DJINN: A haunted night at Delhi’s Jamali Kamali


by Zayed Khan

“Within a few minutes, I felt strange, as if someone was beside me and was watching from behind.”

The germ of the idea of spending a night at Jamali Kamali came up a few years ago, when a friend shared the story of a tumultuous phase of her life—all of which occurred after an evening she spent at Jamali Kamali. The 16th century complex, named after two Sufi saints venerated by the kings of the Lodhi Dynasty who are buried there, is infamous for its ghostly vibe, as the Paranormal Society of India vouches.

Stories abound of the forbidden love between the two poets Jamali and Kamali, who were finally united only on their burial site. But today’s story is not about them. It’s not about proving my bravery by going to a place that features on almost every list of famous haunted places in Delhi. Neither am I adventurous enough to head where people claim to have heard voices calling out to them from the mazaar (mausoleum) and have claimed a constant feeling of being watched and then eventually followed by something invisible.

The aforementioned friend’s story began she went to the complex known for the tales of djinns that inhabit it. She, and her friends, were mesmerised by Jamali Kamali’s serene beauty and peace. It didn’t last long. The maghrib adhan (call to evening prayers) was heard and the sun began to set as she was seated in achattri (cupola) in the garden. She suddenly felt something approaching her. It ‘felt sinister’.

“It was as if someone was sitting with me and watching me. [The feeling] stayed with me all the way home and even after I reached my apartment,” she told me. “Whatever it was, it had followed me home.”

"Whatever it was, it had followed me home.”

For the next six months, she would wake up every night exactly at 3 AM and see a hand on the glass of the ventilator above her balcony door. “It came at the same time everyday and when I was alone.” She would often feel ‘the being’ coming closer to her when she half asleep. She suffered considerable psychological stress and anxiety, becoming a loner and turning more and more towards religion. When she finally left her job and moved to Mumbai, the episodes stopped.

I consider myself a rationalist, but her story affected me a lot. Although I don’t believe in the supernatural, I cannot completely rationalise my fear of a djinn. These stories have been an integral part of my childhood. There are stories of adjinn living in my joint-family ancestral home in Aligarh. There are numerous stories of lost cricket balls rolling back home on their own, doors opening by themselves, and residents waking up to find that they have been shifted to another bed.

On the night of Shab-e-barat (the traditional night of atonement or day of forgiveness) while reciting the Quran, my cousin’s newly-wed wife began screaming in male voice and started to throw things around with almost inhuman strength. Needless to say, I’ve been afraid of the ‘bad djinns’.

Going to Jamali Kamali was therefore a chance for the ‘rationalist’ part of me to confront my childhood fears. I figured there could be two outcomes: I would either be known as a journalist who sacrificed himself for his ideals, or I would have a story to assuage the fears of my friend. Win-win. So, as soon as the sun set on the city of djinns, I borrowed a friend’s bike and rode through the woods leading to the haunted tombs. As I asked my way around, people looked at me suspiciously and urged to change my plans. “It’s dangerous at this time,” said a nearby tea stall owner. I just smiled and asked him to pack me some tea.


I just smiled and asked him to pack me some tea.

“Going to Jamali Kamali was therefore a chance for the ‘rationalist’ part of me to confront my childhood fears.”

The narrow, dark path leading to the mosque and dome looked like something straight out of a horror movie. On one side lay sinister-looking ruins shadowed in the dark. It led to the main dome and mosque, flanked by a lush garden on one side and a small cupola that could be reached via a narrow path with sandstone walls, and a park or open space on the other side. All of it was surrounded by thick woods where even the bravest would think twice about venturing in the dark.


Lights can be man’s best friend.

I was finally relieved to see two street lamps near the garden and decided that would be my spot for the night. In the middle of the beautiful, lush garden was the chhatri where my friend met the ‘being’ that had decided to stick with her for a few months. I checked it out with the feeble light of my mobile phone torch and then sat under it. Within a few minutes, I felt strange, as if someone was beside me and was watching from behind. I turned around and found nothing. I told myself my mind was playing tricks, and kept throwing the light of my torch in different directions. But of course there was nothing.


