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Madariya Sufi Silsila: Distinctive Characteristics and Relations with the Indian Powers

The indigenous rulers tolerated the religious activities of the Madariya Sufi community - the order that originated in north India during the second half of the 14th century - and gave it a free hand in performing its own religious rites. This study of the community throws light on various aspects of Madariya Sufis, viz, their origins, growth and diversification of the order, their contrasting lifestyles, and their religious congregations. It traces the vicissitudes of the evolution of the Madariya order as well as its transition from an embattled group of warriors to a peaceful syncretic sect embedded in the rural population of 19th and 20th century India.


Madariya Sufi Silsila: Distinctive Characteristics and Relations with the Indian Powers

Ananda Bhattacharya

The indigenous rulers tolerated the religious activities of the Madariya Sufi community – the order that originated in north India during the second half of the 14th century – and gave it a free hand in performing its own religious rites. This study of the community throws light on various aspects of Madariya Sufis, viz, their origins, growth and diversification of the order, their contrasting lifestyles, and their religious congregations. It traces the vicissitudes of the evolution of the Madariya order as well as its transition from an embattled group of warriors to a peaceful syncretic sect embedded in the rural population of 19th and 20th century India.

The primary sources of the National Archives of India, New Delhi, West Bengal State Archives, Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh State Archives, Lucknow, Allahabad Regional Archives and Bangladesh National Archives, Dhaka and the oral interviews taken by the author with the Sajjadanashins of Shah Madar have been used here. The project was financed by the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi and the Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi.

Ananda Bhattacharya ( is with the West Bengal State Archives, Kolkata.

Economic & Political Weekly

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he purpose of this research paper is to make an in-depth study of the Madariya Sufi silsila (order). This silsila originated in north India during the second half of 14th c entury. The founder of this Sufi order was Syed Badiuddin, who received the title Qutub-ul-Madar (highest rank among the Sufis). It was the title, which identified him as “Shah Madar” and his followers are popularly known as Madaris. It had a wide trans subcontinental extent and a diversity of followers.1

The main purpose of this study is to throw light on various a spects of Madariya Sufis, viz, their origins, growth and diversification of the order, their contrasting lifestyles, their religious congregation in connection with urs (death anniversary of their pirs) and fairs. It also throws light on the activities of different suborders of the Madaris, particularly, the dewangans, who were popularly known as the Madariya fakirs. It is well known to us that these Madariya fakirs, despite of their ascetic background, broke into armed conflicts with the English East India Company, local zamindars and peasantry of Bengal during the second half of the 18th century.2 After the fakir wars came to an end in 1802, the Madariya order (including the fakir group) continued to play a vital role in the development of folk culture in 19th and 20th century India.3 This study traces the vicissitudes of the evolution of the Madariya order as well as its transition from an embattled group of warriors to a peaceful syncretic sect embedded in the rural population of 19th and 20th century India.


The Madari order existed long before the rebellion took place in 1770 AD. It originated in north India and gradually extended to other parts of Bengal. The earliest available account of Syed Badiuddin alias Shah Madar (the founder of this order) and his earliest khalifas (disciples) is Mirat-ul-Madari.4 Syed Badiuddin was born in Syria. His genealogical lineage reaches Prophet M uhammad. It was on the occasion of his pilgrimage to Medina, he was said to have heard an oracle from heaven:

Badiuddin, go to Hindustan and dedicate yourself for the welfare

of mankind.

Such was the legend of his visit to India. His vast knowledge in religious books, viz, Tarawait, Zubbar (the books of Moses and Engil), the Bible and his command over the religion helped him to be proficient in Sufism.

Growth and Diversification of the Order

The exact date of the advent of Syed Badiuddin in India is unknown. Since he was accompanied by Mir Ashraf Jahangir Simnani,


the famous Indian Sufi saint, who came from Mecca to India during the reign of Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88), it is certain that he reached India between 1351 and 1388. During his visits, he travelled to various places like Gujarat, Kokla Pahar, Ajmer, Kalpi, Jaunpur, Ghatampur (Uttar Pradesh), and finally, to Makwanpur in Kanpur district, where he died in 838 AH/1436 AD. Even the Sunya Puran5 of Ramai Pandit contains a reference as to the spread of the Madariya doctrines in western parts of Bengal.

Enamul Haq6 points out the fact that there are several places in Bengal named after him, presumably because he visited these places. Just before his death on 17, Jama-dil-Aiwal 838 AH, he entrusted the responsibility of maintaining his order to his nephew Syed Abu Muhammad Arghun. Subsequently, the trusteeship devolved on his younger nephews Syed Abu Torap Fansur and Syed Abul Hasan Taifur. The Sirate Madari,7 an Urdu source, gives us a detailed list of the khalifas of Makwanpur sharif, who acted successively as the representatives of Shah Madar. The descendants of Shah Madar are popularly known as khademans. They form one section of the Madari order and are in charge of the dargah at Makwanpur sharif (hence their name, which implies the trustees). The next important suborder which rose into prominence in the Madariya order was the dewangans. The name dewangan implied wandering ascetics who had given up everything in a fit of divine madness. The dewangan tariqa (order) began with Syed M uhammad Jamaluddin Jane Man Jannati. The two suborders, viz, ashiqans (seekers of love) and talibans (seekers of truth/knowledge), owed their existence to the initiatives of Kazi Motaher Kalleswari and Kazi Mahmud Kanturi. These four major groups (the earliest disciples of Shah Madar) were collectively known as the Madaris, but they carried out their duties in their own way.

