For some of us, visiting a dargah has always been a bit of a surreal experience. One is always looking for the transcending sounds, a peaceful space, and places where one automatically covers one’s head. I am no more sure, if one is trained to do so, is it a subconscious thought to cover one’s head or one does it out of respect. I am leaving this thought uncontested for now. This photo walk was special, we were visiting Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki’s Dargah in Mehrauli, on a quite evening. We were three women and a camera, and were not really sure how this space would welcome us (women and camera)?
We wandered in the space and found a place to sit and ponder. We were under a constant self- imposed surveillance; worried if we were breaking rules, worried if we were not following customs. It is only when we sought permission to take photos that we were able to relax and enjoy the ambiance. The space was gendered, with restrictions imposed on some parts of the dargah which prohibited men to enter, and to some sections where women were not allowed to enter. Every place had its own reverence. Inspite of all our fears, there was a beautiful experience of being in such a place, where hundreds throng to pray, seek blessings, lost in reverence, in their own way, engaging with space.
T his photo walk also came in sharp contrast to the ban that was upheld by Haji Ali dargah in Bombay, which prevented women from accessing the the inner sanctum (mazaar). Why were these spaces kept away from women? If it was indeed a spiritual experience, why was a gendered understanding of body taken into consideration? While we walked with our selves, through the spaces, we caught some of the singers singing and people occupying spaces in a non structured way.
Sharing some of our snippets from this walk!