The Kendui village in the Gaya district of Bihar offers a glimpse of the inclusive Indian ethos. Here Hindus take care of the tomb of a Muslim fakir for four centuries.
Located in the area that has some of the most revered Hindu places of worship like Bodh Gaya, and Vishnu Pad, the 400-year-old grave of Anwar Shah Shaheed, a Muslim mendicant, is also a place of reverence for people of all communities.
The Mausoleum is spread over five hectares. There is also a well in the complex. The water body is believed to have been created in the lifetime of Anwar Shah Shaheed.
Interestingly, today there is no water in the well. The Mazar is closer to the main highway to Bodh Gaya and is a highly prized land. Kendui is inhabited by the Rajput community. Kendui has since remained as Vinod Singh village after the former village head whose family is influential in the area.
The offerings made at the tomb of Data Anwar Shah Shaheed
The local Village Welfare Society takes care of the tomb as there is not a single Muslim family living in or in the vicinity of the village. Legend has it that during India’s struggle for independence, freedom fighters took shelter here.
Every day a Hindu caretaker lights a lamp in the dargah. Local Muslims of the area also visit the place to pay their obeisance to Anwar Shah Shaheed.
Data Anwar Shah Shaheed was a famous Sufi saint of his time. There is no story about where he came from. Some documents of pre-1800 AD have it that the family of Anwar Shah had met Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, the most revered Sufi Saint of the Indian sub-continent whose mausoleum is in Ajmer, Rajasthan.
The well in the compound of the shrine
Some people even believe that Anwar Shah was an elder brother of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and he never revealed his link to one of the most powerful monarchs of his time while staying at Kendui. He had a battery of disciples and followers who all lived in the place where his grave is.
The Mazar and its land are registered with the Bihar State Sunni Waqf Board Patna. But, the local Hindu community says that it is the land of Anwar Shah.
Data Anwar Shah respected all religions in his life. The followers of other religions had permitted to perform religious rituals in their place.
The shrine of Data Anwar Shah
However, the land is not allowed to be used for social or personal functions. Though the locals Hindus are in charge of the place, they never use the sprawling compound for holding any social function.
Hindus believed one prayer at the grave of Anwar Shah Mazar, his wishes will be fulfilled. For this reason, people from surrounding areas also come here to see “mannat.”
For the Hindus of Kendui and surrounding villages, all major festivals like Holi and Diwali begin from here.
Santosh Singh, son of late village head Vinod Singh and former ward councilor says, “We always start our Holi or Diwali from this place. Thereafter we go to the temple.”
He explains that all the newlyweds have to visit the tomb before visiting a temple. On the occasion of Holi, Holika Dahan, the ritualistic bonfire, takes place in front of the tomb. On Holi, people visit the tomb early morning and also start playing with colours and other festivities.
Santosh Singh says, “There is not a single Muslim family in the village, it is our responsibility to keep the place populated. It’s our responsibility to keep the premises clean and light a lamp here every day.”
Locals say once there was a terrible famine in the village. People were in distress. “Baba told them not to worry and asked the villagers to place the wheat in the bucket that is used for drawing water from the well. He took a pledge that unless the flour is moistened by the rainwater he will not eat,” a local villager said.
Plauque commemorating renovation work of the shrine
The villagers followed his directions. In no time, it rained copiously and people had to ask him to seek divine blessings for the rain to stop.
Even today villagers pray for rain in front of Baba Anwar Shah’s tomb in the time of dry spells. The villagers believe that Baba removes all their troubles.
Santosh Singh says that Data Anwar Shah Shahid was a famous fakir of this region and our ancestors have great respect for him. This honor is passed on from generation to generation.
The villagers keep refurbishing the Mazar. When the building became dilapidated, Santosh Singh's late father Vinod Singh and local people built a terrace with personal donations and surrounded the premises, and put a door in it so that animals could not enter it.