The Nizamuddin Dargah is one of India's most famous and revered Sufi shrines. People of all faiths and creeds come here to worship and participate in the various festivals and events that take place here.
One of the most important ways of celebrating the Sufi faith here is music and that too in the form of Qawali. It's this musical form and its spiritual avatar that I set out to explore with my Photo Essay.
The tradition of Qawali singing goes back almost 750 years in Nizamuddin and this has been maintained, uninterruptedly, by the Nizami family over generations. The present patriarch, Miraj Nizami sahib, is 92 years old and has been singing Qawali here for the last 70 odd years. He, through his 5 sons, hopes that his family will continue this tradition in the years to come. However, Miraj sahib believes that Qawali should be sung only for spiritual reasons and should only be performed in religious places. But the truth is that this musical form has been adopted as a form of popular entertainment also through Indian films and individual performers over the last few years and has proved to be very popular. So much so that quite a few performers have become household names and earned fame and fortune because of their Qawali singing talent.
Saqlain Nizami, one of Miraj sahib's 5 sons, leads the group of Nizami brothers and they perform every Thursday, and on special days, at the Nizamuddin Dargah. He has not just inherited the talent from his father but is also determined to continue the practice of singing Qawali for spiritual reasons as he believes that it is Allah's wish and his gift to him and his family. In effect it's not just his heritage, but also their responsibility to carry on with this tradition.
However, times have changed rapidly and newer avenues and opportunities beckon them which are more worldly, but very lucrative at the same time. Because of their talent and fame as the Nizamuddin Dargah singers, the Nizami brothers are invited regularly to perform at weddings, festivals and social and cultural events, not just in Delhi, but around the country. This is at odds with the tradition of Qawali being sung only for spiritual reasons and a quandary Saqlain and the Nizami clan have to struggle with.