The Antiquarian Remains at Maner, Patna, Bihar

The unending motion of the fourth dimension of time is the eternal law of nature. The Indian representational motif of the Chakra (wheel) has symbolized this eternal motion and has motivated spiritual seekers since times immemorial. Inquiries and speculations about the unending history of time have always occupied the intellectual human imagination. The human of the present lives in the present, and in his efforts often leaves his imprints on time. Several such imprints have faded away with the march of time, while others remain as indicators of the bygone times. A visit to historical sites connects the human of the present with the human of the past. As one examines the antiquarian remains one strikes an emotional chord with the past. The happenings of the past appear like something that happened just the other day. Silent voices enthrall the mind and guide the imagination towards visualizing the happenings of yesteryears. Several places in the Indian state of Bihar have a rich historical background, much of which has been lost to public memory. As one travels to old forgotten sites, the events of yesterday seem to be telling their own story.

The Historic town of Maner, which once lay at the junction of the river Ganga with the Son, presents itself to the traveler on the National Highway No. 30, from Varanasi to Patna, at a distance of about 17 kms from Danapur, and about 30 kms from Patna Railway Station. The Ganga-Son junction is now located at a few kilometers from Maner. A large sandy expanse covers the space between Maner and the river, which gets flooded with the river waters during the rains, and is exploited for its sands used in construction works. A small distance from Maner, lies the British-built rail-cum-road Sone Bridge at Koelwar, which still caters to the needs of modern travelers, though under heavy pressure. The town of Maner is known for its historical remains which attract the attention of visitors, and often transport one’s imagination to the times when the place would have been in its full glory. The town is revered as a bastion of Sufism and is home to the tombs of famous medieval Sufi saints. The remains at Maner include beautiful medieval tombs of important Sufi saints. It has become contemporarily famous for its delicious laddoos (a local sweet), and for the Sufi festivals hosted by the tourism department from time to time. As one glosses through the history of Maner one finds that not much is known about its ancient history though it had been very important in medieval times.

The History of Maner

Maner in Ancient Times

The very name of ‘Maner’ seems to have been derived from a similar ancient name even as the origin is not clearly established. The earliest known reference emerges from a copper plate of the Gahadvala king Govinda-chandra of Kanauj, dated V.S. 1183 (A.D. 1126), which was found at Maner itself. It records that the King granted the villages Gunave and Padali in Maniari-pattala to a Brahmin named Gunesvara-Sarman. Another copper plate of King Jayachandra, also of Kanauj, dated V.S. 1232 (A.D. 1175), found near Benares, likewise mentions Ma(na)ra-pattala. A second inscription of the same king again refers to Maniari, in Jaru (ttha)-pattala. From these inscriptional references it is quite clear that Maner was a well known place in the centuries before the Muhammadan conquest and may have possessed some Hindu monuments or templesKeeping the origin of names of similar ancient sites in mind, it appears that the name Maner may have been derived from the worship of ‘Mani Naga’ signifying the importance of Shaivite serpent worship at the site in ancient times.

Importantly, evidence of ancient serpent worship since 3rd century B.C. to the Gupta age (5th century A.D.) has been found by Cunningham and others during the excavations at another site named Maniyar Math in nearby Rajgir (Nalanda district). The name ‘Mani Naga’ was found inscribed over a deified Naga (snake) sculpture found in this site. According to the Mahabharata, Mani Naga was the protector of the city of Rajgir. As Hafiz S. Ahmad mentions, at Gauria-Asthan village near Maner on the National Highway there is “a sort of temple with a Neem tree over it” believed to have been the site where a palace stood in the times of the Raja, and where the cultivators, while tilling the land, have occasionally found small snakes, made of pure gold. This may also be taken to indicate that in the ancient times, Maner could have been an important Shaivite site of worship.

