Shrine of Hazrat Bayazid Bostami
Named in honor of an Islamic saint, the Shrine of Hazrat Bayazid Bostami is located on the stop of a gently sloping hill at Nasirabad, near Chittagong in Bangladesh. The dargah, or shrine, complex consists of the tomb that has been enclosed in a modern structure, along with an ancient mosque believed to date back to the time of the last great Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb (1658-1707). While locals acknowledge that the body of Hazrat Bayazid Bostami is not in fact buried there, the tomb is nonetheless the object of veneration for the many worshippers who visit there each day.
A tank located in the stretch of ground in front of the tomb is home to a large number of a rare and critically endangered fresh-water black soft-shell turtles known as Bostami Kasim (Aspideretes nigricans). Legend has it that these turtles are the descendents of evil spirits that incurred the wrath of the renowned saint, or prophet (Hazrat) Bayazid Bostami, when he was visiting the area more than a thousand years ago. The evil spirits are believed to have been transformed into turtles as a punishment and are doomed to spend eternity in this pool. However, this confinement is not such a hardship for the turtles, as in addition to being cared for and protected by the Chittagong Endowment Committee overseeing the Shrine of Hazrat Bayazid Bostami, they are fed bits of banana and fried rice by visitors. The tank is surrounded by steps leading down onto a platform just below the surface of the water. The turtles are so accustomed to the presence of people that they gather on this platform when called, each one trying to stretch its neck longer than its neighbor’s in an attempt to be the first to receive a tasty tidbit. Sheltered nesting grounds within the enclosure create an environment favorable for the turtles to produce offspring.
The tomb with sarcophagus was originally discovered in 1831, and at the time was enclosed by a wall with protective pillars. This has been replaced by a modern structure. The ancient three-domed mosque, however, remains unchanged. The central dome is larger than the other two and the building has an octagonal tower, capped and decorated with cupolas, at each of the four corners. The interior of the mosque is sparsely decorated, while the mihrab on the qibla wall (indicating the direction of Mecca) has an identical projection on the opposite side.
Visitors to Bangladesh will find the Shrine of Hazrat Bayazid Bostami allows fascinating insight into the things which ordinary Bangladeshi’s hold in high esteem.