The khademan’s main duty was to look after the dargah, to organise the fairs and festivals held on the occasion of urs and to act as intermediaries between saints and worshippers. Like the khademans, the talibans and ashiqans also followed a settled way of married life. Foreign travellers recorded the existence of such settled Madaris since the days of its origin. By contrast, the dewangans pursued the mendicant way of life as indicated by their murshids. In fact, the pir-murid (mentor and disciples) relationship initiated by Shah Madar began to multiply among the succeeding generations of his followers. The pir-murid relationship crystallised in this particular manner among the dewangans due to their punctilious attendance at all the urs and festivals. They considered it to be one of their sacred duties. Thus, there developed among them a need to travel from one dargah to another, since their period of origin.

The Congregation

The annual life cycle of the Madari fakirs revolved around their attendance at Makwanpur in Kanpur district on 17th Jama-dil-Aiwal (an Arabic month of Hijree calendar). Besides, Makwanpur, their other centres of congregation were various places of northern and eastern India, including Bengal and Bihar. From Makwanpur, they moved towards Akbarpur in Gorakhpur district and other dargahs situated in various parts of the north India. In July, they went to Bihar to attend the urs at the dargah of Syed Muhammad Jamaluddin and other unidentified dargahs situated near the jungles of Purnea. Then they might have moved towards Bengal to celebrate the urs and fairs at the dargahs situated in Malda, Dinajpur, Murshidabad and Bagura. From these places they either returned to their places of residence in north India and Nepal or went to eastern Bengal. Their common festival was so sensitive to the Madari fakirs that the people of Bengal, Deccan and other parts of India attended Makwanpur by shouting “Medini Shah Madar”, “Ya Ali, Ya Ali”, “Dam Madar, Dam M adar”. They used to remember Hajrat Ali, the fourth Caliph (khalifa) of Islam.

The customs and rituals observed by the dewangans are distinctive. They do not observe the shariati (Islamic scripture) rituals; their unorthodox outlook identified them with the be-shara group of fakirs. It is learnt from an oral discussion with the members of the dewangan suborder living in Makwanpur that though they model themselves on their immediate predecessors, in general, they follow the customs and manners of Syed Muhammad Jamaluddin, the founder of the order. The author had the occasion to meet a group of dewangans at the dargah of Shah Madar at Makwanpur (1998) whose lifestyle in many respects resemble that of their predecessors. The venerable old Pir Bulbul Shah (1998) considers the pir and dargah more important than the external rituals of Islam. The Madariya fakirs carried some insignia (symbols), which also established their identity as a beshara group of fakirs. They displayed the mahi-maratib (standard decorated with fish symbol), panjtan (five fingers), iron tongs, peacock’s feather, tiger’s skin, kashkol and kettledrum. The be- shariati outlook was highly condemned by the elite group of S ufis, like Chistis, Naqsbandis and Qadiriyas.


From the beginning, the Madari order was strongly influenced by the Hindu yogis. They used to rub ashes on their body, developed a habit of taking bhang (hemp), and wore shackles of iron chains round their waist, and in some respects, dressed like the Hindu sanyasis. Noting the strong elements of syncretism among the fakirs residing in Baliyadighi in Dinajpur, Sarat Chandra Mitra,8 the noted anthropologist, concluded that Hasan Muria Burhana, a noted Madari fakir (Burhana-lit, n aked, i e, subsection of the dewangans) retained many Hindu beliefs and practices, which he handed down to his followers and successors. In particular, the Madariya fakirs assimiliated the practice of Hindu yoga. Sufism in the medieval period imbibed Hindu ideas; particularly the influence of the nath yogis, and thus, a combined Hindu-Muslim culture emerged. The M adari order was a product of this process of acculturation. R ecently, Abul Kalam Zakaria9 has produced some archaeological proofs of the syncretic practices among the Madaris.

Madaris and State Power

The Madariya group of Sufis had cordial relations with the Mughal powers, and later on, in the colonial period with the B ritish Indian powers including Bengal. After the implementation of colonial rule in Bengal, they came into conflict for a short time with the local zamindars, East India Company’s forces and the