The early history of Maner is shrouded in mystery. Maner has been extensively referred to in medieval documents, and portions of its history have been related. Its earliest mention is made in texts only in connection with the conquest of Bihar and Bengal by Bakhtiyar Khilji. But from the remains at Maner and popular local traditions, it is clear that Maner has been important in historical times, even before it gained prominence after the advent of Islam. It was visited by Francis Buchanan on 27th February, 1812, and he has described the same in his Journal of Patna and Gaya. He has mentioned that he had gone to Maner which was large and populous by “passing along the Son the whole way, for it now joins the Ganges at Serpur, and not at Moner as in the time of Mr. Renell.” A systematic account is found in Kuraishi’s list, and in an article on Maner by Hafiz Shamsuddin Ahmad, published in the proceedings of the Oriental Conference of 1930. According to Firishta, Maner was founded by one Firuz Rai, son of Kesho Rai, who was a descendant of Noah, eight degrees removed. In fact the date for Kesvaraja by Ferishta is around 1429 B.C., while Feroz-Ra is placed around 1209 B.C. But these appear to be purely legendary personages, for they are not known from any historical source.  Hafiz S. Ahmad mentions that the origin of Maner may date back to some pre-Christian era; and it may have been a centre of Buddhist culture. Hafiz has mentioned that according to local traditions, the site contained some temples thousands of years old, which were demolished by the Muslim conquerors. As on date a few mutilated remains of that period such as the stone Lion called Singh Sadaul, near the north-eastern entrance of the Bari Dargah, still survive as a reminder of its earlier history. The lower jaw of the lion is gone, while the elephant held between its fore-paws has lost its trunk. Kuraishi’s List also mentions about the antiquity of Maner and that “Evidence of the former existence of Hindu or Buddhist buildings at Maner is to be seen in a damaged stone tiger now lying near the north gate of the Bari Dargah. It is a medieval sculpture, and depicts a tiger crushing an elephant between its fore-legs.”

Buchanan during his visit in 1811 was told that Maner was once “the residence of a Brahman Chief”, which was destroyed by the Muhammedans. That it was an important place in the pre-Muhammadan times is quite obvious from the inscriptions of 11th -12th centuries A.D as referred above. Several inscriptions have been noted at Maner so far, and more may be revealed if a proper excavation around the ruins is carried out.  D.R. Patil mentions in the Antiquarian Remains of Bihar (1963) “Earlier Hindu remains are, therefore, to be expected to exist at the place; but they do not seem to have been looked for carefully uptil now and the village explored for this purpose. Some ancient mounds are, however reported to exist at the village, yielding, it is said, pieces of the famous northern black-polished pottery belonging to the 2nd – 6th centuries before the Christian era. If this is so, the place would be a very ancient one and thus deserves a thorough exploration. A stone colossus of a lion figure of the late medieval period (i.e. 10th – 12th centuries A.D.) still exists near the site of the tomb of the Muslim saint, testifying to its pre-Muhammadan antiquity to a certain extent.”

It is thus certain that upto A.D. 1175, Maner was part of the territory of the Gahadvalas of Kanauj, as indicated from the copper plate referred above. As per the Muslim traditions, Islam had arrived here several years before the invasion of Bihar and Bengal by the invader Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji around 1193 A.D., and was certainly in existence in 1180 A.D., when the Raja of Maner was defeated by one Muhammad alias Taj Faqih, a resident  of Jerusalem, who after hearing of cruelties done by the Raja of Maner to one Hazrat Momin Arif – who originally belonged to Yemen but had settled at Maner – came all the way to Bihar with his followers and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Raja.

Hafiz Shamsuddin Ahmad mentions “The greater part of Maner is now in ruins; but it must have been a large and well populated town in ancient times; as its remains, scattered over a large area, indicate. It is at present the centre of a Pargana with a Police Station, a Post Office and a Charitable Dispensary attached to it; but in ancient Persian records it is invariably mentioned as a ‘Badla’, i.e. a town; and old legal documents refer to it as Adalat-ul-Alia, a High Court, with signatures of two Qazis on them, which point out unmistakably to the fact that during the Muhammadan period, it must have been a place of great political importance. It was more or less an important place during the Hindu period also; for in the account of the conquest of Bihar by the Muhammadans, the historians mention Maner along with Bihar as a separate entity. This importance of Maner was, no doubt, due to its topography. Situated just at the junction of the two great rivers, the Ganges and the Son, it was on the high way of commerce and must have been a trade centre; while with a high and strong fortress on the river side to protect it, it must have commanded a position of great strategic importance in those times.”

