This article examines a posthumous literary gathering held at the grave of eighteenth-century Persian-language poet ‘Abd al-Qadir Bedil (1642–1720) in order to trace varying uses of a peculiar shrine space and its Persianate textual practices in late-Mughal Delhi. This graveside mushā‘irah was a setting for the competitive exchange of poetry and one of the most well-documented gatherings of the mid-1700s. In anecdotes and verse written between 1721 and 1784, attendees at this event reveal their implicit and explicit associations between elite and nonelite classes. This article provides a genealogy of the normative literary acts and material practices at the grave. The tomb's space and its texts reveal a setting that overturns assumptions about vernacular and elite literatures, as it hosted Urdu poetry recitation and cutting-edge Persian verse as well as a medicines market and space for Sufi devotional practices, institutions with contradictory social expectations. This setting and its varied social practices provide an example of a late Mughal cultural institution formed outside of the court, which forces us to redefine precolonial forms of publicity in light of localized linguistic and social hierarchies.

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