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peasantry.10 They maintained good relations with the rulers rendered by them, the fakirs without providing any services
of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. The Madariya Sufis, though not received favours from the ruling class for religious purpose alone.
involved in economic and political affairs of the country, received Indian rulers allowed the fakirs complete freedom to follow their
great favours and patronage from the Mughal emperors, local religious customs in northern India, the Deccan, Bihar and Bengal.
r ajas and zamindars. They received favours from the ruling class The ruling class deemed it to be one of their bounden duties to
for religious purpose alone. Since the religious activities of the safeguard the interests of the fakirs and to help them observe
fakirs were primarily based on pilgrimages to dargahs, it was their ritualistic performances unhindered. Since the religious
quite essential to provide land for the upkeep of those dargahs activities of the fakirs were primarily based on pilgrimages to
which had existed from the time of their predecessors and also to dargahs, it was quite essential to provide land for the upkeep of
conduct the urs and festivals in an organised way. those dargahs which had existed from the time of their predeces
sors and also to conduct the urs festivals in an organised way. So
Land Grants the princes, nawabs and chiefs began to sanction land-grants as
A close study of the madad-i-maash (rent-free tenure) grants dur one of the material privileges to the Madariya community.
ing the Mughal and colonial periods reveals how the Madariya Such grants were also enjoyed by insurgents like Cherag Ali
o rder enjoyed land grants for the maintenance of its religious Shah and Karim Shah as the successors of their ancestors. Asaf
activities. The author’s interviews with the pirzadas (descendants ud-Daullah, the nawab of Awadh, assigned certain portions of
of Shah Madar) attached to the Makwanpur dargah throw some land to a group of fakirs. Maharaja Chait Singh of Benares also
light on their landholding capacity in Nainital, Badayun, Bareilly, looked after the interest of the fakirs by assigning lakhiraj ten-
Etawah and other places of Uttar Pradesh, Parbat Sawar in Jaipur ures extensively in and around Chunar.12
and in Nepal. According to them, these lands were c onferred during The system of rent-free land grants introduced by the Mughal
the early Mughal period. The Mughal tradition of sanctioning princes became an established norm which seemed to have been
land was followed in the British period also. They were followed by the local rulers of Bengal and elsewhere. During the
allowed to hold Mughal land grants as hereditary rights to defray time of Shah Jahan, the management of the endowed land of
their daily expenses. The Madariya community also received Pargana Baish Hasari situated at Pandua in Malda, was vested in
state patronage from the countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. the hands of the khadims and the total income derived from it
There were other types of privileges, given as a favour to the was declared to be spent for the maintenance of the wandering
Madari communities, viz, (1) the revenue of land, (2) pensions fakirs, who attended the dargah on religious and festive occasions.
and contributions. These, no doubt, strengthened the economic Later on, the entire Pargana Baishhazari and Bhalasuree were
background of the Madari order. Documents, so far available conferred on Hasan Muria Burhana, the representative of the
with us, show that the Madariya fakirs were often given the pri- Madari order, by prince Shuja, the governor of Bengal (1639-60),
vilege of management of revenue collection from the endowed as waqf mahals. The sanad of Shuja13 provided an opportunity
lands sanctioned for the performance of religious activities. Offi for them to amass rent-free tenures without successors in Bengal,
cial documents show that besides the land revenue, the native Bihar and Orissa. In order to understand the nature of sanad, it is
rulers also assigned pension for the subsistence of the Madariya necessary to see the provisions of the sanad which are mentioned
group of fakirs. The practice of giving donation to the Madari in the box. Shuja additionally sanctioned Bhalasuree, a village in
group of Sufis continued during the British period. Monetary Malda as lakhiraj endowment for the performance of religious wor
contribution was another form of privilege, which the fakirs used ship of the fakirs.14 Such generous treatment was also shown by
to get since the pre-colonial period.
Besides the above material privileges, the Madari order Box: Sanad of Prince Shuja, to Hasan Muria Burhana
received honours, prestige and high titles from the Indian powers. (1) Whenver you wish to go out for the guidance of the people, or for travel into
Ibrahim Sharqi, the ruler of Jaunpur (1402-40) in northern India, the cities, countries, divisions and all sorts of places, where you may like to go according to your free-will and inclination, you may take all the articles of the
received Syed Badiuddin with respect and honour, while the julus; e g, banners, flags, poles, staffs, band, mahi and muratib, etc.
latter reached Jaunpur.11 The original mausoleum of dargah of (2) After your departure from the world, the whole articles of the julus as well as the right of piri-o-muridi (the office of priest and disciple) will descend to
Shah Madar was renovated and enlarged by the Mughal monarchs. your successors.
This tradition was even continued in the later period. (3) You will also be able for the good of mankind and the faith of Islam to be guided by the learned people.
The fakirs had cordial relations in the pre-British period with (4) You will be entitled within the countries of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, to
the Indian rulers and also with the rulers of neighbouring Nepal, confiscate, as you may like, property to which there is no heir, or pirpal and rent-free tenures.
Bhutan and Tibet which continued in the British period also, with (5) When you pass through any tract of the country, the landholders and
the only exception of Bengal, where the fakirs clashed with the tenants will supply you with provisions. (6) Hazrat Chetan Lahu Lankar Lankapati (Lord of Ceylon) received from Hazrat
zamindars, who were backed by the British after the establish- Makdum Saiyid Shah Jalal Tabizi of Pandua the Pargana Baishazari, waqf
ment of the Company’s rule in Bengal. mahals, milk tenures, and other things of government. After that they were granted by the sarkar (of the prince) to Janab Shah Sultan Hasan Muria.
As already pointed out, the fakirs, though not involved in eco (7) No cess or contribution of any kind will be levied.
nomic and political affairs of the country, received great favours (8) The sand was written on the 21st day of Rajab 1069 AH (1659 AD) and was sealed by Mir Ala-ud-Daula, the vazir and Madarul-Muham-I-Diwan (on the
and patronage, material from the nawabs, rajas and zamindars. 21st Rajab) and by Shah Shuja-ud-Daula.
It should be noted here that while the sanyasis received favours Source: Maulavi Abdul Wali, “Note on the Faquirs of Baliya-Dighi in Dinajpur”, Journal of the
and patronage of the Indian ruling class for significant services Asiatic Society of Bengal, No 2, Calcutta, 1903.
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Aurangzeb, who sanctioned 300 bighas of land for the construction of a tomb on the burial ground of Saint Neckmard in Dinajpur. Moreover, he granted land to the ancestors of Bolaky Shah of Barishal.15 In fact, the assignment of lakhiraj tenures was very common among the Mughal emperors. Since the madad-i-maash grants were declared as hereditary, these tenures were also e njoyed by their successors. Buchanan-Hamilton recorded the existence of some groups of fakirs who were entitled to enjoy land in different parts of Bengal and Bihar.16 Even Maulavi Abdul Wali, a government official of the early 20th century came across a good number of fakirs in Baliyadighi in Dinajpur, who possessed lands as the successors of their former leaders.17

