"You must see this. The mazar of Shah Makhdum." I was rather surprised by Onu Tareq's suggestion. He knows I am not that kind of a guy.
But when Onu says something – and he keeps the reason for the suggestion a secret – there must be something interesting. So we headed for the Mazar.
We arrive at the shrine and enter through its blue ornamental gate. A big structure stands beside a large waterbody. It is said that Shah Makhdum, the preacher, came here from Iraq on the back of a crocodile and the crocodile lived in the waterbody.
A beautiful red tent-like structure sits behind a large white building. Onu takes me past the red structure into the back. There sits a small enclosure – half brick and half iron grille.
"Look at it," he points inside. "Human sacrificial altar. This is where humans were sacrificed by the Tantrik rajas of Gaur."
Inside a ten feet by ten feet square, two small poles show where humans were locked by their necks to be sacrificed. Below it a small dent in the ground gathered the blood after execution that would roll down a drain. Beside is a bigger bowl-like dent where the severed head would be kept.
Outside a plaque says this is where a Tantrik named Deoraj used to behead sacrificial humans before Shah Makhdum overran the kings of the area. That flung us back to history.
If you google Mahakalgar, nothing would appear on the map. That is what it should be because Mahakalgar is the long lost name of the land beside the Padma in Rajshahi. Part of it was today's Dargapara.
A Hindu zamindar, Vikrama Keshari, had his kingdom there around the 13th century. The Sultans of Bengal had bestowed upon him the title of Raja.
The Dhibor community, or the fishermen, had their big colony at Mahakalgar by the Padma. Mahakalgar was a prospering settlement where all types of people would thrive.
There was a big Kali Mandir by the river where devotees would congregate to worship Kali, the Hindu goddess considered to be the master of death, time and change.
The Raja had two princes, one of them was Chand. As it often happens, the sons were disposed to various cruel practices. At the Kali Mandir, they had introduced human sacrifice. They had set up an elaborate sacrificial podium where humans would be sacrificed for various divine blessings.
On moonless nights, big ceremonies would be organised. Thousands would congregate to worship Kali. The air would be thick with music, songs and the smoke of weed.
As the night would draw on, an ill-fated man, hands tied behind his back and eyes blinded with a piece of black handkerchief, would be marched onto the podium. As the music would gain tempo and drums would beat with big booms, the man would be forced to the sacrificial altar decorated with bright red marigold flowers and burning incense. The sacrificial human would be thrown to the wooden beam erected above the ground and his neck latched. Two men would pin down his hands.
The drum beats would turn faster. The Khartals rang out like a thousand broken glasses. In the yellow flames of the burning torches, the worshippers' bodies would glisten with sweat. They would sway wildly to the beat.
The executioner would then appear with a curved "Kharag", its blade gleaning. The Sadhus would loudly start reciting Mantras and then the executioner would swing the Kharag high above him and then bring it down with speed. The thud of steel on flesh and bone as the blade sliced cleanly through the neck was barely audible, but the worshippers could see the bright spurt of blood as the head hit the ground with a duller thud. The crowd would burst into a frenzied applause.
One day, an Iraqi Islamic preacher Shah Turkan Shahid, a follower of Shah Makhdum, came from Baghdad in 1279 AD and settled in Boalia. He started spreading the words of Islam but was soon in conflict with the Tantrik princes Angsu Deo Chandvandi Barmabhoj and Angsu Deo Kherjurchand Kharag Barmagujjabhoj.
Shah Turkan had a battle with the princes and was defeated and killed.
Shah Makhdum was in Noakhali at that time, spreading Islam. When he heard about the murder of Shah Turkam, he decided to teach the Tantric Rajas a lesson. He arrived with his forces in Rajshahi and fought four battles with the Rajas, defeating them each time. The last of the battles took place at Ghoramara in Rajshahi. The very name Ghoramara (dead horses) came from this battle in which hundreds of horses were killed on the battleground.
The defeated Rajas embraced Islam and established peace. The practice of human sacrifice ended but the followers of Shah Makhdum preserved the sacrificial altar which still exists in the Mazar.