in West Nizamuddin, Delhi is a witness to this 700 years old tradition that is still carried on with the same zeal. The localisation of “qawwali and its language” to make it appeal to the Indian masses, happened during the time of Amir Khusro,who was a disciple of the Chishti Sufi Saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. He incorporated many local linguistic as well as musical traditions to the existing structure of qawwali .He did an extensive fusion of already existing musical traditions of the Subcontinent from Hindvi to Brajbhasha within the structure of Qawwali. But despite all the regional variations in Sufi Musical traditions in Iran , Turkey ,Central Asia and to the Indian Subcontinent ,the core remains the same .

The tranquility of Sufi music and the spirit of the qawwals is an experience that stays on forever with you. The tradition that started with the great Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Amir Khusro ,who holds a special place in Indian music history is still enjoyed by people from all over the globe.

Even before being popularised by bollywood in movies like Rockstar the qawwalis have been a part of mainstream music in songs like Chaap tilak, Aaj rang hai and Ghar Nari. The Nizami qawwal family have been performing their art in the dargah for almost 600 years now. The basic structure of most of the compositions has remained the same for about 6 centuries, though with time numerous variants have set in.

TIMINGS: You can spot a qawwal at the dargah anyday if lucky, as one Or the other is performing in the courtyard almost everyday. But the main mehfil or samaa takes place every “Thursday evening” at around 6 PM. . It goes on till night with a break for the evening prayers. The presence of a big party of Qawwals on Thursdays makes it electrifying.

Culture and its continuity :In the cultural scene of Delhi, the experience at the Dargah would be one of the topmost experiences showcasing the multicultural and heterogeneous essence of Delhi. There are people from all walks of life,different nationalities, different religions and varied social standings.The floor on which they sit together knows no privilege Or inequality.Its just the music and the faith. One is just amazed by the Cultural Continuity of the practice ,if one knows that the same compositions are being sung by the same family in the same compound for about 700 years now. Nearby one can also visit the Tomb of Mirza Ghalib, one of the leading poets India has ever seen. Humayun’s tomb and the chilla of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya is also nearby, one can walk easily.

Originally published at on April 16, 2020.