The nawabs and zamindars of Bengal also looked after the i nterest of the fakirs and it is learnt that Isha Khan, the Bengal z amindar and a contemporary of Akbar, defended the material interest of this religious order and other groups of fakirs. After Isha Khan’s death, his successor sanctioned Pargana Barbazee M erauna to Pir Shahen Shah, Gharana to Pir Shahzaman and Herana Serali in Mymensingh to an unknown fakir.18 In Rangpur, the native zamindars cared for the interests of the fakirs by sanctioning land. G C Dass has shown that the grants were o riginally intended as religious endowments.19 Similarly, Rani Bhawani and her ancestors of Rajshahi, conferred Pirottar on various communities including the fakirs. In Murshidabad and Malda, the fakirs held a large estate for the settlement of their Astanah.20

The trend was continued in some cases in the British period. The collector of Islamabad reported in 1782 that the fakirs were allowed to hold Mughal land-grants as hereditary rights to defray their daily expenses.21 Further, Amaum Ali Shah, as a successor of Hasan Muria Burhana of Baliyadighi in Dinajpur, continued to hold estate during the period of rebellion.

Privileges of Fakirs

In Bihar, the fakirs as beneficiaries enjoyed the rent-free tenures. Buchanan-Hamilton witnessed the existence of such privileged class of people as lakhiraj holders in different parts of Bihar.22 The assignment of lakhiraj tenures in Bihar may be corroborated by the official evidence of Mustafa Quli Khan, the rent collector of Beya in Saran.23 For example, 30 bighas of land in the village Tekooramur and Chinadur, conferred on the fakirs as madad-imaash long before the beginning of British rule continued to be e njoyed by them in the British period. Even the grants were d eclared as valid in British period.24 It is quite evident from the above discussion that the nobility looked after the material wellbeing of the fakirs by providing land for the building of the tombs of the pirs, and for the general assembly of the fakirs in connection with the urs and fairs.25

Even in the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, the Madariya fakirs received state patronage. The fakirs who had settled in Nepal for a long time had cordial relations with Raja Ranbahadur Shah, the gurkha ruler of Nepal. Though nothing is known regarding their relations in the pre-Company’s period, it is learnt that, in the later period, Raja Ranbahadur entertained insurgent leaders of the fakirs like Karim Shah, Musa Shah, Cherag Ali Shah and Subhan Ali Shah by providing land to them. The collector of Purnea reported in 1795 that, Karim Shah was given Mootre Pargana (near Rupila Gur) comprising a large tract of land where he built a mud fort.26 Ranbahadur also conferred two jungles, Aber and Beera, on him for the maintenance of 500 barkandazes and 200 swordsmen.27 Like Karim Shah, the later rebels Subhan Ali Shah, Rahim Shah and Anundy Shah received the favour of Ranbahadur. Tirhut Giri, one of the attendants of Subhan Ali gave evidence that Ranbahadur sanctioned a large tract of land to the above-mentioned fakirs. The fakirs also received favours from an unidentified gurkha chief of M orung.28 The collector of Rangpur reported that Musa Shah was given an extensive area by Ganga Ram, the gurkha chief of M orung.29 The assignment of such land grants to the fakirs is c orroborated by official evidence of the acting collector of Purnea, who recorded Musa Shah’s estate in 1789.30 Similarly, Karim Shah, Subhan Ali Shah and his followers were given land by the gurkha raja for an additional camp site as a security measure in Rangally and Kwaliah in Morung.31

There were other types of privileges, given as a favour to the Madari communities, viz, (1) the revenue of land, (2) pensions, and (3) contributions. These, no doubt, strengthened the economic background of the Madariya order. Documents, so far available to us, show that the Madariya fakirs were often given the privilege of management of the revenue collection from the endowed lands sanctioned for the performance of religious activities. According to a local tradition, a stretch of nine km area between Billor and Makwanpur, was vested in the Makwanpur dargah and the revenue derived from it was kept aside for personal expenses and religious activities of the Madariya fakirs.32 The fakirs by means of their religious activities were so influential that they enjoyed the revenue right of Jamalpur-Alda and Doomry, two villages in Bihar to defray their daily expenses. The Chaudhuries and Kanoongoes of Gyaspore Pargana in Bihar reported in 1782 that the fakirs controlled the revenues of that region.33 Similarly, 300 bighas of land close to Neckmard dargah in Dinajpur was brought under cultivation, the net income of which was declared to be spent in the interest of the fakirs.34

Siraj-ud-Daulla, the nawab of Bengal, provided for the bare subsistence for the fakirs. For example, Assoor Shah, a fakir, was sanctioned an allowance by virtue of a sanad.35 Siraj-ud-Daulla was so interested in the religious performances of the fakirs that most of them were granted pension hereditary right.36 Mirjafar (1757-60), the next nawab, in spite of his financial troubles, permitted the fakirs to draw their pension as sanctioned earlier. He even additionally issued orders for Shaikh Jewad Ali, Kullender Ali, Farzundee Alia and others to receive pension from the nawab’s treasury.37 The practice of giving monetary help to the fakirs from the nawab’s treasury continued during the British period. It appears that the sanad regarding Iman Shah’s pension was renewed during the regime of Nawab Mirkasim. There is evidence that the dues of other pension-holders among the fakirs were paid even during the later period. Like the Bengal Nawabs, Assad Ali Khan, the regional chief of Bihar used to entertain a group of f akirs by providing pension in the British period.38 The system of granting pension was also to be found in north India. It appears from the report of an adalat-judge at Gazipur that, in the later Mughal period, a sanad was issued to Lalloo Shah by the representative of the raja of Benares. Since the fakirs’ right of

