Transcending Time: Monuments In Delhi With A Queer History

This Pride Month, here is a look at three monuments in Delhi that stand as a testament to the belief that love transcends the boundaries of societal norms
Inside the Jamali Kamali mosque
Inside the Jamali Kamali mosqueShutterstock

Delhi is fascinating in the way that when one learns how to tune out and see beyond the madness of urban life, the city reveals its true colours and spirit. A spirit continuously fanned by different dynasties, historical periods and legacies. While the stories of some great, few unforgiving, but all impassioned emperors echo throughout the many ruins and monuments dotting the city, there are a few where, if you listen closely, you can hear the whispers of a love way beyond its time and the shackles of right and wrong. This Pride Month, here is a look at three monuments in the capital that stand as a testament to the belief that love transcends the boundaries of societal norms:

Jamali Kamali Tomb

Inside the Jamali Kamali Tomb
Inside the Jamali Kamali Tombthedelhipedia/Instagram

Located adjacent to the Jamali Kamali Mosque in Mehrauli, this quaint and resplendent tomb is revered as a fine example of Mughal architecture. Built in 1528 using red sandstone and adorned with marble embellishments, the tomb-shrine draws tourists for its beauty. But at its heart is the story behind its existence, which has come to occupy immense significance among the queer community. The origin of the tomb is ascribed to the famed poet and traveller Shaikh Fazlullah, known by his alias Jamali, and his unknown disciple and lover Kamali. While Kamali's identity is not completely clear, the pen box on the tomb in the shrine suggests that he was a male. Although the understanding that Jamali and Kamali shared a romantic relationship has been largely derived from oral traditions, the Urdu inscriptions about love and separation confirm the nature of their bond.

Hijron Ka Khanqah

Hijron Ka Khanqah has 49 tombs of Hijras from the Lodi period
Hijron Ka Khanqah has 49 tombs of Hijras from the Lodi periodWikimedia Commons

Located in Mehrauli, the Khanqah dates back to the 15th century. The name literally translates to "Sufi spiritual retreat for eunuchs," giving it space in the expanding canon of historical remains related to the queer community. Pre-dating the Mughal period, the Khanqah was also where many individuals from the Hijra community during the Lodi period were buried. The complex, housing 49 tombs, falls under the purview of the Hijras of Turkman Gate, who are responsible for the upkeep of the sanctity of the space.

Tomb of Sarmad

Tomb of Sarmad is located between Meena Bazaar and Jama Masjid
Tomb of Sarmad is located between Meena Bazaar and Jama MasjidWikimedia Commons

The story behind this historical structure is one fueled by the quest for power. Located between Jama Masjid and Meena Bazaar, this tomb is dedicated to the Armenian Sufi saint and mystic Sarmad, who fell in love with a Hindu boy named Abhay Chand. But that's not how he met his unfortunate fate.

A depiction of the Persian Jewish poet Sarmad Kashani, who is believed to have translated the Torah into Persian
A depiction of the Persian Jewish poet Sarmad Kashani, who is believed to have translated the Torah into PersianImage courtesy of the Walters Art Museum.

As a mentor of Dara Shikoh, Sarmad was executed soon after in the footsteps of the Jama Masjid by Aurangzeb, who wanted to secure the throne without any interference. Sarmad's tomb is widely revered among the LGBTQ+ community as he was considered to be one of the earliest spiritual leaders to be vocal about his love for Chand.

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