Advent of Sufism in Maner and Bihar

The medieval ages saw the emergence of Maner as an important centre of Sufism, from where it spread to the other parts of Bihar. Historically, Maner was the first abode of Islam in Bihar, and it was from here that it spread rapidly eastwards towards Bihar Sharif, and other places. The Muslim tradition as quoted in details by Hafiz S. Ahmad, Asst Professor of Patna College (1930), assigns Maner a very high place in the religious history of Bihar. Kuraishi’s List mentions that the pargana was generally called in old histories as “Maner-i-Shaikh Yahya”. Sultan Sikandar Lodi (but not the Emperor Babar) is related to have made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Shaikh Yahya. In the Ain-i-Akbari, Maner is described as situated near the junction of the Son with the Ganges. Though Bakhtiyar is commonly believed as the first Muslim invader in Magadha, however, according to the local tradition, Maner was first conquered by Sultan Mahmud’s men; and the grave of Prince Tajuddin Khandgah said to be Sultan Mahmud’s nephew, in the courtyard of Bari Dargah, also lends credence to this story. Whether Maner was conquered in Sultan Mahmud’s time or in the time of his successors, it is certain that it had fallen under the sway of the Muhammadans long before Bakhtiyar Khilji came. A Turk’s duty is mentioned in the Maner Copper Plate of King Govind Chandra, which in turn suggests that well before (in 1126 A.D. itself) the invasion of Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1197 A.D., the people of Maner were paying Turk’s duty as a regular payment like other state dues such as trade duties and the revenue. Hafiz concludes that long before Bakhtiyar’s advent in Bihar, some part of the Province including Maner had fallen under a sort of suzerainty of the Turks (the Ghaznavite emperors) who used to receive regular tribute from these places.

According to Hafiz S.Ahmad, the local traditions speak of one Hazrat Momin Arif, who had migrated from his native country Yemen to India, as being the first Muslim settler in Maner. He is regarded as a great Saint and a large section of the inhabitants of Maner trace their descent from him. His grave lies to the north-west of the Inspection Bungalow in Maner. Hafiz also suggests that Momin Arif may have been a representative of the Ghaznavite rulers to receive duty on their behalf. As the Ghaznavite rule grew weak, the Raja of Maner, probably a feudatory chief, tried to stop payment by persecuting him in various ways so that he might depart from his dominions. When life at Maner became intolerable to him, he left for the Muslim world and told the tale of his persecution wherever he went. At Madina, one Hazrat Taj Faqih, an inhabitant of Jerusalem, joined him with his party and started for India. On their way to India they were supported and joined by many Muslim warriors and princes till their small party swelled into a fairly large army. This army is believed to have entered India through the usual north-west route and passed quietly through the greater part of India till it arrived at the river Karamnasa near Buxar, on the western side of the boundary of the dominions of the Raja of Maner. There a pitched battle ensued in which the Raja’s army was routed and hotly chased to the very gates of Maner. There the Raja made his final stand, and after a brave struggle was defeated and killed. The large number of the graves of Shahids (Muslim martyrs) at Maner proves to a certainty that the resistance offered by the Raja was very great and the Muslims got the possession of Maner after the greater part of the Raja’s army was destroyed.

In this regard Hafiz mentions “The fort was dismantled, and its site is now indicated by the great mound on the north-west of Maner which probably still contains many archaeological treasures within its womb. The great temple, reputed to be thousands of years old, was razed to the ground, and later on, Bari Dargah was built on its ruins. The broken lion statue at its gate was left to celebrate the Muslim victory to the future generations. The house of the Raja in the fort was also taken possession of and converted to the use of the conqueror…… The date of this victory which marks the permanent establishment of Muslim rule in Maner is contained in the chronogram ‘translation = The religion of Muhammad has been strengthened’ which is equal to 576 A.H. (1180 A.D.) The very wording of the chronogram indicates that this was not the first conquest of Maner by the Muslims. This event happened seventeen years before Bakhtiyar Khilji came. Is appears that the victory of Muslims in Maner was not of a very local character; for, we find several comrades of Hazrat Taj Faqih to have fallen and buried in places quite far off from Maner; for example, Shah Burhan Roshan Shahid is buried in village Kumharar south of Patna, and Chandan Shahid is buried on a hillock in Sasaram. So, Bakhtiyar must have found it smooth work to run over the greater part of Bihar, as history proves.”