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p ension was considered as hereditary, Musund Ali Shah, the successor of Lalloo Shah, was entitled to collect a pension of one pice during the early British period.39 Karim Shah reportedly received a p ension of half anna and one pice per diem from the government of the Avadh.40 Cherag Ali received a daily allowance of one pice from the same authority. Further, there were some large groups of pension-holders in different places of north India.41

Monetary Contribution

Monetary contribution was another form of privilege which the fakirs enjoyed in the Mughal period. The practice of levying contribution was officially sanctioned during the Mughal period. It was a sanad of prince Shuja, the fakirs were assured that both landlords and tenants would make contributions to them. So the fakirs’ demand for contribution during their pilgrimage in different parts of Bengal was complied with. This is corroborated by a letter of Shah Majnu written to Rani Bhavani of Nattore.42 The contents of the letter clearly reveal the privileged position which the fakirs enjoyed in the Mughal period. A district historian43 rightly observes that when the fakirs from other parts of India came to Bengal on a pilgrimage, they were entertained with half a dinner each as well as other provisions. For instance, on the occasion of the fair held at Neckmard dargah in Dinajpur, the fakirs used to collect tax from the visitors and the articles sold in the fair since the Mughal period.44 The system of “voluntary contribution” had in this way become a common practice among the zamindars and the rural population of Bengal. But due to the agrarian dislocation caused by the Bengal Famine of 1769-70 during the early British rule, such contributions fell into disuse. The fakirs’ attempt to the arrears of contribution was the prime cause of conflict between the zamindars and the peasants on the one hand, and the fakirs on the other.

Besides the above material privileges, the Madari order received honours, prestige and high titles from the Indian powers.45 There is no denying the fact that the religious background of the Madariya fakirs and the cult of Shah Madar, the founder of the Madari order, led the Indian princes to extend their patronage to them. Ibrahim Sharqi, the ruler of Jaunpur (1402-40) in northern India, received Shah Madar with respect and honour, while the latter reached Jaunpur on his way to pilgrimage.46 The fakir’s influence on Ibrahim Sharqi was no doubt very great and after his death the Jaunpur Sultan built a dargah of Shah Madar under the supervision of his wazir at Makwanpor in Kanpur district. He also conferred some gifts on Shah Madar during his lifetime as a mark of res pect and honour.47 Among the nobles, Sadar J ahan, the wazir of Ibrahim Sharqi, who invited Shah Madar from Kalpi to Jaunpur, and Ashraff Khan, the brother of the sultan, became devoted adherents of Shah Madar.48 Shaikh Siraj Shuktah, the spiritual guide of Kadir Shah and Sayyid Ashraf J ahangir Simnani, who had been disciples of Shaikh Alaul Haq of Bengal, later became the spiritual guide of Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi. It is said that Sayyid Ashraf Jahangir Simnani met Shah Madar in Mecca, and thus, they became friends.49 He made correspondence with Kazi Shihabuddin Daulatabadi,50 the most renowned man of learning and wisdom in the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi. It may be mentioned in this context that in the course of his pilgrimage from Kanauj to Kalpi.

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In Avadh, the fakirs were patronised by the nawab Asaf-ud-Daulla. Consequently, the fakirs could easily move to various parts of Avadh. They exercised a great influence upon the north Indian princes, and had an easy access to their kingdoms and principalities; hence, when they were driven out from Bengal by the British, they took refuge in various places of north India. In this context, Majnu Shah’s escape to Kanauj during the early phase of the fakir rebellion deserves a special mention. Shah Madar was also entertained with great honour by the deputy of Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351-87).

Similarly, the Mughal emperors were generous in their treatment of the Sufi saints belonging to different group. It is said that Babur, the founder of Mughal empire in India, made friends with a Sufi saint, and after his victory over Rana Sangram Singh of Mewar at Khanwa (1527 AD), endowed some Sufi saints with gifts. During Akbar’s reign, the Madariya fakirs enjoyed a high position and status in the field of religious activities. Madariya cult was then so popular that a contemporary poet Turabi showed reverence to Shah Madar in a poem which was inscribed on a stone at a sarai built in his honour.51 The original mausoleum or dargah of Shah Madar was renovated and enlarged by the Mughal monarchs since the time of Akbar down to Alamgir II. Shah J ahan and Aurangzeb, who were great patrons of the Madariya fakirs, donated a large cooking pot popularly known as degh, for the preparation of Sirni in the urs festival and a big kettledrum called Dal-madal for religious performance at Makwanpur.52 Aurangzeb helped the construction of a major portion of the mosques a ttached to the Makwanpur dargah. The same was the case with the Gwalior princes who presented valuable articles to Madariya fakirs attached to Makwanpur d argah. Besides, Mahadji Sindhia, the Maratha chief, favoured the Muslim fakirs and greatly depended on them in various matters. They practically acted as spiritual guides of the Maratha chief. S imilarly, Mirza Najaf Khan, the regent of Delhi (1775-78) used to visit the dargahs of Sufi saints as a mark of respect.

