Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein: A journey of twenty seven years old technocrat

A great effort in a direction to preserve & document culture, history, dialect & cuisine of Shahjahanabad

Text by Rehan Asad

Picture source: Rehan Asad

hamīñ haiñ maujib-e-bāb-e-fasāhat hazrat-e-‘shā.ir’

zamāna sīkhtā hai ham se ham vo dillī vaale haiñ

Agha Shayar Qazalbash, a disciple of Daagh Dehalvi was one of the Urdu poets from twentieth-century Delhi. In the following verse, he said:

we are the gateway to the eloquence of the respected Urdu verses. The world learns from us we are such residents of Delhi“. Shahjahanabad survived after many vicissitudes of time especially in eighteen century when it was invaded by Persian & Afghans. The 1857 mutiny was the final blow on the cultural capital of Hindustan. The partition of India and later on urban expansion also made major ethic & cultural changes in the city of Old Delhi. The noted & historian Swapna Liddle wrote in Chandni Chowk, the Mughal City of Delhi in a context of the vibrant culture present in the narrow bylanes of Shahjahanabad. “More recently, the attractions of Shahjahanabad has been recognized, the history that still lives in its narrow streets, and the way of life that is represented by its courtyard homes (Liddle, 2016)”. 

Purni Dilli Walo Ki Baatein” is a Non-Government organization that includes a wide range of activities on the vibrant culture of Shahjahanabad. It brings out the living culture from the narrow bylanes with the help of its walks, blog writing, videos & social media post. A blog unique in its kind that covers the history, culture, art, traditions & cuisine specifically of Shahjahanabad. It was started by Abu Sufiyan on 07th June 2013 as the Facebook page to document the vanishing dialect of the Old Delhi.  He was born on 08 January 1991, the youngest one among the five children of Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad and Mrs. Farhat Jahan. His great-grandfather Ibrahim Sahab, a Mughal/Turk was resident of Kashmiri Gate, Shahjahanabad in the late nineteenth century. Mughlani Begum, the great-grandmother of  Abu Sufiyan also belonged to old Turk/Mughal family whose ancestors from Central Asia made Shahjahanabad their home centuries ago when the city was built by great Mughal. The elder siblings still had memories of Mughlani dadi who passed away in year 1985 at age of ninty. The grandfather Nazar Mohammad shifted from the ancestral haveli near Kashmiri Gate to the Suiwalan during 1947. During partition, the area around Kashmiri gate faced more heat & violence in the backdrop of riots at Delhi. Abu Sufiyan told that his grandfather got a spacious twenty rooms haveli in fifty-eight Rupees during those days. Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad completed his graduation from Anglo Arabic College (Historic Madarsa Ghaziuddin Haider) in 1975 & then completed his diploma engineering in electronics from Karnal University. After teaching for some time at an electronic Institute to the retired army officers, he switched to the business in 1980. Presently he owns & manages two electronics shop at Tiraha Bairam Khan, Old Delhi. The mother, Farhat Jahan, a graduate in arts is a social worker from her background. His maternal great-grandfather & great-grandmother has roots from Agra. They worked as maintenance officers of Red Fort at Delhi during British days.

Brought up in a family having a long association with Shahjahanabad, he developed an escapism from the messy environment of the walled city during his senior secondary days. In 2011, he got an admission in Btech at Punjab Technical University. It was during the third year of his undergraduate engineering programme, he started to miss the essence of Shahjahanabad. Far away from home at boarding, he used to record the calls of his mother who spoke the Urdu dialect that is known as “Begmati Zaban/Langauge“. From here the idea crept in to share the fading dialect on the facebook. On 07th June 2013, the Facebook page of  “Purni Dilli Walo ki Baatein” was created. Initially, Abu Sufiyan started to share the post with a character “Tumhari Baji”. Within the few months, the post got the substantial engagement as likings & feedback. By 2014, two more characters appeared as “Khala Khabti” & “Phupoo“. Sadia Sayed started to play the role of  “Winky Phuppo”. She brings out the role of “Phuppo/ Father’s Sister” in the typical dialect of Old Delhi. Recently, a newspaper article cited the number of the followers were fifty-nine thousand for “Winky Phuppo”. By the time, it also appeared as a tool to depict the social issues of walled city integrated with humor.

