A Fair That Melts Boundary
Huzur Saheber Mela is held every year on India-Bangla border near the mausoleum (mazar) of Pir Huzur Saheb, close to India-Bangla border at Chilahati village under Haldibari police station of Cooch Behar, in West Bengal.
Even in times of animosity between the two nations, the fair has acted as a catalyst, melting the geographical boundary. The only exception was in 2001, when during the clashes between Border Security Force (BSF) and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), the people from across the border could not gather on the occasion. “There has been lots of enthusiasm among people living across the border. The fair has been a symbol of brotherhood and communal harmony for around 65 years”, revealed a BSF official.
“Actually, the mela along with the Akramia Esale Souab (religious meeting) is held in the memory of spiritual leader, Hujur Saheb on the fifth and sixth day of the Bengali month of falgun every year. People from all sections of society take part in the fair. The bulk of visitors come from Bangladesh. It is believed that if one prays for anything with devotion, Hujur Saheb fulfils his wish,” said a Bangladeshi septuagenarian Muhammad Rezak Hussain of Phulmaati village under Kurigram district of Bangladesh, who is a regular visitor at the shrine.
“In fact, the tradition began in 1943 when Sahi Sufi Khandekar Muhammad Ekramul Haque (popularly known as Hujur Saheb) passed away. Since then, both Hindus and Muslims lit up candles at his dargah praying for health, rain and good harvest. Our Hujur Saheb was born in 1846 at Punashee Shareef Kandi (now in Murshidabad district of West Bengal). At a very early age, he had come to his grandfather Ajijur Rahaman at Jhajhali (now in Cooch Behar district and studied up to class X …..”, said Muhammad Anisur Rahaman, a resident of Chilahati of Nilfamari district of Bangladesh.
“We enter mostly during evening and light up candles at the Mazhar-e-Sharif in the morning, buy food, clothes and others mementos and return”, disclosed Sayed Fazlul Haque, who does not have any passport but comes every year from Bogura town of Bangladesh.
“….. look, the two-day mela begins at the sprawling ground around the memorial of our beloved Hujur Saheb. Nearly 4-5 lakh visitors from both sides clinch a deal of about 2-3 crore of rupees. Traders from Gujarat, Bihar, Assam, Rajasthan sell their wares in the fair. From wooden horses to tractors, everything has been sold in the fair. Although, the main attraction of the mela is the camels brought from Rajasthan…”, claimed a member of mela committee, Muhammad Abdul Quadir Sarkar. In spite of security restrictions in view of the border problems between the two countries, the fair draws huge crowds every year. Dr Firoz Alam Beg of Nilfamari in Bangladesh, says, “Devotees from across the border want India to loosen the visa rules during the two days annual event”.
“There are so many temples and mosques existing all along the India-Bangla border. Of them, this shrine at Chilahati village is indeed the oldest one. Further, it has its own history. It is at this time that the people from both sides assemble and share their joys and sorrows,” mentioned Mansur Habibullah, a local student of Konamukta village in Cooch Behar district.
But, several problems have been cropped along the Indo-Bangla border due to the arbitrary drawing of an ‘illogical’ and ‘unscientific’ line by Sir Cyril Radcliff, demarcating India and Pakistan in 1947.
y Shib Shankar Chatterjee from Haldibari