D.R. Patil mentions “If this tradition at all represents a historical fact, the Muslim conquest of Maner must be treated as an isolated event; since the territory all around was then held by the Gahadvalas and the general conquest of the region by the Muslims under Bakhtiyar Khilji had taken place only after 1193 A.D.”  It is stated that after establishment of Muslim rule in Maner, Hazrat Taj Faqih left his sons and grandsons to rule over it and himself went back to Madina. Hazrat Makhdum Yahya was one of his grandsons, and came to rule Maner in his turn. But he was very much given to Sufistic devotion, and when Bakhtiyar Khilji arrived at Maner, he made over the kingdom to him and retired into a private life of devotion and mystical practices. Hafiz S. Ahmad, says that the country was handed over to Bakhtiyar Khilji by the saint Yahya Maneri, grandson of Taj Faqih. Bukhari, however, quotes another local tradition that Hazrat Makhdum Israil, oldest son of the Imam (i.e. Taj Faqih) handed over the country to Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193 since Israil died in 1196 and thus would have been in charge of the territory.

Since then, his whole family adopted the life of religious devotees and produced a large number of well known saints. His son was the celebrated saint Hazrat Makhdum Sharfuddin Ahmad of Bihar who is regarded almost as great as Khwaja Moinuddin of Ajmere. His father-in-law was Shaikh Shahabuddin, also known as Pir Jag Jot, the famous saint buried in Kachi Dargah, east of Patna; and one of his sisters-in-law was Bibi Kamalo, the well-known female saint, who rests in the village Kako, Dist Jehanabad. Hazrat Makhdum Shah Daulat, whose remains lie in the beautiful mausoleum, called Chhoti Dargah in Maner, was one of his descendants in the eighth degree. In fact all the holy orders of saints in Bihar whether at Phulwari-sharif, Bihar-sharif or elsewhere, trace their descent, lineal or spiritual, to this one great source of spiritualism.

The Historical Remains at Maner

The ASI list of protected Maner monuments includes the tomb of Shah Makhdum Daulat Maneri and Ibrahim Khan, Tank, and ancient mounds along with ruined brick walls in Survey Plot Nos. 399, 608 and 611. These along with others are briefly described here.

The Badi Dargah

Entrance to the Badi Dargah

Tomb of Shaikh Yahya Maneri

As one approaches Maner from the NH 30, this is the first major site to be met, and is the holiest of all sites in Maner. This tomb is situated to the east of the tank and enshrines the mortal remains of Shaikh Yahya Maneri, who died in A.H. 660 (i.e. 1291 A.D) at the age of 110. It is stated that because of his high reputation as a saint, great emperors like Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq, Sikandar Lodi, Emperor Babar and the famous musician Tansen paid homage to his tomb. The building containing his grave is locally known as Badi Dargah (i.e. literally, larger tomb); though in fact it is quite insignificant and small a structure as compared with the other larger mausoleum called as Choti Dargah (i.e. literally, the smaller tomb). This is so probably since Shaikh Yahya was a more reputed ancestor of Shah Daulat whose grave is enshrined in the latter edifice. The building of the Badi Dargah consists of a walled enclosure, with a gallery running along its north.

