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Pao-Mecca Mosque in Assam

History Speaks

, by DR. SYED AHMED

Hajo, 32 km. north-west of Gauhati (Guwahati), is a unique place in Assam as the place is considered sacred by Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. Hayagriva Madhava temple, situated on the Manikut hill in Hajo is one of the oldest temples in India, sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. The Pao Mecca mosque and the dargah on the 750 ft. high Gaurachol hills are considered sacrosanct not only by the Muslims but by people of other faiths as well. Pao Mecca literally means one-fourth of Mecca. It is believed that the foundation of the mosque was laid upon a handful of earth brought from Mecca. The dargah is said to be that of Ghiyasuddin Auliya, one of the first propagator of Islam in the region. The dargah is known for its miraculous healing powers. So people of all religions make offerings at the tomb and tie a thread to a neighbouring tree or post in order to obtain the fulfilment of their prayers. The dargah has, therefore, over the century become a symbol of faith and communal harmony.
In the first half of the 17th century when Koch Hajo, the western part of Assam, comprising the present districts of Kamrup and Goalpara came under the Mughals, Hajo became a stronghold of the Muslims and centre of the Mughals. Many military generals and nobles were conferred fiefs or military jagirs in this region. According to some experts even the name Hajo is derived from the word ‘hajj’ – pilgrimage to Mecca.
The origin of Ghiyasuddin, often referred to as Pir Ghiyasuddin Auliya, is obscure. There are numerous legends and opinions associated with the origin of the Ghiyasudin. Some believe that he had a royal lineage, while others believe that he was a seer, who devoted his life to the propagation of Islam in Assam. According to one such tradition (Md. Yahya Tamizi, Sufi Movements in Eastern India, 1992) he came to India from Arabia in A.H. 642 (1264) when the place was ravaged by famine. He wandered through various parts of India. Later he visited the Brahmaputra valley accompanied by three other Muslim saints, Shah Gudur, Shah Jamal, and Shah Buzrug. He began to preach Islam to the natives and decided to spend the rest of his life on the summit of the Gaurachol hills. His preaching activities were further boosted up by the expansion of Muslim power in the region. He is generally regarded as one of the first propagators of Islam in north-eastern India. As per a reference in a land grant issued to the dargah by Shah Shuja, son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Ghiyasuddin was buried on the hills of Gaurachol and hence the tomb on the hill is related to him.
P. Gogoi (The Tai and Tai Kingdoms, 1976) is of the opinion that it was Husain Khan, the son of Alauddin Husain Shah, and the governor of Hajo, who brought Ghiyasuddin to propagate Islam in the region. Whereas Mirza Nathan, the author of Bahristan-i-Gaibi (see Vol. II, 1936), writes that Ghiyasuddin was the son of the Mughal military leader, Abu Bakr. Mukarram Khan, the governor of the Koch Hajo, in 1614 commissioned Abu Bakr and his son Ghiyasuddin, who was revered as a saint, along with other commanders to invade Assam. Both father and son were killed in the battle. Ghiyasuddin’s dead body was interned on the Gaurachol in the vicinity of the Pao-Mecca mosque.
According to the author (anonymous) of the article entitled “Ancient Assam” (H. Blochmann, Contributions to the Geography and History of Bengal, 1968), Ghiyasuddin was the governor of Kamrup, appointed by Nawab of Bengal Alauddin Hussain Shah (1493-1519). The Nawab annexed the region after overpowering the ruler of Kamrup in 1498. Ghiyasuddin introduced a colony of Muslims. He planned to construct the Pao Mecca mosque upon a stratum of earth brought from Mecca. Unfortunately, he died before setting his plan to work. He was buried on the hill. The author writes: 
This prince (Sultan Ghiyasuddin) introduced a colony of Muhammadans in the country, and made large consignments of land for the maintenance of the Muslim religion. Most of the land is, by permission of the British Government, still retained for this purpose. Ghiyasuddin resolved to build a grand mosque, which was to stand on the top of a high hill, known as the Gaurachol. There is a tradition that, in order to give it peculiar sanctity, it was to have been built upon a stratum of earth that had been brought for this purpose from the holy city of Mecca. The hill is known to this day as the ‘Pao-Mecca’. But Ghiyasuddin died before he could complete the arrangements for the erection of the mosque. He was interned beneath the holy earth, and the material he had collected was used in raising a monument over his remains, which also serves the purpose of a mosque.
Ghiyasuddin’s dream was fulfilled by Mir Lutufullah-i-Shiraji, the then Mughal faujdar of Kamrup region as confirmed by the Persian inscription on a stone plate attached to the mosque. He started the construction of the mosque during the reign of Shah Jahan, in 1657. The English translation of the stone inscription of the Pao-Mecca Mosque reads thus:        
Bismillahi-r-rahmanir-rahim. Al-hamdullillahi rabbil alamin wa-s-salat was-salam a’la rasulihi muhammadin wa alihi ajmaa’in wa ashabihi al-tahirin. Qala-llah ta’la innama uammira masajidallah man al-muhtadin. Qala al-an-nabi sallalahu alaihi wa sallam man bana masjidan fi-ddunya bana-llahu Sabina masjidan fil-akirah bia’hdi daulat sultan-e-adil shahanshahi jahan wa khusru-e-din abulghazi shujan’dd-din Muhammad shah wa shahzada farkhanda amin chun lutfullah shirazi bina kard humayun masjid khuld zamin badarul aman mushhur mamalik shujja abad hifzullah bahinkami ki rayat a’zima basuba bank bud a izwa tamkin mudam in khana din bad maa’mur. Bahaq hurmat janab sahin (?) (or yasin) zi faizi nia’mat ilahi qawi bad hamisha in muhin munadi khirad chun salt trikh btakht nida jail shud khandi din hi 1067.
The translation in English goes:
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficial, and Most Merciful. Thanks to God who is the Lord of the Universe. May the blessings of God be on the Holy Prophet Muhammad, to his house and his holy associates and his companions. Almighty God says: Those who construct mosque of God (on Earth) and firmly believe in Allah and in the Day of Judgement, offer prayers and zakat and fear none except God, are verily the people who receive guidance from Allah. And the Holy Prophet (May the blessings of God be with him) says: He who builds a mosque in this world, God builds 70 mosques for him in the next world. During the reign of Abdul Ghazi Shujauddin Muhammad, the just, the Emperor of the world, the centre of bounties and religion, the king and the auspicious prince, the holy mosque was built by Lutfullah Shirazi on a land noted for peace among the entire Muslim world, Shuja Abad. May God protect it from all calamities. It was built at a time when the royal banner was on march towards Bengal. May this religious centre flourish and survive with all its honour and glory of the Prophet. O Intellect!, Declare the date of its construction. The voice came, “The house of religion came into being’ – 1067 A.H. (Quote from Md. Yahya Tamizi, Sufi Movements in Eastern India, 1992)
The Pao-Mecca mosque was partially destroyed by a strong earthquake that occurred in 1897. Today the mosque stands repaired and is maintained and managed by khadims or custodians.


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