Phoolwaalon ki Sair is a festival of flowers celebrated every year in Mehrauli, Delhi. During this festival, flower sellers from across the country gather here to make ornate floral pankhas and floral chaadar, which is then offered to the Yogamaya temple and at the Dargah of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki.
The festival is organised every year by Anjuman Sair-e-gul Faroshan during the month of October or November. “The festival is a unique phenomenon when Hindus and Muslims come together to offer the floral chaadar and pankha at the dargah and the temple. This festival is to celebrate communal harmony and the pankha has become the symbol of communal harmony and national integration,” said Usha Kumar, secretary of Anjuman Sair-e-gul Faroshan.
Shehnai tunes herald the week-long festival, after which members of both communities proceed towards the Lieutenant Governor’s residence with the floral pankha to invite him to the festival. The procession then moves to the Delhi Secretariat and to the Deputy Commissioner’s office. The second and the third days are marked by offering the chadaar and the pankha at the dargah and the temple, respectively. “On Thursday during the festival, the floral chaadar is offered at the dargah of Bhakhtiyar Kaki by keeping the Hindus on the front and on Friday the Muslims offer the pankha at the Yogmaya temple. This is done to cultivate communal harmony,” Usha Kumar said.
Syed Fariduddin Qutbi, a member of the Anjuman Sair-e-gul Faroshan and also the organiser of the festival at the Bhaktiyar Kaki Dargah, said, “This is perhaps the only festival that binds the two communities. We see many participants every year who cut across religious belief to celebrate this festival as a mark of harmony. At the dargah, the Hindu brothers come to the forefront to offer a floral chaadar of about 42 metre while at the temple the Muslim brothers are at the forefront to offer the pankha. This is what tolerance and communal harmony is all about and we are trying to bridge the gap between the two communities.”
The celebration continues for a week, with fairs and cultural programmes galore.
“Every year about six states participate in this festival. Tamil Nadu, Haryana, and Maharashtra amongst others are a regular participant. These states send their pankhaa offerings along with participants who take part in the cultural performance held at the nearby Jahaz Mahal,” Farid added.
The festival traces its origin to the year 1812, when the queen of Akbar Shah II, Mumtaz Mahal Begum, vowed to offer prayers at the Bhaktiyar Kaki Dargah and the Yogmaya temple on return of her son who was sent on exile by the British. On her son’s return, the queen went to fulfill her vow and on this occasion, citizens of Delhi irrespective of religion gathered to celebrate this festival. Since then this festival has become an integral part of the culture of Delhi.
However, according to Usha Kumar, the British stopped this festival in 1941, during the Quit India Movement. It was revived by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961. “The British stopped this festival to divide and rule Indians. But in 1961 Nehru approached my father Yogeshwar Dayal to revive this festival. Since then we have been organising this festival,” Usha Kumar said.
This organisation has also started organising the Basant Utsav since 2010 during Basant Panchami, in which the members of both communities offer yellow flower (sarsoon flower) at the Gauri Shankar Mandir in Chandni Chowk. A yellow floral chaadar is offered at the Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah. This year, Basant Utsav will be celebrated on 11 and 12 February.