In the Courtyard of the Beloved

In my travels through Delhi, I have passed through the area of Nizamuddin a dozen times. I have snuck in the back way to Humayan’s Tomb and run along its looming stone wall, climbed up its dark staircases to the towers above. I have lugged baggage up and down the Nizamuddin railway platform, coming and going. I have wandered the neighborhood’s meandering streets, lost. But I have never stepped foot inside Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah, a Sufi shrine where hundreds visit each day. I didn’t know what I was missing until I came across this.

In the Courtyard of the Beloved takes us inside. Produced by Sadia Shepard, with photography by Andreas Burgess, this kaleidoscope of color and sound is intoxicating. Here is how the filmmakers describe it:

IN THE COURTYARD OF THE BELOVED is a visual and aural portrait of
Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah, a Sufi shrine in New Delhi, India. Made from
over 18,000 still images and ambient sounds recorded on-site,
rapid-fire bursts of kaleidoscopic imagery assemble into fractured
collages where a moment expands outwards and then converges back into
itself, fleshing out a three-dimensional rendering of place.

Each day, hundreds of pilgrims travel by airplane, train, car,
rickshaw and foot to reach this shrine, which honors a 12th century
Sufi mystic who believed in drawing close to God through renunciation
of the world and service to humanity. Beginning with imagery from
these journeys, the film then enters the physical space of the shrine;
a unique nexus of marketplace, social space and spiritual haven, where
devotees come to offer their prayers and find a moment of reflection
away from the din of Delhi traffic. As the sun sets behind the dome,
musicians begin the qawwali, a style of Sufi devotional music that
ranges from contemplative religious elegy to raucous crescendo.

If you can’t afford a quick trip to Delhi at the moment, I suggest you check this out for a chance to step into another world, no matter where you are.

Meera Subramanian is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about the environment and culture for Nature, InsideClimate News, Virginia Quarterly Review, Orion, and others. Her first book is A River Runs Again: A Natural History of India from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka (PublicAffairs, 2015). Visit her at