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Saint On Tinger

2006-07-13 23:02

  To the boatmen of the river Hooghly, and the woodcutters and honey gatherers of the Sunderbans, “Gazi Saheb” is a name that is still invoked in times of storm or stress. Stories of the magical powers of this wonder-worker have been preserved in song and legend.

  South of Calcutta, where the town of Baruipur stands, there was once dense, impenetrable jungle, laced with crocodile-infested creeks. Into this wasteland came a fakir, Mobrah Gazi by name, to take up his abode at a place called Basre. He so overawed the wild beasts that they became his slaves; and the “Gazi Saheb”, as he came to be known, was often seen riding about on a tiger.

  It is said that the Zamindar of the pargana in which Basra was situated was placed under arrest because he was unable to pay the annual revenue to the Emperor at Delhi. The Zamindar's mother, fearing for her son's life sought the assistance of the great Gazi. The fakir promised him aid.

  After sending the woman who served him as a devotee home, he dismounted from his Bengal tiger and sat down in deep meditation. So great were his powers that his thoughts were telegraphed over the many hundreds miles separating his jungle from Delhi, and he gave the Emperor a dream in which he, Gazi Saheb, appeared before the Emperor, surrounded by wild beasts, and announced that he was the owner of the Basre jungles, and that the revenue would be paid from his treasures buried in the forest. He ordered the Emperor to have the Zamindar of Basre released, threatening him with every misfortune if he disobeyed.

  The Emperor woke late next morning and, overtaken by the business of his court, forgot the dream. The following morning, when he ascended his throne, instead of seeing the usual courtiers and attendants, he found himself like a mother, fearing for her son's life and sought the assistance of the great Gazi. The fakir promised his aid.

  One story tells us that the Zamindar of the pargana in which Basre was situated was placed under arrest because he was unable to pay the annual revenue to the Emperor at Delhi. The zamindar's house, the Emperor came to know, was surrounded by wild beasts. He immediately remembered his dream, and in great haste ordered the release of the zamindar. The animals vanished, and a few weeks later the revenue arrived, paid out of the Gazi's treasure.

  In gratitude for the Gazi's help, the zamindar built a mosque in the jungles of Basre, as an abode for the saint; but the Gazi Saheb- who had no use for material possessions and used his mysterious treasure only to assist others, said that he preferred the shelter of the forests in sunshine and rain, and desired neither mosque nor house. The zamindar then ordered that every village in his zamindari should erect an altar dedicated to Gazi Saheb, “King of the Sunderbans and of the Wild Beasts”, and warned his tenants that if they failed to make an offering before entering the jungle they would almost certainly be devoured by tigers or crocodiles.

  And so even today, between Calcutta and the Bay of Bengal, the Gazi Saheb is recognized as a saint in many of the villages of the Sunderbans, and his name is held in reverence by both Hindus and Muslims.

  There is no record of the Gazi Saheb ever having taken a wife, yet there are a number of fakirs who claim themselves as his descendents, gaining a livelihood from the offerings of boatmen and woodcutters. That day they do not have the powers of the original Gazi has been apparent more than once, for it is usually the fakirs, and not the village folk, who are carried off by tigers or crocodiles.

  Many people have tried to discover the whereabouts of the tomb of Gazi Saheb. Some say it lies near Baruipur, where the saint first took up his abode; others say it is to be found in the jungles of Sagar Island, “by the creek that runs to the sea.” And there are some who feel certain that there is no tomb that the Gazi Saheb left this earth in no ordinary way, but was taken to Paradise riding on a Royal Bengal Tiger.

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