New Delhi, July 19: Mehrauli, an ancient city in the south of Delhi dotted with numerous tourist attractions like the Qutub Minar and several ancient tombs and archaeological remains, holds a special place for the transgender community.
Just a short walk away from the Qutub Minar, past the famous shrine of Sufi saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, lies the 'Hijron Ka Khanqah,' a spiritual retreat for the eunuch community.
A quiet oasis in the bustling marketplace, it is little known even to people who live in its neighbourhood.
Enclosed by a small iron gate, which remains mostly shut but not locked, the well maintained space leads to premises of an old Masjid, and is empty most of the time.
The wide serenity in the compound surrounds as many as 50 whitewashed graves of the eunuchs buried here in the Lodi period of the 15th century.
Amidst them in a corner stands slightly elevated than the others and decorated with tiles the main tomb belonging to Haji Saab or Miyan Saheb.
What makes it unique is that for the last one century eunuchs have been acting caretakers for the grave. This place is something special to Hijras (as eunuchs they are widely called in Delhi and other places), who arrive in groups big and small to offer prayers, put flowers over the graves and light agarbattis, (incense sticks).
When they come they distribute food and clothes to the fakirs (poor people) assembled near the shrine of Bakhtiar Kaki. No fresh burials are however made in the space.
"The Masjid is owned by a transgender Panna Haji who comes once or twice a year to give 'swadaqas' (donation) and collect from the shops he has rented out on a meager amount of Rs 100 per month" says Siri who has been taking care of the Khanqah for the last 30 years without any renumeration.
"Hijras usually come on Thursdays to offer prayers because it's a day considered holy by them," says Puran Chand who runs a shop nearby.
"From my childhood I have seen this place unattended. We used to play in this compound as children," he recollects.
Munna, a eunuch who lives near Jama Masjid says they used to visit the Khanqah only once in year. Last time he paid a visit was a month back during the Shab-e-barath, one of the blessed nights in the Islamic calender.