Arey bhai umar mein kitti bhi badi ho #phuppo lekin insan apni harkaton se bada hota hai.. isliye mere ghar aa hi gayin…

Gepostet von Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein am Sonntag, 17. Juni 2018

From the lanes of Shahjahanabad, the vanishing traditions & dialect spread out to the external world through the help of social media. At the same time, he got engaged with Shah Waliullah library that was started by the efforts of Mohammad Naeem, Mirza Sikander Changezi & team members in the nineties. The journey from a simple Facebook page now broaden its horizons to the blog writing, social work, heritage walks, talking on food & culture.

In collaboration with “Marham“, an organization of Irtiza Qureshi, & Delhi Youth welfare association, he engaged with the social issues of the local community such as raising awareness for girl education, providing books to the needy & many other tasks. In February 2017 with the group of friends, the first historical walk was conducted at Feroz Shah Kotla. For more than a year, the team of Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein is conducting heritage walk. Radio Jockey & Urdu Poet Anas Faizi, lead the literary walks, especially at Ghalib Ki Haveli. Farhan Baig, a history enthusiast & teacher at Government School lead the historical walks. Abu Sufiyan himself lead the walks for foreigners at Shahjahanabad. The walks of “Purani Dilli walo ki Baatien” usually started with Jama Masjid & then moving to the lesser known monuments, glimpses of vibrant culture, tradition such as Kabutar Bazi, arts like Naqqashi & Calligraphy. Dr. Sagheer Akhtar, an Urdu doctorate rendered his support by providing guidance for activities & research needed by the PDWKB team members.

Walk members having traditional breakfast of Bakarkhani & Kheer at haveli of Late Mirza Naseem Ahmad Changezi. One of the members looking for the calligraphy of Mr. Shamim Ahmad. Mirza Naseem Changezi, a freedom fighter & oldest resident of resting on a bed who died recently at age of 106.

Quran was handwritten by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, from the personal collection of Abdul Sattar Sahab, 74 ( Author and…

Gepostet von Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein am Mittwoch, 27. Juni 2018

In between Shah Waliullah library & Late Mirza Naseem Changezi Sahab, archival collections were also shown to the participants at Pahari Imli. The most unique aspect of their walks is “Dastarkhwan” bringing the food specifically from the cuisine of Shahjahanabad such as Lal roti/Bakarkhani with Kheer served at the endpoint.

Mizra Sikander Changezi & Abu Sufyan holding an archival collection at Shah Waliullah Library

Recently in 2018, Purnai Dilli Walo ki Baatien started creating & managing cultural events. The first one was “Topi Ki Daastan”, a play based on Rahi Masoom Raza novel “Topi Shukla” was conducted at Anglo Arabic College on 25th March 2018. The ninety minute’s play was directed by Tarique Hameed.

They also provided online partnership to Delhi Gharana for the event “Ghalib Begum Umrao ki Nazar Se”& “ٌRudad e Shireen”, a composition of Hazrat Amir Khusro.

A stall was arranged by the team of “Purani Dilli Walon Ki Baatien” at five days Urdu Heritage Festival organized by Delhi Government at Central Park, Connaught Place. Its main objective was to bring the culture of Purani Dill with the help of archival pictures, calligraphy, books, dairies, badges & bags. It was a sort of awareness campaign.

Deputy CM, Delhi Manish Sisodia looking a handwritten piece by a notable caligrapher Mr. Shamim Ahmad at the stall of Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein
Abu Sufiyan, Taqi bhai, Mohammad Naeem,  Anas Faizi, Shamim Ahmad, Farhan Baig, and other team members at Stall Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatien
Portrait of Dr. Sagheer Akhtar. A guide & mentor for the team members of Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein

Till now more than twelve thousand posts have been shared by the Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein in the form of the article, videos, & pictures articulating on the microhistory & the culture of vibrant Shahjahanabad. Abu Sufyan also offers help to the media groups such as HT & Indian express for collecting information & raw data for the videos on the monuments, culture, food & bygone days tradition.