In Bengal, the Madariya order gained the favour of the sultan of Gour in Bengal and during the second half of the 15th century the Madariyas were able to spread their influence in eastern Bengal as far as Chittagong. It also appears that Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah of Gour (1433-59 AD) and the officials attached to his empire were great patrons of the Madariya fakirs.53 In the Mughal period, the memory of Neckmard was respected by state Gholaum Saklean has shown how the Mughal rulers and the nobles paid respects to the fakirs.54 In the middle of the 17th century they gained much favour from prince Muhammad Shuja, the Mughal governor of Bengal (1639-60) as the latter granted a sanad in 1659 to Hasan Muria Burhana, the representative of the Madariya order. It appears from the sanad that the performance of religious rites by the fakirs was given an official recognition.55 Their influence upon Shuja was so great that he rewarded them with the highest possible insignia of honour, i e, the Mahi-Maratib. The s anad was more dignified than the one which had been given to Shah Nimatullah Qadiri of Firrozepur, a famous Sufi saint of the Qadiriya order, who was supposed to be the spiritual guide of Shuja and his family.56 Like the Mughal emperors the nawabs and zamindars of Bengal also patronised the fakirs. It is learnt that Murshid Quli Khan, the Bengal nawab, was a genuine devotee


of the Muslim fakirs. Indian patronage in the pre-British period encouraged by the Morung chief to carry on their hostile activiexplains why the fakirs, facing the Company’s oppression in the ties in British territories. British period, wanted to revive the old Mughal system.57 Like Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet also supported the Madariya f akirs.

Even outside India, the Madariya fakirs received state pa-As the British government had no authority over Bhutan, the latter tronage in the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Ti-used to give shelter to the fakirs in large numbers within its borbet. As mentioned earlier, the fakirs received the favours of raja ders. The Bhutan government refused to comply with the B ritish Ranbahadur Shah, the gurkha ruler of Nepal. Ranbahadur con-demand for the expulsion of the fakirs from Bhutan. At the same sidered it as unjust to treat them in a hostile manner. Ranbaha-time, the Bhutanese used to incite the fakirs to give vent to their dur’s generosity towards fakirs is revealed from the correspond-grievances against the British.61 The influence of the fakirs in Tibet ence exchanged between the Company’s government and Ne-was such that one lama sought their advice even in a dministrative pal. It was reported that the Nepalese vakil, instead of expel-affairs. Naturally, their influence in Tibet increased rapidly. ling the f akirs as requested by the British, rather encouraged them to resist the British. He wrote two letters in 1795 to Sub-


han Ali Shah advising them to collect arms and troops.58 It was The cordial relations which the Madariya fakirs maintained with reported that Subhan Ali Shah and Karim Shah collected an the indigenous powers enabled them to enjoy complete freedom armed force of 800 barkandazes and 200 swordsmen. Ranba-in observing their rituals. The Mughal government tolerated hadur, cared little for the pernicious activities of the fakirs in the practice of Madariya fakirs going naked in public.62 Foreign Bengal; rather he tried to safeguard them from the British. To t ravellers like Francisco Pelsaert and Francois Bernier saw the quote is own words, Madariyas during their visits to India in the Mughul period. Pelsaert writes that in the reign of Akbar, a large number of Madariya

…Although he (i e, Karim Shah) is full of faults and deserving of death, yet as in the books containing the laws of our religion, it is pre-fakirs assembled at Sikandra, near Agra, on their way to pilgrimscribed that except in war, it is highly culpable to confine and put to age at Makwanpur.63 They marched in a procession like an army death any of the Fakirs whether Hindoos or Mussalman, I did not

with banners and arms. Bernier mentions that these wandering

think it advisable to adopt that measure (i e, of expelling the fakirs).59

fakirs, laden with heavy iron chains, sustain the rigours of long

Similarly, the fakirs enjoyed the confidence and support of the distance pilgrimage, and moved about freely from one place to Morung chief. Besides the general patronage extended to them another without any restriction during the time of Jahangir and by the gurkha raja of Morung, fakir leaders like Cherag Ali Shah, Shah Jahan. It was believed that “they will be Rajas in their renas-Subhan Ali Shah, Johry Shah and their followers were provided cent State”.64 Shuja, issued a sanad in 1659 which assured that shelter, particularly when they were expelled by the British from Hasan Muria Burhana as the representative of the Madariya comthe frontier areas of Morung. Moreover, the fakirs were permit-munity was free to move anywhere he liked. ted by the same ruler to build a mud fort near a dense forest in his It is quite evident from the above discussion that the indigekingdom. It appears that Cherag Ali Shah, Johry Shah and Sub-nous rulers tolerated the religious activities of this community han Ali Shah encamped near Rangally and Kwaliah in Morung.60 and gave them a free hand in performing their religious rites Since the fakirs were placed in a well-fortified position, they were b efore the beginning of British rule in Bengal.

