TURA, May 15: The Dargah of Hazrat Shah Kamal Baba which is held every year at Mahendraganj is a testament of India’s widely proclaimed ‘unity in diversity’ and what is even more is that this fair extends this unity beyond the international borders into Bangladesh.
While the international fencing between the two countries has added as a physical boundary between the people of India and Bangladesh, the spiritual and cultural ties between the two neighbouring countries are prominently seen during the fair which is held on first and second Sunday in the month of May every year.
While devotees from India can get a glimpse of the Dargah at Mahendraganj, their counterparts from Bangladesh 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 will be fulfilled if they approach with a true heart. “My pregnant sister had made a prayer for the wellbeing 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 as 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, Shah Kamal drove away a demon that was creating havoc by killing and devouring the people of the village.
The Raja as a token of his gratitude donated 1280 bighas of land as a gift to Shah Kamal. After Shah Kamal and his wife died, 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. However, since 2001, security has been hiked up and no persons from across the border are allowed to enter for the annual fair following 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 they have failed to break 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.
The Dargah was built in the 16th century and locals believe that it was constructed in one night.
Earlier, the Dargah was outside the international 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.