Buchanan visited the remains at Maner and mentioned about the Badi Dargah as “merely a grave under a tree with a white sheet spread over it, but it is surrounded by a brick wall, and there is a small mosque within this and some cloisters for the reception of Fakirs. Many of the faithful are buried within the enclosure, which is as usual slovenly and ruinous. In this simple manner was buried the first propagator of the faith in these parts.” Hafiz Shamsuddin Ahmad mentions:- “If you want to enter the Dargah from the tank side, a long flight of steps will take you to its door facing the west. It has, however, another door on the northern side, and outside the door there are some tombs and the lion statue called Singh Sadaul mentioned above. The building consists of a very extensive boundary wall with many tombs inside, and a mosque on the west, and a small varandah on the north. This is called Bari Dargah (the great shrine) because the great saint Hazrat Makhdum Yahya of Maner, the same who, during his early career, made his kingdom over to a Muslim conqueror, and who, later on, became the father of such an illustrious son as Hazrat Makhdum Sharafuddin of Bihar, lies buried there. The visitor will observe, just east to the mosque, a small platform surrounded by a railing containing a few tombs, one of which is the tomb of the great saint mentioned above. There is no canopy or dome above his tomb, for it was his express desire that the vault of heaven only was to serve as a canopy over his grave. The construction of the dargah was undertaken centuries after his death. Before the erection of the building of the Dargah, the ground was probably a mound consisting of the heap of ruins of the great temple of the Raja of Maner, which was razed to the ground by the Muslim conquerors, and on this mound was Hazrat Makhdum Yahya buried after his death in 1292 A.D. The tradition that Bari Dargah was erected on the site of a great temple appears to be correct. The stone lion called Singh Sadaul looks very like a sculpture usually found at the gate of large temples, and probably in the times of yore, it used to keep watch at the gate of the great temple, as it now does, at the gate of the Bari Dargah. Within the courtyard of the Dargah, there are certain stone pillars which appear to be of very ancient origin, look like remnants of a demolished building and apparently serve no useful purpose there. Probably these pillars also were left to point out that there was a temple there. During my enquiry, I learnt that formerly there were several pillars of this type, but some of them were removed by unscrupulous persons and only a few of them are now left. Then, the stone lintel of the northern gate also deserves attention. It is a very solid and thick piece or granite stone, and has certain grooves in it, which show it was formerly a base or platform on which some other piece of stone (may be a statue) was fixed; and from underneath this stone peeps another black stone, and may be the statue itself put there by the bigoted builders to be permanently trodden by visitors. It is, however, a mere guess and cannot be ascertained or verified unless the lintel-stone is removed from its place.”

The tomb as mentioned by Buchanan, Hafiz, Kuraishi and others stands on the site of an earlier Hindu temple, and is also amply testified by some carved pillars and a lintel found in its premises and by the lion colossus called ‘Shardul’ or ‘Singh Sadaul’ lying near its entrance on the north. The tomb proper is in the middle of the enclosure. The locals I interacted with during my visit were not aware about the historical importance of the Shardul sculpture. One of the caretakers of the Dargah narrated a curious legend about the sculpture as being of a heavenly bird who turned into stone as it was trying to save the mini elephant from drowning, when it got in touch with the holy water of wazu.

On the central portion of the western gallery is a mosque attached to the tomb. The main mosque is a three domed building with a pucca platform outside. The mosque is in a very dilapidated condition, and almost on the point of crumbling down to the ground. This mosque and the boundary wall of Bari Dargah were built under the orders of the same Ibrahim Khan Kakar who effected the construction of the tank and the Chhoti Dargah. The inscription at the door of the Mosque gives 1014 A.H. (1606 A.D.) as the date of its construction. There are a number of other graves inside the enclosure including the one of Prince Tajuddin Khandgah, said to be a scion of the family of Mahmud of Ghazni. Outside its northern gate there is an open mosque said to be built by two Khwaja Saras (eunuchs or chamberlains) of king of Delhi who were later buried here at their express injunction, saying that as they had spent their whole life at the court of a temporal king, they wanted, after death, to be attached to the court of a spiritual king.

The Chhoti Dargah or Tomb of Shah Daulat

Tomb of Shah Makhdum Daulat Maneri and Ibrahim Khan

This is the most magnificent monument at Maner and was observed by Buchanan, as “a fine piece of work” and “by far the handsomest building that I have seen in the course of the survey”. The tomb is situated immediately to the north of the tank at Maner and occupies the centre of a large brick enclosure measuring 257 by 252 feet and about 10 feet high. At each of the four corners of the enclosure is a twelve sided tower, two of which, on the west, are still standing to their original height. The southern wall of the enclosure has been further strengthened by two extra towers of the same shape, and one of these, near the south west corner, contains a flight of steps leading to the top of the terrace. The complete towers on the west side are two storeys in height, and are built with a slight taper upwards. Of the other two on its east side, the one in the south-east corner is provided with stone jali in each of the alternate sides of its upper storey.