Notes and References 12 J J Pemberton, Geographical and Statistical Reports 20 Calendar of Persian Correspondence, Calcutta,
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Ananda Bhattacharya, “Madari Silsila: Origin and Evolution”, The Calcutta Historical Journal, Vol 26, No 1, January-June 2006. The author has mentioned this in related articles on the Madara Silsila. Ananda Bhattacharya, “Madari Community in the Perspective of Folk Culture” Annals, Bhan darkar Oriental Research Institute, LXXXVII, 2006. Mirat-ul-Madari, a Persian manuscript written by Abdur Rahman Chisti now available in Munshi Abdul Karim Collection, Dhaka, Bangladesh.Ramai Pandit, Sunya Puran (ed.), C C Bandyopadhyay, Calcutta, 1336 BS. Mohammad Enamul Haq, A History of Sufism in Bengal, Dacca, 1975, p 19. Maulana Syed Muhammad Ayub Madari, Sirat-e-Madari (in Urdu), Sri Lanka, 1987, pp 24-25. Sarat Chandra Mitra, “A Curious Mussalman Sect”, reprinted from Quarterly Journal of Mythic Society, Vol XXVII, Nos 3-4.Abul Kalam Muhammad Zakaria, Bangladesher 13 14 15 16 17 of the District of Maldah,Calcutta, 1854, p 11. Golaum Saklaen, Purva Paikstaner Sufi Sadhak (in Bengali), Dacca, 1961, p 65; A F M Abdul Jalil, Purva Banglar Krishok Bidroho (in Bengali), Dacca, 1974, p 88; Bolaky Shah was the leader of the fakir rebellion against the British in Bakharganj. J C Sengupta, West Bengal District Gazetteer, West Dinajpur, Calcutta, 1965, p 49. R K Perti, ed., Calendar of Acquired Documents, 1352-1754, Vol II, New Delhi, 1986, preface. R M Martin, The History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India, London, 1838, Vol II, pp 636, 644-45. Wali, “Notes on the Faqirs of Baliyadighi”. The fakirs of Baliyadighi in Dinajpur continued to enjoy land and jagir up to the 1970s. After the creation of independent Bangladesh in 1971, they Baliyadighi, located in western Dinajpur in India, joined with the fakirs attached to the dargah of Neckmard in eastern Dinajpur in Bangladesh. This i nformation was collected by the author in 1990 from Kalimuddin Ahmad, a local resident of Baliyadighi. 21 1969, Vol XI, p 4. Henceforth, this source will be referred to as CPC; Majnu Shah’s letter to Rani Bhavani: Controlling Council of Revenue at Murshidabad (West Bengal State Archives) dated 27 January 1772; W K Firminger (ed.), The Letter Copy Book of the Resident at Murshidabad Durbar, 1769-70, Calcutta, 1919, pp 29-32; Ashok Mitra, Paschim Banger Puja Parban O Mela (in Bengali), Calcutta, 1969, Vol II, p 61; Pralay Sen, Paschim Banglar Tirtha (in Bengali), Calcutta, 1385 BS, pp 119-20; Sudhir Kumar Chakraborty, “Fakir-Bidroher Pechone Arthanaitik Karan” (in Bengali), Malda Samachar, No 28, Malda 1379 BS, R K Gupta, The Economic Life of a Bengal District, Birbhum, 1770-1857, Burdwan, 1984, p 12; “Sherpurer Itihas”, Rangpur Sahitya Parishad Patrika, pt V, 1313-14 BS, p 78. Collector, Islamabad to William Cowper, president and member of the board of revenue dated 31 August 1792: Board of Revenue (BOR) (West Bengal State Archives) 21 November 1792, No 6, A K Bandyopadhyay and S R Das, Koch Behar Jelar Purakriti (in Bengali), Calcutta, 1974, pp 44, 51.
10 Pratna Sampad (in Bengali), Dacca, 1974, pp 92-94, 129. Syed Hasan Askari, “The Mausoleum of a Saint of the Madari order of Sufis at Hilsa, Bihar”, Bengal 18 A K Maulick, Atiya Parganar Itihas (in Bengali), Mymensingh, 1323 BS, p 21; Mohammed Jayenuddin, Karim Shah O Tipu Shah (in Bengali), Mymensingh, 1332 BS, p 1. 22 23 Martin, op cit, Vol III, pp 147-48. Mustafa Quli Khan to Council: Controlling Council of Revenue at Patna (CCRP) 4 February 1773, pp 51-52; Camac to Vanisttart dated 28 February
Past and Present, Vol IXVIII, 1949. 19 G C Dass, Report of the Statistics of Rungpur for the 1772, CCRP, 19 March 1772, pp 885-94.
11 For details see Maulavi Abdul Wali, “Notes on the Year 1872-73, Calcutta, 1874, pp 58-59; Rangpur 24 Extract of Proceedings, Military Board dated
Fakirs of Baliyadighi in Dinajpur”, Journal of District Records (Bangladesh National Archives, 23 August 1796 and letter from Popham to the sec-
A siatic Society of Bengal, No 2, Calcutta, 1903. Dhaka), Vol 32, p 57. retary, military board dated 30 September 1796:

may 21, 2011 vol xlvi no 21


BOR 8 November 1796, No 6, petition sent by Shah Khaskar and Shah Serdar: Committee of Revenue (COR), West Bengal State Archives 11 February 1782, No 7. Moreover, Shah Keyamuddin held a large estate in and around Sasaram in B ihar. See Proceedings of the Acting Judge, Sahabad dated 16 June 1793: J C, 28 June 1793, No 2.

25 Ibid. 26 Extract of a letter to the collector of Purnea dated 18 January 1795: (Foreign Department (Poll), FDPL, National Archives of India, New Delhi, 13 February 1795, pp 10-14. 27 Deposition of the local people of Mootree Pargana in Nepal: Judicial (Criminal) (JCR), West Bengal State Archives, 23 January 1795, Nos 10-14. 28 Evidence of Tirhut Giri taken on 5 April 1798: JCR, 4 May 1798, No 4.

29 Alexander to the collector, Rangpur dated 25 March 1786, Rangpur District Records, Vol IX, p 45.

30 S Heatly, collector, Purnea to Sir John Shore dated 10 September 1789, BOR 21 September 1789, No 2.

31 Collector, Purnea to the resident and members of the BoR, dated 28 July 1794, BOR, 8 August 1794, No 38; Enclosure Acting Secretary, revenue board dated 21 September 1792, Revenue Department, Governor-general in council (RDG), West Bengal State Archives, 25 January 1793, No 13.

