Close to the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin on Mathura road in Delhi, is the dargah of one of his contemporary Sufis, MATKA PIR. The pots of clay, hanging from the trees in the dargah compound, are a beautiful sight and visible from the main road. The mausoleum is on a raised level, where the Sufi ha his living quarters, on a mound near the Yamuna River. A steep flight of stairs takes you to the main dargah compound.
Hazrat Abu Bakr Tusi, who lived in the 13th century is more commonly known as MATKA PIR. He was a Qalandar of repute. Qalandars are mystics who usually wander from place to place and do not belong to any organised Sufi Order. Seized with the intoxication arising from the love of God, Qalandars are known to reject social pleasantries.
The Qalandars emerged as a separate movement with a distinctive style of dress and behaviour. Some Qalandars who came to India from Iran and Iraq were wandering mystics, arousing curiosity with their unique appearance. MATKA PIR belonged to a group called Haidari Qalandars, who took the title from their Turkish founder Haidar from Sawa, a province 70mls south of Nishapur in Persia. When the Mongols invaded Sawa, some of the Haidaris migrated to Delhi.
Hazrat Nizamuddin attended the music assemblies of Shaykh Abu Bakr’s”khanqah”. He observed the Qalandar moulding hot iron rods, turning them into necklaces and bangles. Ibn-e-Batuta wrote of Qalandars wearing iron rings through their ears, hands and other body parts.
MATKA PIR is the most prominent Haidari Qalandar. He settled in Delhi on the banks of the Yamuna river where he often held music assemblies.
Shaykh Jamaluddin of Hansi, the senior-most disciple of Baba Farid of Ajodhan, was a close friend of Hazrat Abu Bakr. Whenever he visited Delhi, he stayed with Hazrat Abu Bakr. Shaykh Jamaluddin gave him the title “Baz-e-Safed” (White Falcon) symbolising his rare mystical achievements.
MATKA PIR would offer his disciples water from the Yamuna in an earthen pot. The water came to be believed to be blessed for its healing powers. The popularity of Sufis often threatened the rulers since people went to them for help rather than to the royal court. When stories of the Sufi’s miracles reached Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban, he sent Tamizan, a slave girl, to seduce the Sufi. Instead, she became a devotee and spent her life looking after the Shaykh. Tamizan is buried in the dargah compound, close to the tomb of her master.
Undeterred, the Sultan sent an emissary with a pot containing iron pellets. MATKA PIR is said to have turned these pellets into pieces of jiggery and chickpeas. He sent a “matka” (an earthen pot) of milk to the Sultan, who later became a devotee.
Over the years, the locals began to call the Sufi MATKA PIR. Pilgrims to the dargah offer “matkas”, when their wishes and prayers are fulfilled.
————– Sadia Dehlvi