Buddha, Brahma or Al-Bari’, notes after a visit to Poa Mecca, Hajo

Poa Mecca
Figure 1: Pao Mecca Mosque at Hajo, Kamrup Dist, Assam  , where a  group of both men and women devotees are entering the mosque. | Source: india.com

A mosque is the place of worship for the adherents of Islam. There is an exception though, at a location where people of all religion come to pay their respects, not just Muslims. I recount this journey to a rather special place of worship.

It had been raining fiercely, and the bulk of the roads surrounding National Highway 27 were flooded, trapping our friends on the road for hours. It was Buddha Purnima, and we went in search of the location where it is believed that Buddha gained ‘Nirvana.’ We were fortunate to find this new location in addition to the well-known Hayagriva Madhav Mandir.

According to local history, ‘Poa Mecca’ is the popular name for ‘Maqam Mecca,’ which means a place, position, or a location, for Mecca. It is situated on the ‘Garurachal hills’ in the town of Hajo, approximately 25 kilometres from Guwahati. The literal meaning of Poa Mecca is ‘a quarter/sector of Mecca.’ Mecca is the holy place for the Muslims all over the world. This Poa Mecca carries the granules of soil from Mecca, and people believe that their wishes are granted after a visit to this place.  

t was our first time visiting a mosque. We were loaded with (preconceived) misconceptions acquired from our environs. We were unsure whether women and people from other religion would be permitted to enter the mosque. Eventually, we mustered all our strength and entered the Mosque; where we encountered a few people praying to ‘Allah’. They greeted us warmly and seated us on the carpet.

After paying our respects, we started searching for any literary sources to better understand the place. Observing this, the people at the mosque were courteous enough to open the gates for us, which led us to the Moghul Emperor Shahjahan’s stone inscription fixed on the outer wall of the rebuilt mosque. The inscription is dated back to 1067 A.H (Anno Hegirae; Hijri calendar predominantly used in Muslim countries) corresponding to 1656-1657 A.D. The old structure was built by Lutful’ah Shirazi an Iranian who was the contemporary to Prophet Mohammads’ time.  The inscription tells the story of commitment of Lutful’ah Shirazi, and the aid received from the Moghul prince Mohammad Shujauddin as well. According to the inscription this Mosque was renovated in 1067 A.H with the support from Hindu king Lakshmi Singha of Ahom dynasty, during the supremacy of Shahjahan. Shujauddin was one of the sons of Shahjahan and the inscribed stone renames the Poa Mecca’s location as Shuja’abad in place of Hajo. The inscribed granite is in Persian and translated to English for wider communication by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).     

The inscription relays this message: ‘a man with true and kind heart can only be part of a mosque and admire Allah’. If a man builds one mosque for Allah, Allah will build seven such Mosques for him in the future. An Islamic spiritual leader can practice Islamic Laws and offer people a respite from their  grievances at the Mosque. He is generally called as Imam by people. 

Figure 2: Stone inscription fixed on the outer wall of the rebuilt mosque at Pao Mecca, Hajo, Kamrup Dist, Assam. The inscription is dated to 1067 A.H, corresponding to 1657 A.D. | Source: Archeological Survey of India, Guwahati Circle

After understanding the historicity of the shrine, from the inscribed stone, we were asked to be seated. The Imam at the Mosque was generally curious about us; he had questions about our native place, profession and the reason behind our visit. After knowing our profession to be academicians in the social sciences, he inquired about reputed nursing colleges in India for his daughter. His daughter was keen on gaining admission to one of the best nursing institutions in India. Since women from this community (one interpretation) are not entitled to perform the same duties as that of an Imam, (the implication of this is that a woman cannot build a mosque and serve the society through a Mosque), the Imams daughter wanted to serve the people through her nursing skills. However, as we learnt later, a female Imamat is perfectly permissible in women-only mosques, which is rare in the Indian context. The Imam’s daughter at the Mosque had inherited all the sympathetic qualities which Allah conveyed to the people who follow Islam. We felt honored and privileged at having visited such an ancient mosque and got an opportunity to read the Persian Inscription inside the Mosque on the day of Buddha Purnima. The eclectic message from our visit was that be it ‘Buddha or Brahma or Al-Bari’ the ultimate meaning for life is obtained only by kindly serving others in society by being infinitely compassionate and merciful. Through our visit we were able to breakdown our own misconceptions and we returned on a positive note.

(The author is an academician and public policy practioner from Bengaluru, recently re-located to Guwahati, Assam)




Related Articles