‘The Wandering Sufis’ by Kumkum Srivastava was my first formal introduction to the world of Sufi saints (also called as Peer Baba). Before that, I always noticed dargahs while travelling in Delhi, but never went inside them, for no particular reason. But then the images of what I used to see kept intriguing me and the book increased my level of curiosity.
Came majorly from Iran (also known as Persia), these Sufi saints spread the message of Allah within the Indian sub-continent. They were highly revered by the common people and royalties alike, irrespective of their faith, perhaps because the Sufi saints preached majorly about peace.
My first personal encounter with Sufism happened in 2009 when a friend took me to a mazaar near Mandi House. Situated on one corner on the pavement dividing Safdar Hashmi lane and the main Mandi House road, the mazaar left me spellbound. Since it was a Thursday, the day of the peer, an old man was singing qawwali with a harmonium. Spend some quiet moments in the middle of buzzing traffic of Delhi while listening to some soulful songs by the old man who sings very beautifully.
Then one day I decided to visit Matka Peer Dargah. Situated on the Purana Quila Road in the heart of Delhi, the shrine is dedicated to Hazrat Sheikh Abu Bakar and is nearly eight centuries old. The Sufi saint migrated to India from Iran in 1257 CE (655 hijri). What attracted me the most is the number of matkas (earthen pot) hanging on the trees surrounding the place. When asked from one of the shopkeepers selling flowers and prasad in the complex, I came to know that it is believed that anything you wish for at this dargah gets fulfilled and then the devotees offer prasad (white sugar balls and chana) to the Sufi saint in the earthen pot.
As per the belief, the Sufi saint after migrating to Delhi chose to live at this very place and started practising meditation here. One of the reasons that the shrine has a lot of positivity and one can feel as soon as you enter here. He started curing people of diseases and getting them rid of their problems with simple water kept in a silver pot. The word of his miracles spread like wildfire and people from places far and near started visiting the saint and he became famous among his devotees as Matka Peer.
After his death, the same place was converted into Matka Peer Dargah (place of worship) where people still visit with a hope their wishes will get fulfilled.
Here’s a video of the qawwali at Matka Peer Dargah.
Text and images by Supriya Aggarwal