History of Golap Shah's shrine still a mystery | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 10, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 10, 2008

History of Golap Shah's shrine still a mystery


Devotees at the century-old Golap Shah's shrine in Gulistan.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Gulistan, one of the busiest intersections of the city, a small, beautifully decorated shrine known as 'Golap Shah Mazar' catches the eyes of pedestrians and commuters passing the area.
For thousands of followers of Golap Shah, the century-old shrine with all its serenity and spiritual ambience is a place for praying and paying respect to the spiritual leader. But a very few people knows the history of the shrine.
According to popular belief, Golap Shah came to spread the message of Islam from Yemen around 200 years ago. Some followers believe he came from Iraq. However, historians claim no such spiritual leader is buried there.
Noted historian Prof Muntasir Mamoon in his book 'Dhaka Somogro' (part three) presents an account of the shrine.
During the late 19th century the shrine was under a huge neem tree and it was known as the 'Neemgachh tolar mazar' (shrine under a neem tree).
Some believed that it was the shrine of Sekandar Shah. However, no one actually knew for sure who is buried there and why is it so special.
Even the elders of that time did not have any idea about the grave.
Prof Mamoon says the unknown grave gradually began to attract people who believed that it has special spiritual powers. One Golap Shah used to take care of the grave. When Golap Shah died he was also buried right beside the original grave. Thus the name of Golap Shah was attached to the name of the grave.
Prof Mamoon's book described the story of the shrine with information extracted from another book 'Asudegan-e-Dhaka' written by Hekim Habibur Rahman, which deals with issues of 19th century Dhaka including distinguished persons. Hekim's book is considered as a very important primary source of information for researchers working on Dhaka.
People from all religious beliefs come to the shrine to pray every day. The caretaker of the shrine Abul Hasan said Muslims, Hindus and some Buddhists visit the shrine.
The tin-roofed shrine is built on a concrete platform. It is embellished with ceramic tiles in all sides and protected by iron fences. Garlands, colourful wishing strings and incense sticks always remain hanging from all sides.
A coal fire is placed there so that devotees can light their incense sticks. Inside the shrine remain the two graves covered with colourful rugs. Devotees usually pray facing the graves and holding the fence. They throw money or other offerings inside the fence.
Hasan mentioned the last Khadim (volunteer of the gods) of the shrine died two years ago. Now it is run by caretakers appointed by the shrine committee comprising Dhaka City Corporation staff and Imam of the Golap Shah Mosque.
Every morning and evening recitation from the holy Qur'an takes place at the shrine. The biggest occasion at the shrine, the yearly Mehfil, takes place four days after Shab-e-Barat.
Other than money many devotees bring food items, which are distributed among the poor every day, Hasan said.
“A majority of the devotees are the bus drivers who steer pass the shrine many times a day throughout the year. They toss in a few notes when they start their trip in the morning wishing for safety on the roads,” Hasan added.
The shrine is very popular among newly weds who come here wishing for long lasting love. Couples wishing for children are also among the regulars.
There are some who drop by while passing the area. And there are some who just sit there all day long. Livelihood of these people depends of the devotees. They sell incense sticks, candles, wising strings and flowers.
This correspondent talked to one of the regular devotees, Fatema, a resident of Dholairpar, Jatrabari. She said, “I pay weekly visit on Fridays and whenever I cherish. I don't have any particular wish. I come here because I find peace.”
Shanti Das and Nitai Das, a recently wedded Hindu couple, said they married without the consent of their parents. Since they did not get their parents' blessings they came to the shrine. They believe wishing to Golap Shah strengthens bond between couples.
Abul Hasan said the shrine is officially under the supervision of DCC. The Golap Shah Mosque committee also plays a part in its management. Every fifteen days the mazar gate is opened to collect the money, which is later deposited to an account in the Islami Bank. The money is used for the maintenance of the shrine and for special occasions like Mehfil. Around 3 to 4 lakh taka is deposited every month.
DCC officials however said they could not properly take control of the shrine. It is run by self-appointed Khadems who swindle the devotees regularly and run the business of candles, incense sticks and garlands, they alleged.

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