As well described by Kuraishi, the tomb proper is built entirely of Chunar sandstone and consists of the main chamber, 31’ square internally and 34’8” square externally, surrounded by a verandah, 11’8” wide, all around, the whole building standing on a low platform, 2’4” in height and 58’ square. The high ceilings of stone in the verandahs bear exquisite carved panels with floral and geometrical patterns and calligraphic devices containing the Quranic verses. At the corners of the verandahs are open-sided rooms, with small domed cupolas above them, each resting on twelve pillars. The roof of the main chamber is supported on four lofty stone pillars on each side, with thin stone-built curtain walls in between them, adorned with horizontal mouldings and rows of niches and arches, fitted with stone screens or jails. The pillar-bracket-lintel method of support is used in the construction and continued upwards upto the base of the dome, by changing the square of the ground-plan, first to octagon and then gradually to a circle, so as to form the base of the dome above. There are two inscriptions on this building including one indicating the date of death of Hazrat Makhdum Shah Daulat of Maner, whose remains lie buried in this building. The grave of Shah Daulat is in the centre of the chamber, while that of Ibrahim Khan, the builder of the tomb is in the middle of the western gallery of the enclosure and has an inscription in Persian couplets, recording its completion in A.H. 1028 (A.D. 1619) by Ibrahim Khan, the builder of the main tomb. Hafiz Shamsuddin Ahmad, mentions the tomb as “a fine specimen of Indo-Saracenic, or, what may more particularly termed, Moghal style.”

The Chhoti Dargah was not properly maintained in the times of Buchanan who mentions “Fakirs have been allowed to boil their pots in the porticos, and have overwhelmed them with soot, to remedy which irregular patches over the pots have been whitewashed. One of the corner chambers is occupied by a beastly ascetic, who has shut up the doors and windows with old pots, clay and cow-dung patched together in the rudest manner, nor are any pains taken to keep the place in repair; yet the descendant of the saint has 6,000 bighas free of rent, and that of the richest quality. The whole is said to be expended in the feeding in idle squalid mendicants, vagrants who are in this country an intolerable nuisance.” Today it is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, but is in use by the pilgrims who come from large distances.

The Main Gate of the Chhoti Dargah

The main entrance is on the north, having guard-rooms on both sides of the entrance passage and a dome above, flanked by a small octagonal tower on its either side. The entrance gate has an inscription in Arabic verse referring to its construction in A.H. 1022 (i.e. A.D. 1613) A wide flight of stone steps from the ground leads to it, and the top portion of the gate has an inscription as follows:-

In the name of God, kind and merciful. There is no God but Allah: Muhammad is his prophet.

I was thinking of the date of this gate, My heart was living in its vicinity:

My intelligence said, by way of command, Say, ‘Whoever entered it is safe’.

When in this sacred shrine of the king, The face of decoration was completed,

I searched for its date; My intelligence, for this auspicious place,

Opened its lips in prayer and said:- ‘May the gate of Daulat (Fortune) remain always open’.”

 Hafiz S. Ahmad has mentioned the gate as having been beautifully designed after the usual Moghal style. However, a reading of the inscription as above suggests that the Gate may have been pre-existing and may have been suitably modeled according to the needs of the Chhoti Dargah. This is more so since there are sculptures of elephants on all balconies which suggest a Hindu origin for the Gate, as Islamic monuments of that age do not have such figures of animals. However, this seems to have missed the attention of the surveyors or they have preferred to no pay much attention to this element of surprise.

Mosque in Chhoti Dargah

Just in front of the mausoleum, on the western side, stands the beautiful mosque, centrally situated between the two long varandahs which run north and south along the whole length of the great platform. The most striking feature of the Mosque according to Hafiz is the absence of the usual domes in it. Instead of domes, a long arched roof has been provided, the exterior of which has been beautifully moulded into a roof slanting thatch-like on both sides, while the interior reveals a fine arched ceiling which is supported on the pilasters that rise along the walls in relief and bend inwards, presenting an appearance of ribs in the ceiling. The designer of the building probably did not like to detract from the grandeur of the domed mausoleum, and so, designed a new type of roof for the mosque. The inscription on the mosque bears the date of 1028 A.H. (1619 A.D.) Hafiz mentions about the underground cell at the southern-most corner which is, “supposed to be the place where Hazrat Makhdum Shah Daulat used to retire for prayer and meditation”. 