In the video: Somya lakhani & Abu SufiyanStory by : Indian Express

Gepostet von Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein am Samstag, 5. Mai 2018

Now Abu Sufiyan & his team members are looking forward to finding the ways for digitalizing the history of Shahjahanabad. Hopefully, when commence, it will be one of the grand projects in a direction to preserve the history & the culture of Old Delhi. The journey of a young technocrat is an example of teamwork, & engaging local community members to preserve the living history of the walled city. With his hectic working schedule at Google as an IT expert, he dedicated all his spare time to preserving & promoting the culture of Shahjahanabad. As a friend & history enthusiast, I wish all the best for his endeavor in the direction of preserving the rich heritage of the Mughal city. This is how a voice notes of a mother appeared as a stimulus for a twenty-two-year-old engineering hostel student to walk on the mission for preserving the heritage of “Shahjahanabad”.

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Abu Sufiyan to provide me chance to write & for the valuable inputs.


Swapna Liddle (2017), Chandni Chowk, the Mughal City of Old Delhi, Speaking Tiger Publishing private limited.

Embedded Tweets & Facebook links are taken from “Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein” page



Aye Akhtar Raza Khan Kahaan Tum Chal Diye

The sad demise of Sheikh Akhtar Raza Khan, a 21st century Jewel of Qadri Barkati Razwi order in South Asia

Chal diye tum aankh me ashqun ka dariya chhor kar

Ranje Furqat ka har ek sine me shola chhor kar

Rahnuma e Raahe Jannat Hai Tera Naqshe Qadam

Rahe Jannat teh naa Hogi Tera Rastah Chhor kar

Ho sake to Akhtar Dekh Baghe Jannat me use

Woh gaya taron se age aashiana choor kar

On 20th July 2018/ 06th Dhulqada/1439 Hijri Sheikh Maulana Akhtar Raza Khan Qadri passing away shocked the entire fraternity of Islamic world that includes millions of his lovers  & disciples (Mureeds) spread across the globe. Sitting in the blessed company of Hazrat Syed Shahid Noori at Rampur, I was showing the picture of the grave of my beloved friend Hazrat Aqib Farid Qadri (Dada) who was buried at 4.00 pm (UAE time) at Al Qouz cemetery 2 in Dubai. Suddenly the phone rang & Mufti Shahid Sahab went outside the room to receive the call. It was the shocking news regarding the departure of Hazrat Sheikh Maulana Akhtar Raza Khan. It might be a coincidence or the love between the spiritual successor (Khalifa) Hazrat Aqib Farid Dada & Tajush Sharia, that the soul of the spiritual master left this world hardly one & half hour after the burial of Hazrat Aqib Farid Qadri (May Allah be please with him). Within the minutes, the news has been spread across the globe on social media (Twitter, Whats app & facebook). Born on 02nd February 1942 at Mohalla Saudagran, Bareilly, he was the great-grandson of 20th-century Islamic scholar & revivalist, Imam Ahmad Raza Khan ( May Allah be please with him). He completed his early education under the guidance of his blessed father, Maulana Ibrahim Raza Khan, mother & maternal grandfather, Maulana Mustafa Raza Khan widely popular as Mufti Azam e Hind (Alaihir Rahmah). 

For studying Tafseer & Hadith ( Branches of Islamic studies), he went to the oldest surviving University of the Middle East, the Al Azhar at Cario, Egypt in 1963. On the completion of the degree, he was awarded the Jamia Azhar award that is bestowed on the meritorious scholars and students. From his maternal grandfather up to the teachers of Al Azhar, he was blessed with the tutelage of notable Islamic scholars of his time for studying Islamic sciences & Arabic language. During his lifetime, he has compiled more than fifty books in Arabic, Urdu & English language covering diverse topics of Islamic Studies. His Fatwas issued in English has been compiled with the name of “Azharul Fatawa” in two volumes covering more than five thousand jurisdictions (Fatwas) related to all walks of life. A great lover of Prophet (Peace be Upon him), he continued the centuries-old tradition of writing poetry (Naats) in the praise of Prophet (Peace be Upon him). Also compiled Qasidas in the praise of many beloved friends (Auliya) of Almighty God. He used Urdu, Arabic & English for the compilation of naats. One of the famous Urdu Naat ‘Daaghe Furqat Taiba” was written by him in 1986 when he was detained by the authorities at Makkah. He was detained for eleven days and then deported back to India without allowing him to visit Madinah Munnawara. At this moment, he wrote the verses:

Daagh-e furqat-e Tayba Qalb muzmahil jaata
Kaash Ghumbad-e Khazra dekhne ko mil jaata

The spot caused by the separation of Madinah, causes my heart to shudder.
Oh! How I wish I could have seen the Green Dome (of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam)

Dum mera nikal jaata unke Aastane par
Unke Aastaane ki khaak meh mein mil jaata

My last breath should have been breathed at his Shrine.
It would have allowed me to be mixed with sand of his Shrine

After a huge protest in UK, India, & Pakistan, the authorities at the embassy in Delhi issued a visa in May 1987 & he performed his Umrah with a visit to Holy Prophet ( Peace be Upon Him). During 2008 & 2009, he traveled extensively especially to the Levant (Syria, Jordan & Palestine) & Egypt. Here he visited the holy shrines of many Sahaba & other notable Islamic personalities. The meetings with the scholars of the Middle East revived the centuries-old connections of South Asian Sufism with scholars of Syria & Egypt. Some of those great scholars who wrote reflections & eulogies after the visit were Sheikh Ramdan Saied Al Bauti, Shiekh Abdul Huda Al Yaqubi, Shiekh Abdul Fattah Bazzam (Then Grand Mufti of Damascus), and Shiekh Muhammad Khair Tarshan (May Allah be please with them). In 2009, the Egypt trip also included the spiritual & scholarly exchange along with lectures in International conferences attended by the participants from more than sixty countries. Sheikh Sayyad Tantawi, the ex-grand Imam of Al Azhar, Shiekh  Ali Gomaa (18th Grand Mufti of Egypt), & Sheikh Yusri were some of the renowned scholars who exchanged Ijazah & blessed with reciprocal gains from him. Tajush Sharia left a huge body of work & chain of the students who were spreading the tolerant message of Islam at different corners of the globe including the UK, United States, and European countries. “The world Muslim 500” issued by Jordan Royal society & the National Library of Jordan cited his name for four consecutive years in the list of world top fifty Muslims who influenced the Islamic world. The 2018 issue ranked him on 24th position among the top fifty Muslim across the globe. Among his followers, he was bestowed with many titles. Some of the famous among them Tajush Sharia (Crown of Sharia), Mufti e Azam, Qazi E Quza Hind (Cheif Justice of India for Islamic jurispedence).

Each year National library of Jordan published a magazine titled “The Muslim 500” with Prof. S Abdallah Schliefer as…

Gepostet von Rehan Asad am Freitag, 20. Juli 2018




كلمة التعزية لشيخ الطريقة الشاذلية الدرقاوية اللحفية الإمام عبد العزيز الخطيب حفظه الله تعالى

كلمة التعزية لشيخ الطريقة القادرية والشاذلية الدرقاوية اللحفية الإمام عبد العزيز الخطيب حفظه الله تعالىعلى وفاة تاج الشريعة وشيخ الطريقة القادرية في الهند ، الإمام محمد اختر رضا خان رضي الله عنه

Gepostet von ‎دار الإمام يوسف النبهاني‎ am Freitag, 20. Juli 2018

After his journey to the next world, the condolences came from different parts of the world. Al-Sheikh Imam Abdul Aziz (Alaih Rahma), the speaker of Nabhani foundation spoke in details. I had pasted the Arabic link for his condolence speech. He said:  “the departure of respected Shiekh Allama Mufti I Hind, Akhtar Rida Khan Al Barelvi is the great loss for the entire Islamic world. This news has tarnished my heart. On the other side, the death of such an eminent person is the gift from the Almighty God where a lover is going to meet the beloved. Here beloved mean, the Prophet (Peace be Upon him). This is a great time of the test & patience for the Islamic world. My heart is weeping to imagine that I would not able to see him in this world again. But his blessed soul has departed to meet his great ancestor, Imam Ahmad Rida Khan ( Alaih Rahma). May God elevate his levels in paradise“. The essential Islam, an esteemed organization from the United Kingdom tweeted his departure to the next world in these words.

