Northern Ridge of Delhi houses architectural landmarks of the 1857 Mutiny, but not many know of the lesser-known medieval period structures. As you walk on the hilly ridge, you will come across many fascinating structures such as the Chauburja Mosque, or the 4-turret mosque; Pir Ghaib, which houses an astronomical observatory, and a baoli or stepwell next to it; and an Ashokan pillar dating to the third Century BCE, right across the road.
The area around the observatory and baoli is believed to have once been a part of Feroz Shah Tughlaq’s fourteenth-century hunting lodge, which is now locally known as Pir Ghaib, associated with the tale of the Sufi saint who vanished. There are many interesting stories and legends around this Sufi. How did he manage to live a lonely existence and vanish in front of visitors? On this April Fool’s Day, let us find out more about this Pir.
Although very little is known about this spiritual character, some historical sources refer to him as someone who was born into a noble family and converted to Sufism soon after his wife’s death. He is said to have taken shelter in the wilderness of the hunting lodge. As his fame spread, he started receiving frequent visitors including royalty, Feroz Shah himself, while many went to him for spiritual guidance and favours.
According to one of the legends, one day, in Ajmer, the saint was so tired and hungry that he decided to spend a night there. Soon, a plate full of food appeared out of nowhere, then there was sounds of clapping and fairies dancing around him as he finished eating. Much later, he set up his abode on a hilltop near the hunting lodge. Bothered by frequent visitors, in order to have peaceful meditation and establish an intimate relationship with god, the Sufi is said to have vanished in front of many visitors. Many believed that he vanished into thin air, while some thought he made an invisible veil around him, thus he came to be known as ‘pir ghaib’, or ‘the missing saint’, and his abode came to be known by the same name.
Feroz Shah built his capital city, Ferozabad, which stretched upto the Northern Ridge, and apart from hunting, he was fond of meeting dervishes, holy men and Sufis. All that remains of the city today is ruins, and is now known as a ‘haunted citadel’ or ‘city of Djinns’.
Even after centuries, many believers come to the monument, venerate it as a dargah or Sufi shrine, and has kept the legends alive!
Happy April Fool’s Day everyone.
Stay at home, stay safe!