The Tank

On the southern side of the Choti Dargah is the tank measuring 600’ by 440’ approximately. A local tradition, as quoted by Hafiz S. Ahmad, would indicate that originally the tank was excavated in the earlier Hindu period, when a temple stood now occupied by the site of the Badi Dargah mentioned above. All the existing masonry and stone works of the tank, however have been mentioned to belong to the Muhammadan period and are attributed to Ibrahim Khan, the builder of Choti Dargah. It is enclosed by masonry walls with flight of steps or ghats leading down to water. It had in the middle of each side, excepting the southern side, two pavilions, projecting into the tank, with cupolas above them. Of these pavilions only one to the east and two to the west now exist in ruins. The tank was originally fed, through an inlet tunnel, by the river Son – which once flowed nearby – but it is now fed by the rain water. It seems right upto Buchanan’s time (i.e. about 1812), the river was flowing by the side of the tank; though now it is far to the west, about four miles away. The inlet tunnel is about 300’ long and 6’ in diameter and is throughout its length, arched over and provided with apertures, fitted with stone slabs at intervals for facility of periodical clearance. Buchanan has described it as a “fine tank, which communicates with the Son by a subterraneous tunnel, but at this season the water is dirty and full of weeds. It is lined all round with brick, and at each side has had a stair of brick with a platform on each side, and on each platform is a small cupola but these buildings have become ruinous, and the bare heaps of earth by which the tank is surrounded must always have spoiled the effect.”

Hafiz S. Ahmad mentions “According to the traditions, this tank was cutcha during the Hindu period, and a large temple overlooked it on the eastern side. It was beautifully designed and made pucca with masonry and stone, during the Muhammadan period, under the orders of Ibrahim Khan Kakar…… These buildings at the four ghats are not only useful and convenient to the bathers, but are also fine places for fishing, picnic and pleasure parties. We can very well imagine that during its palmy days, this tank with its ghat and canopies, must have afforded ample pleasure to the inhabitants of Maner. But it is to be regretted that now, a great part of this fine tank is in ruins; some of the canopies and ghats have disappeared, others are slowly yielding to the ravages of time, and unless great efforts are made to preserve it, it will not be long before it becomes a pit with a heap of ruins on all sides.”

Kuraishi mentions that Ibrahim Khan probably intended to construct a mausoleum for himself on the other side of the tank, about where the Inspection Bungalow now stands. But his death occurred before the project could be accomplished, and he is now buried at the feet of his spiritual guide Makhdum Shah Daulat. The Inspection Bungalow commands a very fine view of the tank, picturesquely shaded by clusters of trees on either side, and of the mausoleum of Shah Daulat in the background.

Ruins of old Hindu Fort and buildings

To the north or north-west of the Chhoti Dargah are shown the ruins of the old Hindu fort and of the palace of the Hindu Raja destroyed by Taj Faqih. Hafiz mentions that it is not clear how far the so called male and female Riwaq or “apartments”, still shown to exist here, really represent the earlier Hindu buildings; for they must have undergone changes during the intervening centuries. The apartments are associated with the birth of Yahya and contain a curious piece of wooden furniture called Chauki or low table, on which it is said, the mother of Makhdum Sharfuddin of Bihar, used to say her prayers, over six hundred years ago. The spot is thus invested with considerable religious sanctity and is equally interesting historically and archaeologically. But the information on it, so far available, is not quite complete. It, therefore, needs to be examined and explored more thoroughly and systematically for the earlier Hindu remains it is likely to contain. Hafiz mentions that on proceeding from this place towards the river in the west, “we meet several other tombs of martyrs such as Lurbek Shahid, Taj Shahid, Ali Shahid, Masum Shahid, etc. The tomb of Ali Shahid is situated near the ghat, called Ali Shahid ghat, after him. The narrow passage leading to the ghat has vestiges of old brick work here and there, and in one place, there are unmistakable signs of a large gate. Probably this was one of the gates of the Raja’s fort opening towards the river.”

