Delhi’s Secret Queer History: A Walking Tour That’s Kinda Lit 

Forget the same old Mughal tours; there’s a new guide in town, and they’re ready to show you Delhi’s secret queer side. Iqbal Ali, a pretty amazing non-binary activist, founded a walking tour last year that explores the city’s overlooked gay history. We’re talking 800 years of kickass people who defied convention, from warrior queens to Sufi mystics.   

Ali’s effort, launched in 2022, draws emphasis on a population that is frequently neglected and removed from conventional historical perspectives. The three-hour walking trip goes beyond the typical Mughal monuments and spice bazaar, diving into hidden gems associated with Delhi’s LGBTQ+ history.  

Kicking Off With a Rebellious Queen: Razia Sultan’s Tomb  

The tour begins at the Lal Qila metro station (which is quite easy to find), and then proceeds to Razia Sultan’s tomb. This lady was a 13th-century queen who wasn’t ashamed to dress like a man and fight alongside her father in combat. Talk about a boss! She is a key icon for Delhi’s LGBTQ+ community, demonstrating that challenging gender conventions is not new. 

From Eunuch Powerhouse to Golden Mosque: Javed Khan’s Legacy 

Next, we go to the Mughal era to see the beautiful Sunehri Masjid (Golden Mosque). This 18th-century masterpiece was not built by your average guy; Javed Khan, a powerful eunuch from the Khawaja Sara group (think transgender people), was the mastermind behind it. Eunuchs were not always on the outs; Khan was quite close to Emperor Muhammad Shah, guarding his harem and serving as a trusted advisor. There’s an inscription on the mosque wall that some believe indicates Khan’s involvement, which is significant for Delhi’s LGBTQ+ population. 

Beyond Monuments: Exploring Secret LGBTQ+ Hangouts 

However, the tour does not limit you to elegant structures and historical individuals. Ali takes you to some secret areas that the LGBTQ+ community formerly used as renowned cruising grounds. These hidden gems demonstrate how the community has always found ways to survive in the city, even when times were rough. 

The Rebellious Mystic: Sarmad Kashani’s Shrine 

The wonderful finale is the shrine to Sarmad Kashani, a 17th-century poet and mystic whose life was somewhat wild. According to legend, he loved a young Hindu named Abhay Chand. Sarmad was not afraid to speak his thoughts, especially about religion, which got him in trouble. He was even executed for blasphemy! Ali refers to him as a “queer martyr,” emphasising the dangers faced by individuals who dare to be different.  

More Than Just a Tour: Reclaiming History and Building Bridges  

The tour brings together a diverse group of people. Sidra Qureshi, a bisexual Muslim woman, was overwhelmed. “I had no idea these places I walk by all the time had such a cool history,” she told the Guardian. “It makes you see your city in a whole new way.”  

The trip also challenges the notion that being homosexual or transgender is a new phenomenon or a “Western import.” Qureshi’s boyfriend even sees it as a protest against the discrimination suffered by both Muslims and LGBTQ+ people in India.  

But for Ali, it’s much more than just knowing the past. They believe that these trips would help people understand and accept the LGBTQ+ population, which has always existed in Delhi.  

Vishnu Nath and Avantika Paul, a couple on the tour, thrilled to learn about the often-overlooked history of transgender people.

A Movement for Visibility: Delhi’s Rainbow Future 

This isn’t just a tour, it’s a movement. Ali is reclaiming history and giving Delhi’s LGBTQ+ community the spotlight they deserve. With over 2,500 people joining the tour so far, it’s clear there’s a hunger for these untold stories. Maybe one day, these hidden gems will become mainstream knowledge, ensuring Delhi’s history is as inclusive as it should be. 
 
Source: The Guardian 

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