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Qawwali singing

  • Delhi, India

Last updated: 07 April, 2024

In south Delhi, near Humayun’s Tomb, compact Nizamuddin is an earthy, almost medieval neighbourhood of tight lanes and jumbled houses. At its heart stands the 16th-century tomb-shrine of a 13th-century Sufi saint. It’s a particularly sacred place for Muslims, especially those drawn to the Sufi tradition, where devotional music and song play a significant role in spiritual life.

Most evenings (Thursdays are the most charged) see groups of qawwals, or bards, and musicians gathered to sing qawwalis (hymns) in the shrine’s courtyard. It’s a memorable experience; enthusiastic audiences are almost intoxicated by performances and for many outsiders, too, it seems to reinforce the strange power of music to ‘connect’ in unexpectedly profound ways.


Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
Frequency: daily
When: Daily
Duration: 1 hour

Getting there & doing it

Taxi or auto-rickshaw is the most convenient way to reach the area. Alternatively Hazrat Nizamuddin or Jangpura metro stations are the closest options though you’ll still need a 10-minute walk to reach the neighbourhood. Ask for directions to the dargah auliya, or shrine.

Entry to the shrine and its qawwali night is free. The sessions last for about an hour; sometimes there are two sessions in an evening.

No shoes are allowed inside the shrine so be prepared to go barefoot or with socks; any number of local stall-holders will look after your footwear for a nominal fee. You’ll need to cover your head, too, with a small scarf or cloth – local vendors can happily supply these too.

When to do it

Performances take place most evenings, but Thursdays or Friday evenings are the best times to go; plan to arrive early to get a good viewing spot.