32 Author’s interview with the Pirzadas of Makwanpur in 1990.

33 Representation from Chaudhuries and Kanoungoes of Pargana Gyaspore: COR, 20 December 1784, No 12; Enclosure from the Preparer of Reports dated

18 February 1782, COR, 28 February 1782, No 4.

34 Saklaen, op cit, p 65.

35 Petition of the fakirs dated 25 May 1792, RDG, 25 May 1792, W K Firminger, The Fifth Report, London, 1812, Madras (Reprint), 1866, p 31. 36 Petition of the fakirs dated 25 May 1792: RDG, 25 May 1792, No 25. 37 Report on the investigation on the claims of grantees, RDG, 12 January 1798, No 4. It appears that in 1798

an investigation report was issued for the validity of pension. It seems that at first the British did not question the fakir’s right to pension.

38 Enclosure, BO to William Cowper dated 27 October 1795, RDG, 6 November 1795, No 29; RDG, 25 May 1792, No 25, Register of Letter Received 1790, Rangpur district records, Vol XXXII, pp 385-95.

39 Translated copy of the sanad in: RDG, 16 December 1789, No 11; Arzee from the judge of the Adawlat Ghazipore: Correspondence and Proceedings of the Resident at Benares, Allahabad Regional Archives (CPRB), 4 December 1789, pp 39-53.

40 Abstract account of Saleanah and Rozenah for the month of July 1803 in the Enclosure of the Collector of Kanpur: BOR (Uttar Pradesh State Archives, Lucknow), 16 September 1803, para 97, No 52.

41 Ibid, para 102, No 62.

42 Letter of Shah Majnu to Rani Bhavani: CCRM, 27 January 1772. 43 Sengupta, op cit, p 49. 44 Collector, Dinajpore to William Cowper, dated

7 September 1793: BOR (Sayer) 15 November 1793, No 1.

45 Maulana Kazi Atahar Mobarak Puri, “Hazrat Mir Syed Ahmad Badpa” (in Urdu) Marif, No 145, January, Azamgarh, 1990.

46 Syed Hasan Askari, “The Mausoleum of a Saint of the Madari Order of Sufis at Hilsa”, Bihar, Bengal Past and Present, Vol IXVIII, Calcutta, 1949.

47 Ibrahim Sarqi presented some valuable articles, viz, ornaments and garment. This information was collected by the present author in 1990 from an oral statement made by the Pirzadas of the dargah of Shah Madar at Makwanpur in Kanpur.

48 Abdur Rahaman Chisti, Mirat-ul-Madari, p 33, Askari, “The Mausoleum of a Saint of Madari

o rder of Sufis at Hilsa”. 49 M M Haq, “Shah Badiuddin Madar and His Tariqah in Bengal”, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Pakistan,

Vol XII, No 1, Pakistan, 1967. 50 Abdur Rahaman Chisti, op cit, p 17.

51 Askari, “The Mausoleum of a Saint of Madari O rder of Sufis at Hilsa”; Mobarak Puri, “Hajrat Mir Sayed Ahmad Badpa”.

52 Donald Butter, Outlines of the Toropgraphy and Statistics of the Southern Districts of Oudh, and of the Cantonment Sultanpore – Oudh, Calcutta, 1839, p 162.

53 Muhammad Enamul Huq, A History of Sufism in Bengal, Dacca, 1975, p 19.

54 Subhas Samajdar, Epar Ganga Opar Amudaria (in Bengali), Calcutta, 1388 BS, p 130. Saklaen op cit, pp 87-88.

55 Askari, “The Mausoleum of a Saint of Madari Order of Sufis at Hilsa”.

56 Interview with the pirzadas of Makwanpur in 1990.

57 Since dargah of Shah Madar at Makwanpore served as an important centre of religious activities of the Madariya fakirs, the Indian princes used to offer gifts and endowments to it. The gifts of Madhav Rao Sindhia, the Gwalior prince, i ncluded a big kettledrum, popularly known as Karak-Bijli, a cooking pot, garments decorated with gold and other precious metals and instruments for lighting the dargah of Shah Madar.

58 Deposition of the inhabitants of Nepal: JCR, 23 January 1795, No 12. 59 Raja, Nepal to Lord Cornwallis, dated 21 January 1795, FDPL, 13 February 1795, Nos 5-7. 60 Commissioner, Cooch Behar to Sir John Shore dated 25 July 1794, JCR, No 6. 61 E G Glazier, Further Notes on Rungpore, Vol II, C alcutta, 1876, p XIII.

62 T D Broughton, Letters from the Maratha Camp, Calcutta, 1977 (reprint), pp 221-22. P M Joshi and V G Khobrekar (ed.), Ibratnama, Bombay, 1966, p 5, M M Haq, “Shah Badi-al-ddin Madar and His Tariqah in Bengal”.

63 W H Moreland and P Geyl (tr), Jehangir’s India: The Remonstrantie of Francisco, Pelsaert, C ambridge, 1925, p 70.

64 A Constable, ed., Francois Bernier Travels in the Mughul Empire, 1656-68, New Delhi, 1968, pp 316-18.


March 26, 2011

Resurrection and Normalisation of Empire – Rohit Chopra Taming the Imperial Impulse: Realising a Pragmatic Moral Vision – Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im Adam’s Mirror: The Frontier in the Imperial Imagination – Manan Ahmed Indian Empire (and the Case of Kashmir) – Suvir Kaul Imperial Democracies, Militarised Zones, Feminist Engagements – Chandra Talpade Mohanty Rethinking News Agencies, National Development and Information Imperialism – Oliver Boyd-Barrett Digital Imperialism through Online Social/Financial Networks – Radhika Gajjala, Anca Birzescu Pandemic, Empire and the Permanent State of Exception – Cindy Patton

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