Mystic Mantra: Sheikh Salim of Sikri

It is the sole Sufi dargah in India to be located in the heart of an imperial citadel

One of my favourite dargahs is that of Sheikh Salim Chishti in Fatehpur Sikri. A famous Sufi of the Chishti order, he comes from the family of Baba Farid Ganj-e-Shakar of Punjab. Born in Delhi, the young mystic moved to the town of Sikri with his father Sheikh Bahauddin, a famed Sufi of his times.

Emperor Akbar, one of India’s greatest monarchs, had sought the prayers of Sheikh Salim Chishti in his quest for an heir. As assured by the Sufi, the daughter of the Raja of Amber, the emperor’s wife, gave birth to prince Salim Mirza. Akbar credited the birth of the future king to the mystic’s prayers.

The emperor made a thanksgiving pilgrimage to the dargahs of Khwaja Moinuddin at Ajmer and Baba Farid at Pakpattan. On his return to Sikri after two years, Akbar ordered the construction of a new city adjacent to Sheikh Salim’s khanqah.

Abul Fazl, Akbar’s court historian, ranked the Sufi among those “who pay less attention to the external world but acquire vast knowledge and understand the mysteries of the heart.” Under the influence of Sheikh Salim Chishti, the Mughal emperor adopted the Chishti principle of sulh-e-kul, peace with all, as the official state policy.

Sheikh Salim travelled frequently outside of India, his first pilgrimage to Mecca being around the year 1544. On returning to India, the Sufi constructed a house for himself at Sikri. After another long journey, that lasted about 14 years, to many countries including Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, Sheikh Salim returned to Sikri, building a hospice beneath the northern edge of the Sikri ridge.

Sheikh Salim’s fame as a Sufi grew, resulting in Sikri becoming a centre for mystics, scholars and those seeking piety. Once a reputed Sufi from the Qadri order asked Sheikh Salim whether he had attained his mystic goal through revelation or induction. The Sufi replied that his method was a “heart to heart” one, that is, God revealed Himself to his heart, drawing him nearer to Himself.

Besides numerous distinguished scholars and members of the Mughal nobility, Sheikh Salim attracted large crowds and would be surrounded by the poor, simple stonecutters of Agra. They paid homage to him by building him a small mosque around the original cell where he performed a chilla, a 40-day meditation retreat.
Sheikh Salim died in 1571, soon after the order to build a new city at Sikri had been proclaimed. Under his supervision, the mosque and khanqah were built into the complex. The Sheikh lies buried in the beautiful tomb erected on the site of his living quarters near the grand Jama Masjid. Even though Sikri became an abandoned city, the Mughal emperors continued to visit the dargah of Sheikh Salim.

It is the sole Sufi dargah in India to be located in the heart of an imperial citadel. The dargah at Fatehpur Sikri attracts hundreds of tourists and pilgrims, all of whom marvel at the exquisite architecture, while seeking spiritual solace.

Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism:
The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at

( Source : dc )
Next Story