“Within a few minutes, I felt strange, as if someone was beside me and was watching from behind.”

The power of suggestion plays an important role, especially in cases of experiencing a supernatural event. If you expect something to happen, your expectations will affect or colour the occurrence. “If you are expecting something, even if it’s not there you’d feel it. It’s like you are primed. There are greater chances of you seeing something abnormal, especially if you are mentally weak,” Geeta Maheshwari, a psychiatrist told me later.

Maulana Ansari, a Quranic expert said “The Quran mentions djinns and it’s a reality to me.”

Though it is very rare, there have been recorded instances in history where people have been killed by such fears. Pushing these thoughts aside, I slipped on my headphones and for an hour watched YouTube videos about rational thinkers and scientists busting myths and superstitions.

After I found some mental strength through them, I spent the next hour contemplating the state of my life while staring at the beautiful shining lights of the top of the Qutub Minar that was visible in the sky. I thought about all the men and women who had worked to construct this beautiful monument centuries ago, and how their descendents are so inept, self-absorbed and purposeless. But, “they were not cowards like you,” I told myself. I had not felt quite as peaceful in a long time.

I then decided to disturb the peace by playing a game of PUBG. Hearing my teammates on the other end talk about enemy locations and ambush plans emboldened me further. I called some old friends to boastfully tell them I was calling them from a ‘haunted place’. At night. They were in awe, of course! It was then that abruptly I found myself feeling colder, almost freezing. The change of temperature was too sudden to be rationalised as normal. I drank my tea.


“It was then that abruptly I found myself feeling colder, almost freezing.”

I looked around at the park and the glorious dome and that’s when I thought I saw someone moving. It might have been a shadow, a man, or the famed djinn finally revealing itself. However the first thought in my mind was of death. Even if it was just another man, I would probably die of a heart attack seeing him. I imagined people making fun of my adventure at my funeral. Which made me muster enough strength to get up, head to my bike, kickstart it, and run for it.

As the headlights lit up the garden, the central dome looked ominous. The rationalist inside me started to reassure me, telling me it was my imagination and I can defend myself from a robber. So I decided to stay. To prove my bravery to myself, instead of fleeing, I started to walk towards the central dome.


Something bizarre lay on the other side when I shone a torch in the direction.

The door to the entrance was locked. No surprise there. Not intending to trespass, I peeped over from the boundary wall. I shone my phone torchlight and saw something odd. A pair of men’s trousers and a dupatta lay scattered on the ground. Did I disturb someone’s sexual adventure?

I kept walking along the narrow sandstone corridor, away from the comfort of my bike headlights towards the scary ruins. I had a feeling something was about to happen. That’s when I saw something which nearly stopped my heart. In the dark ahead, two eyes glowed, looking straight at me. I knew I had made a mistake by leaving the lit area. I moved the light from my phone torch and that’s when I found a calm buffalo staring at me.

It was at that moment that I understood what makes people afraid of the dark. It’s not the ghosts. It’s our own minds. I was afraid, because I wanted to be. There is an intrinsic relationship between faith and belief and we often invent artificial fears to live vicariously, as a deviant from their otherwise boring lives. I went back to the chattri, and drank some more tea. As soon as the clock struck midnight, I left Jamali Kamali to its lonely splendour.


Leaving the place behind. But did I have company as I left?

After reaching my apartment, I realised my ordeal wasn’t over. I might have rationalised my fear, met a buffalo and interrupted someone’s sexual tryst. But now I was alone in what I had considered a safe space, and the fear made a resounding return. Throughout the night, I kept feeling scared, sensing the presence of something I could not see. I felt something was watching me, following my actions as I got ready for bed. I thought I felt my old bed shaking more than usual and heard sounds (probably made by a stray cat) from my kitchen.

I couldn’t turn off the lights. However sensible and rational I thought I was, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. Even in the following days, I felt the same kind of eerie creepiness whenever I was alone.

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