The contemporary times bring with them an ambiance of mutual intolerance and hatred. Maner Sharif Dargah in Bihar stands as a reminder of a civilizational history that was based on cultural syncretism and harmony and thus is worth a revisit.
Vikash Sharma/ The New Leam
I find myself privileged that I was born and grew up on a soil which carries the fragrance of history, memory and the promise of lasting humanity and brotherhood. It is a soil on which each step reminds us of the culture of shared communities, of the ethos of syncretism and of human love and bonding.
Today I am going to tell you about this important space, this place that has a very significant history especially in times such as these. Yes, the place that I am referring to is Maner Sharif situated on the banks of the Soan river, at a distance of 30 kms from Patna, Bihar.
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Photography : The New Leam archives
This is not a famous destination for tourists. I mean that the narrow minded tourist has nothing to gain here. Maner Sharif in Bihar is the place where Makhdum Daulat in 1608 breathed his last. It was then in 1616 that Ibrahim Khan,the Governor of Bihar who was also his disciple finished the construction of his mausoleum.
The monument at Maner Sharif is a marvelous one. The walls of the building are adorned with Mughal paintings and embellishments.
In the local village this place is famous as Choti Dargah and Badi Dargah. The Shah Daulat or Makhdum Daulat is popularly known as the Chhoti Dargah(shrine built over the grave of a revered master) whereas the other one which is of Sheikh Yahia Maneri or Makhdum Yahia is known as the Bari Dargah. This place is considered the best monument of the Mughals in Eastern India. There is a huge and deep pool in front of the monument. It is difficult to find the exact source of the pool’s water that never dries but it is popularly believed that it is connected to the Soan River. This place provides visitors one of the most splendid views of the evening sunset.
Local folklore suggests that the walls of the monument were built in a single night. This place has had a great contribution in the development of ancient Indian education and philosophy. Historians have found that Maner Sharif was a regional center of learning and is also the place where the renowned Sanskrit grammarian Panini studied.
This place is surrounded by trees and lush greenery and is gradually being developed as a modern tourist destination by the Bihar government. The beauty of the place lies in the cultural syncretism ism that it stands for, it is not only a monument that can be admired for its aesthetic architecture but it also symbolizes the values of shared community living, of mutual cultural exchange and of a secularism that did not just remain confined to text and speech but which permeated in people’s everyday lives. This is a place that has continually appealed to people from all religions and thus the Dargah has become a symbol of communal harmony and peace. This medieval monument on the banks of the Soan River is a gentle reminder of the harmony that was part of India’s civilization despite its many upheavals since time immemorial.
The space reminds us that beyond communal aggression, violence and intolerance human society and culture can have an altogether new meaning, that much before legal texts intervened people interacted, communicated and shared the universe. Perhaps, it is this simple yet profound truth that we have missed today and suffer because of. A visit to Maner Sharif is a visit to a time where both the civilization and the Soan prospered.
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