The Grand Mufti of Turkey also offered his condolences and supplicate for him. One of our brother Mr. Qasim Hussain from the United Kingdom tweeted the condolence offered by Shaikh Sayyid Muhammad Al Yaqoubi.

From India, the descendant of Sufi Saint Hazrat Sayyad Ashraf Jahangir Semnani, Shaykh Ul Islam, Sayyad Muhammad Madni aka Madni Miyan wrote delivered his heart-wrenching condolences in the form of poetry. Here are the few couplets & I also used one of the verse as the title of this obituary.

Dekhne ko hi tarsti gayin aakhen meri

Aye Akhtar Raza Khan Kahaan Tum Chal Diye

Hal chal si mach gayi hai Sun ke Dil mere Yeh

Aye Hamare Rahbare Millat Kahan Tum Chal diye

In 1990, at the age of eleven, my father took me to the great Shaykh & as a long tradition of “Bait/Allegiance ” in Sufism, I was entered in Qadri order on hand of  Tajush Sharia. From then I was blessed to saw him only twice, once at Bareilly (2014) & next time at Madinah Munawwara by the help of my late friend, Hazrat Aqib Farid Qadri and Professor Iqbal in  2015. Tomorrow at 10.00 am, the funeral prayer will be held at the Islamia College ground at Bareilly. His resting place will be the Azhari Guesthouse at Mohalla Saudagran at Bareilly where his great ancestors were buried in the close by location. Hundred of the thousands of his followers will be rushing from a different part of the globe to attend his funeral prayers. Indeed parting of the great scholar & savant of Islam will be highly missed in different corners of the world. Ending my write up with few couplets of Shaykh on his death.

Meri mayyat pe yeh ahbab ka matam kaisa hai 

Shor kaisa hai aur yeh zarie paiham kaisa hai 

Kuch bigadta to nahi maut se apni yaron 

Hum safiran gulistan naa rahe hum kia hain 

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Syed Faizan Raza Son of Mufti Sayyad Shahid Raza Noori who helped in giving the translation of Al Shiekh Abdul Aziz condolence speech. He is currently studying at Al Azhar University, Cario, Egypt.


Crumbling legacy of Drummond at Pilibhit

A mid-nineteenth century British magistrate whose efforts gave the first modern school to the small city of United Provinces

Text & Pictures by Rehan Asad

Among the four gateways, this western one is in better condition. Though the minarets and many other features were lost. Tthe roof is still intact.
The western gateway of Drummond Ganj.

Pilibhit is located fifty-five kilometers south of Bareilly is North Eastern most district of Rohilkhand division, Uttarpradesh, India. In 1879, Pilibhit was created as the separate district from Bareilly. Little is known of the main city before the settlement of Ruhela Afghans especially when Hafiz Rahmat Khan who made it as the capital of Rohilkhand in 1740. Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol 11 (1886) by Sir William Wilson Hunter wrote about the market Drummond Ganj that was named after a former District Officer having the substantial number of goods shops located at the main part of the city. This beautiful market was built by the British magistrate Honorable R. Drummond at Pilibhit. There were around three hundred twenty shops enclosed in the four gates. The gateways were arranged in a pattern that gave an appearance of the cross. The northern and southern gateways were approximately two hundred fifty meters apart.

The Northern gateway that has been completely lost. Only the few side wall are left as the traces.

The eastern and western gateway were approximately a hundred meters away from each other. Ten meters away from the Northern gateways, the connecting roads to the gateways intersect to form the crossroads.

The eastern gateway that is opening towards the station road and the market around it.

Made up of Lakhori/small bricks and red lime (Surkhi Chuna), the outer plaster has carved floral designs that have been lost in most of the gateways. Each gateway is beautifully designed in an Indo Saracenic pattern with arches, Taakhs, and minarets. The roof has the vaulted appearance but not like a dome.

Only on the western gateway, the roof has been survived. Its made up of small concave vaults supported by iron grids.

