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Tue, 22 May 2018

Northeast Today

Century Old Dargah Unites Cultural and Religious Bonhomie

Century Old Dargah Unites Cultural and Religious Bonhomie
May 15
14:35 2017

People irrespective of their cultural and religious background has been celebrating unity in diversity at the Dargah of Hazrat Shah Kamal Baba for centuries, along the India–Bangladesh border at Mahendraganj town of Meghalaya’s South West Garo Hills.

The fencing has divided the two countries but the sentiments of the people are still united, which is displayed during the annual Dargah fair held on first and second Sunday in the month of May.

While devotees from India can get a glimpse of the Dargah at Mahendraganj, the Bangladesh counterpart show their respect to Shah Kamal by observing prayer rituals on the other side of the border.

The devotees visit the Dargah in the belief that their wishes would be fulfilled if they approach with a true heart.
Mahendraganj  2
“My pregnant sister had made a prayer for the well being of her child. In respect of the blessing we received from the peer baba, we have come to offer food to the poor and needy at the Dargah and seek his blessings”, said Shamin Ahmed of Mankachar, Assam.

The Pirsthan holds significance to Muslims and Hindus as well the local Garo, Hajong and Koch communities, who equally revere the place for it age old history and tradition. It is the burial place of the last remains of Shah Kamal and his Garo wife.

Legend has it that during the rule of Raja Mahendra Narayan – the Zamindar of Karaibari- a demon had created havoc by killing and devouring the people of the village. Shah Kamal, by his super natural power, drove away the demon and restored peace in the kingdom.

The Raja as a token of his gratitude donated 1280 bighas of land as a gift to Shah Kamal. After the death of Shah Kamal and his wife, the burial place was constructed on a hillock overlooking Bangladesh.

“It is a unique place and the government of India should promote the destination and create amenities to facilitate tourism and maintain cleanliness”, said Thrinadha Rao Bandaru, a tourist from Andra Pradesh.

Till 2000, visitors from Bangladesh were allotted to visit the Dargah.
Mahendraganj 1
However, since 2001, security has been hiked up and no persons from across the border are allowed to enter for the annual fair. There was a conflict between India and Bangladesh for the Boraibari enclave at Mankachar in Assam in 2001, which led to the killing of 17 BSF personnel.

Security and other concerns may have erected barriers in the passage of devotees from Bangladesh. But it has failed in breaking the bonds of friendship that still bind these people.

“It is an interesting place along the India-Bangladesh border. An initiative to unite devotees from both the sides through mutual cooperation by addressing the security concern would have been great. Today, we see conflict in the name of religion and particularly Islam, such bonhomie would create mutual friendship between the two countries and the people”, said Altaf Ansari, a tourist from Delhi, who is in Garo hills to attend a training programme at North Eastern Hill University, Tura campus.

In 16th century the Dargah was built. Locals believe that it was constructed in one night. The structure has resemblance to Moghul architecture. The shrine had no roof but later devotees put roof to protect it from rain.

Earlier, the Dargah was outside the fencing as it is located within 150 yards from Zero line but in 2001 it was taken inside India.

“Several flag meetings were held to fix this as there was strong opposition from Bangladesh. Sometimes the workers worked at night to avoid any unpleasant incident”, said Abdullah, the caretaker of the Dargah.


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