travel shorts: delhi’s 800-year-old spiritual retreat for eunuchs

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Delhi is full of tombs and gravestones. There are tombs for sultans and emperors, and their consorts. For wealthy nobles and ordinary folks. But gravestones, sorry not for one, but 50 revered eunuchs or transgender women who lived eight hundred years ago? Aaah, that can only happen in Delhi. 😊

Hijron Ka Khanqah, which literally translates to ‘a Sufi spiritual retreat for eunuchs’ is a collection of whitewashed gravestones fronted by a wall mosque in Mehrauli Village, a neighbourhood in Delhi continuously inhabited for the past one thousand years. Amidst these gravestones stands a marble tomb marked with a kalamdan, a raised ridge, typical of graves belonging to males in medieval India.

According to popular legend, the khanqah was the Kyrgystani Sufi Saint Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki’s [1173 – 1235] gift to the royal chief eunuch whom he considered a sister. Another story claims the site is instead five hundred years old, and belongs to Miyan Saheb, a Sufi saint’s eunuch sister during the Lodi-era.

Even now, on special occasions, members of the hijra community from across the city and neighbouring States go here to sing and dance, eat and pray.

More often, than not, the khanqah is locked, tended for lovingly by a Hindu man who has been taking care of the site for the past three decades. However, if you are lucky and find the gates open, do slip inside into an oasis of spotless peace and marvel at a slice of history and heritage that is unique.

P.S. I explored Hijron Ka Khanqah as part of a heritage walk to Delhi’s Mehrauli Village with Sair E Hind. They specialize in heritage walks and tours to off-the-beaten-path historical sites in India.

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