The inner walls of the gateways have the curved enclosures fitted with wooden frames with the doors that lead to the chambers. The outer section also has similar arched curves that have the opening for the windows of the first floor chambers. The income generated from this market was endowed for promoting education among the locals of the community at Pilibhit. I was not able to found the construction date of Drummond Ganj but an approximate idea can be built by the reference where it has been cited. One of the oldest references is the Stewart report of the Public education of North-Western Provinces published from Benares in 1859. The report quoted “The Pilibhit school is maintained by the local funds, the proceeds of the Ganj built by Hon’ble R. Drummond, for many years, the joint magistrate of Pilibhit, Rs 15, the pay of the master of Tahsil, amalgamated with Anglo-Vernacular school is the only item of the expenditure which defrayed by the Government“. From this account it appears, that Drummond Ganj was constructed before the formation of District in 1879 and even before the mutiny in 1857. Mr. Shahbuddin, a senior citizen from Muslim Khatri (Punjabi) community whose great grandfather, Sheikh Jiwan Buksh build a grandiose haveli closeby Drummondganj before 1857 narrated the similar version of its construction as an endowment for the educational cause for the locals. The book life and works of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan by GFI Graham (1885) also reflected on the educational inclination of Drummond. The book cites “In 1864, Hoble R. Drummond presided over an educational meeting at Badaon that was attended by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the latter also delivered a speech in the convocation“. Later in 1908, H.R. Nevill Gazette also talked of Drummond Ganj endowment that covers the expense of the Pilibhit School. It was after his great contributions towards the education of the Pilibhit, the government high school and later on the intermediate College was named as Drummond Inter College.

Almost thirty years before during our childhood days, the four gateways of Drummond Ganj were in better condition. The southern gateway that was facing towards the road to Bareilly was popular among locals as “Bareilly Darwaza”. The ground floor has the number of shops occupied by the tenants. The first floor was occupied by registry department issuing death & birth certificates. Among the four gateways, it was completely intact during those days.  During the year 1999, I visited this office thrice to get a death certificate of my late maternal grandfather.

The Southern gateways that also houses many government offices till the year 2000. Now completely crumbled. Also popular among the locals as Bareilly Darwaza.

Though shabby and stinky, it was not expected to crumble down completely in the next twenty years. With time, the government offices have been shifted to newly constructed larger office spaces in civil lines. In the last two decade, the vaulted roof has fallen down. The shopkeepers secured their own space but the surroundings of the gateways degraded with time. Most of the shopkeepers sitting in these historic gateways are either Hindu Banias and Muslim Khatris ( Shamsi/Punjabi Muslims) who form the major bulk of trading community from the time of Ruhelas and later on Britishers. When the beautiful building of the first government school was raised in 1915, it was named after Drummond as an acknowledgment for his great efforts.

This building was raised in 1915 as the permanent allocation for the high school. It was named as Drummonds school as an acknowledgment for the great man whose efforts lead to the first school at Pilibhit. After independence, this was elevated to Inter College in 1952.
A tablet in the Hindi language hanged in the main hall of Drummonds Inter College. It articulated the efforts of Drummonds to create an endowment from Drummonds Ganj that facilitated in the construction of this school. Though some historical inaccuracies are also noticed in information. It says the school was inaugurated by Hon’ble R. Drummond, the magistrate of Pilibhit in 1915. From the references that I cited in the article showed that R. Drummond was the magistrate of the Pilibhit before 1857.

After independence, it was raised to the senior secondary level and documented as State Government Drummond Inter College. Unfortunately, the local civic authorities became dementic regarding the legacy of Drummond that endowed the money for running the first educational establishment of the city for almost a century ago. This is a real unfortunate face of many crumbling monuments in small cities. A small effort in this direction can help to save our heritage.


  1. Hunter, William Wilson. Imperial Gazetteer of India... Vol. 11. Trumbner & Company, London, 1879.
  2. Henry Stewart Reid, Report on the state of Popular education, in the North Westen Provinces, for 1856/57 and 1857/1858, Published under the authority of the Government, Benares, Medical Hall press, 1859.
  3. Nevill, H.R. (1909), PILIBHIT:  A Gazetteer of the District Gazetteers of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, VolXVIII.