Like a magnet, they beckoned and we walked
An Evening with the Djinns of Delhi—the event was floating on Facebook and it was winter. As the mist swirled outside, the call of the djinns somehow seemed appropriate. The call of the invisible creates a tug of war between the logical, the illogical, the real and the illusionary. And it’s a compelling tug of war, so the power of the djinns won and I was on my way to a date with the mysterious powers living in Delhi, India.
Ready for the walk
The walk was conducted by a young man named Asif Khan Dehlvi who has very interesting spiritual roots and his walks are called Delhi Karavan. The 24-year-old history student and walk leader is as fascinating as the djinns. Connected to the Dehlvi family, which has been part of the famous Sufi Chirag-e-Dehlvi dargah (shrine) in Delhi, Asif conducts his walks in Urdu and Hindi.
It was one of the cold dull January evenings. Introductions over, Dehlvi started the walk with a short history of Delhi. The roots of the Capital of India can be traced to the times of Mahabharata, 3,000 years ago. The pulsating Capital was once a gateway city, built on the plains near a fording point on the Yamuna River and on the route between western and central Asia and southeast Asia.
The first four cities of Delhi were in the south, around the area where the Qutub Minar now stands. The fifth Delhi, Firozabad, was at Feroze Shah Kotla, while Emperor Sher Shah created the sixth at Purana Qila. The Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, constructed the seventh Delhi in the 17th century, shifting the Mughal capital from Agra to Delhi; his Shahjahanabad roughly corresponds to Old Delhi.
It was in 1803 that the British captured Delhi.
Finally, the meeting
The roots of Delhi traced, we headed into the ruins of the magnificent fort to see the abode of the djinns. The fort has a practicing masjid, a baoli (step-well), a pyramid and the famed Ashoka Pillar.
Through the ruins, being saved and much to my dismay nothing of the times of Feroze Shah being left visible, we reached a darkish eerie room. The only light coming in through iron doors, fresh rose petals lay strewn on the floor, a diya was lit in a corner. The wall had darkened in that corner. There were coins stuck on walls, letters tied to the iron gate and strips of cloth and plastic bags clammed the iron bars of the many doors in that room. It was a prison cell which was now where the djinns lived.
“This is Asia’s largest residence of djinns,” explained Dehlvi. In Islam, belief goes that when god created the universe, he made angels from spirit, man from earth and djinns from fire. These powerful magical like beautiful women and fragrances. So women had been instructed to tie their hair and not come fragrant.
Call of the djinns
Djinns can answer a call in many ways—through animals, other people or sudden unexpected happenings. “People write letters to the djinns and hang them here. They offer roses, biryani and kheer on Thursdays,” said Dehlvi, walking us to a pyramidal structure. Thursday is an important day for the worship of these magical beings.
The three levels of the ancient pyramidal structure rooms house dark rooms and places where people sit and worship. It’s interesting to see flower garlands, milk bowls, offerings of rice and flour, sometimes even meat and liquor, all over the place.
It was in the dark eerie rooms that the fragrance lingered and incense flowed. People were saying their djinn prayers, calling to the magical beings to fulfil their wishes and ease their sufferings. “A lawyer would read these letters,” recounted Dehlvi, “so that he could help the ones in need without any charge.” That’s the way djinns send help.
Like all things in life, like day and night, djinns are also helpful and troublemakers. Dehlvi divulged the tale of Iblis, the troublemaker. This powerful one refused to bow to the human race and so was expelled from his land. Iblis then made his home elsewhere and brings trouble with him.
How djinns came to Feroze Shah Kotla Fort
They came with a Sufi saint, as spiritually realised people have spiritual protectors, said Dehlvi. The day was turning to dusk, and we watched a mother teaching her small son to pray, lighting a diya and offering red roses.
My Evening with the Djinns of Delhi had come to an end, but I knew that someday I would come back on a Thursday to see the magical djinns granting people their wishes for the mystical is like a secret charm.