Kulsoom Noor Saifullah co-founded The India Harmony Foundation in 2010 together with her husband, Zafar Saifullah, who shared the firm belief that true economic development could only take place in India, if social justice and harmony prevailed in the country. She designs and edits the Foundation’s in house journal India Harmony which is circulated amongst Chief Ministers, Governors and Members of Parliament in India. She spoke to The Goodwill Project about the India Harmony Foundation’s association with Phoolwaalon ki Sair.
The India Harmony Foundation was established in 2010 by Shri Zafar Saifullah, former Cabinet Secretary, Government of India together with a few distinguished colleagues. In the five years since its inception, it has worked tirelessly towards strengthening India’s social fabric by celebrating its multicultural traditions. Phoolwalon ki Sair is the finest example of brotherhood among Indians. Its annual celebration showcases the multicultural traditions of India’s capital, Delhi through food, music, dance and sports. IHF provides an umbrella to all NGOs across the country, which preserve and celebrate India’s syncretic traditions.
The first Phoolwalon ki Sair was held in 1812 when Emperor Akbar Shah II and his Queen Mumtaz Mahal fulfilled their vow of walking from Red Fort to Mehrauli. The citizens of Delhi joined the procession was led by drum-beaters, shehnai players and flower sellers strewing rose petals along the way. The walk became so popular that the emperor decreed it would be an annual festival. It was stopped after the mutiny of 1857. Despite the British forces encircling Delhi, Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Emperor of Hindustan, led the citizens of Delhi and celebrated Phoolwalon ki Sair one last time. However, on the request of the people of Delhi, it was revived by the British Commissioner of Delhi in 1862. It was stopped yet again in 1942 after the declaration of the Quit India movement. In 1962, on the request of eminent citizens of Delhi led by Padma Shri, Yogeshwar Dayal, it was revived yet again by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who declared it a national festival of communal harmony.
How has it evolved over the years?
In the early years of India’s Independence, the annual festival received political patronage of a high order. The President, Prime Minister and other dignitaries attended the festival at Mehrauli and there was representation of the States, who sent teams of musicians, dancers and sportspersons to participate in the festivities. In the last two decades, political patronage is on a lower scale. However, the Anjuman Sair e Gulfaroshan, a registered society with 200 members, continues the tradition under the leadership of Usha Dayal Kumar.
IHF believes that culture is the greatest tool to build bridges between communities. Celebrating Phoolwalon ki Sair by the citizens of Delhi will send out a message of goodwill to the entire country. In the current global environment of fear leading to intolerance, India must show the way to peace and harmony by celebrating its diversity.
Every year, the annual nine-day fair is held near the Dargah and Mandir at Mehrauli. This year, each day the citizens accompanied by Shehnai players will walk at different locations such as Chandni Chowk, India Gate and Mehrauli. Pankhas will be presented to the Lt. Governor, Chief Minister and Commissioner of Police. Pankhas will also be presented to the Hon’ble President and Vice President of India. At Mehrauli, there will be Kushti and Kabaddi competitions as well as kite flying. The Lt Governor will offer a floral “chadar” at the Dargah and the Chief Minister will attend the closing ceremony. Renowned Kathak Guru Shovana Narayan and her group will perform at the ceremony at Jahaz Mahal.