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Of djinns and wishes
Historical monuments are often seen as relics of rulers or noblemen who never wanted to be forgotten. Feroz Shah Kotla fort, too, is one of them but what fascinates the visitors more is the presence of spirits. Shrabasti Mallik finds out why people still have faith in these supernatural creatures
Every Thursday without fail, Nazma Khatoon makes a trip to Feroz Shah Kotla and pins a handwritten letter on the wall of one particular dark room of the fort. Then she lights a diya and says a silent prayer. To any bystander it would look like a woman offering a prayer to Allah but there is more than meets the eye. In the alcoves of stone walls in the ancient fort, believers pray but here, the venerated are the djinns, not the sufi saints or dervishes.
Djinns, the supernatural creatures of Islamic myth, have been known to reside in old and ancient places. According to Sufi history, Allah created djinns with smokeless fire and angels with noor (light). Then he made adam (man) from dust. One of the djinns, Iblis, was said to be the most popular. Myth has it that before Allah breathed life to adam, he ordered all the angels and djinns to bow to humans and protect them but Iblis refused to obey the order. He considered himself superior to adam in all sense because he could take any shape, he could fly and took great pride in the fact that he was made of fire.
This angered the gods who banished him from heaven and instructed all the angels to take Iblis and punish him by throwing him in the fire of hell. On the way Iblis begged for mercy and he was granted a second chance on the condition that till the Judgement Day he would have to kneel and bow before adam.
From that day onwards, it is said, all the evil djinns accompanied Iblis and have tricked humans all along because they believe that it is because of humans that they had to leave the comforts of heaven. Along with these evil forces exist an equal number of good djinnsKhatoon told us that it is for the individuals to believe in the existence of djinns. “It is due to faith that people come here (at the Kotla fort). I believe that the djinns protect my family,” she said. And it is not just her, people from all faiths and religion appeal to these supernatural forces to guide them in their ways.
If history is to be believed, the first mention of djinns residing in the fort came from Laddoo Shah Baba during the late 70s. Shah used to live in the area adjoining the Turkman Gate and during the time of Emergency, when the area was encroached, he went to live in Feroz Shah Kotla. During his stay he felt apparitions and supernatural powers and realised that he was living with djinns.
This incident followed the story of how Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh, who was held captive in the fort by Aurangzeb, survived a week without food and water. Asif Khan Dehlvi of Delhi Karavan, who recently conducted a heritage walk at the fort elaborated, “As a punishment for some alleged mistake, Tegh Bahadur was imprisoned in one of the cells. It was ordered that he would be given no food and no water. But when the soldiers came back after a week, they found him living pretty comfortably with good food and refreshments. When they enquired, he told them that the djinns of the castle gave him everything.”
That same cell, where Guru Tegh Bahadur was known to have been held captive, is now where people say their prayers. But prayers are also offered in different darkened caves. Nirmal Pandey, the gateman of the fort told us that like the government, djinns, too have various departments. “It is said that people write their separate grievances in different papers so that it is easy for the head djinn to direct it to respective departments,” he said.
The head djinn or the Laat Wale Baba, is said to reside in the Minar-e-Zarreen, a 13.1 metre high polished sandstone pillar. It was originally erected by Emperor Ashoka in Ambala, Haryana in the third century BC and was brought to Kotla on the orders of Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq, centuries later. Dehlvi added, “It was brought on boat through the Yamuna, wrapped in silk. No one knows how many meters of silk was used for it.”
He explained to us the reason why it is said that prayers and wishes which are said in the evening, during sunset, have more chances of being fulfilled. “Allah asked djinns to oversee the welfare of the humans. There are different djinns for night and day. The time of sunset is the most crucial time because for a few moments, the earth is unprotected because of the change in duties. But a prayer said at that time is most likely to be heard because the djinns who are leaving carry it to Allah and also the djinns who take charge of the night also convey the message,” said Dehlvi.There are numerous places in and around the city which are said to be home to djinns but people prefer to pray and visit the Kotla fort because it is said to be the biggest residence of djinns in South-East Asia.
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