Other Important Historical Remains at Maner

Tomb of Makhdum Shah Baran Malikul-Ulama : Makhdum Shah Baran Malikul-ulama, was the Pir of Sher Shah. It is said the latter hastily killed the Saint for having made a false prediction, but later repented for the act. Hafiz Shamsuddin Ahmad, mentions the interesting story relating to the Afghan ruler of India, Sher Shah Suri, “Further west from Chhoti Dargah, across the passage from the village to the tank, is the tomb of Makhdum Shah Baran Malikul-Ulama, another well known saint, who was the Pir of Sher Shah Sur. According to the local tradition, Makhdum Shah Baran once told Sher Shah that the throne of Delhi was lying vacant for him. Sher Shah took the hint and prepared for attacking Hamayun, who at this time happened to be away from his capital on a hunting trip. Sher Shah, however, took a long time in making his preparations, and when he proceeded to attack Hamayun, the latter had returned and was fully prepared to meet him. The result was that Sher Shah failed in his attempt and became furious that his Pir had made a false prediction. So, he returned to Maner and killed Makhdum Shah Baran. Later on, however, when he succeeded in wresting the throne of Delhi from Hamayun, he recollected the prediction of his Pir and repented his hasty action. So he sent a large amount of money to his Pir’s successor and asked for pardon. The latter, however, refused to take the money, but declared that, as Sher Shah was a just king, he would go to paradise after his death; but for his great sin of killing his Pir, instead of burning in the fires of hell, he would burn to death in this world. And so it happened, for Sher Shah was burned by an explosion of his magazine while supervising the siege of the fort of Kalinjar and died shortly after.”

Tomb of Hazrat Momin Arif: As mentioned by Hafiz, Arif was probably the earliest Musalman inhabitant of ManerThe monument is a simple grave without any building or canopy over it, at some distance on the north from the building mentioned above. The anniversary of Hazrat Momin Arif is celebrated in the month of Raniu-l-Awal with due ceremonies every year.

Tomb of Tangur Kuli Khan of Badakshan: Tangur Kuli Khan was the architect or engineer, who designed the tank, the Chhoti Dargah and other important buildings, but died long before the completion of these works; for he died in A.H. 983 (1556 A.D.). The building is situated south-east of the Inspection Bungalow. His own tomb is, says Hafiz S. Ahmad, “a beautiful construction” surrounded by an enclosure wall, with a mosque on its western side. Hafiz was informed that “the tomb was formerly covered by a beautiful stone canopy which however, fell down by wear and tear of time; and the stones were removed by persons requiring them for private purposes.”

Tombs of Haji Safiuddin and Haji Nizamuddin : These were two brothers and their tombs, situated near the tomb above in the south-east corner from the Inspection Bungalow, are frequently resorted to by people, especially women-folk, who are supposed to be possessed by evil spirits. They were perhaps some mystics but little is known of their history. Nearby are tombs of nine unknown persons who might likewise have been mystics.

Other buildings and tombs at Maner include

  1. Tomb of Meer Qitab Abdal, a nephew of Hazrat Qadir Jilani of Bagdad, and a very great saint, also known as Baba Pir Sahib.
  2. Tomb of Hussain Khan, a great wrestler and comrade of Taj Faqih.
  3. Tomb of Hazrat Jalal Maneri, a cousin of Makhdum Yahya Maneri.
  4. A very small mosque called as “Dhai Kangure ki Masjid” (Mosque of two and half minarets). Nothing is known of its history and builder.

Hafiz Shamsuddin Ahmad has mentioned that besides the above monuments numerous other tombs exist round the village, scattered over miles around, about whom local stories and legends are not wanting. They are mostly of Shahids or martyrs who died fighting for the cause of Islam. The tomb in Qazi Tola of the village, however is said to be of Hazrat Makhdum Ruknuddin Marghilani who was a teacher of Makhdum Yahya. It is thus a very old structure, standing on a small mound of earth and has an open mosque attached to it. Hafiz further mentions “If we go from this place to the main road which lies not very far in the east, and walk on that road northward to some distance, we shall meet a half broken tomb on the road itself. It is said to belong to a Shahid (a martyr), and it is related that when the road was under construction, the engineer ordered the demolition of the tomb in order to clear the road, but at the first stroke of the pick-axe, it began to bleed, on which he was frightened and allowed it to remain as it was. Nothing more could be known about it. If we proceed on the same road further on till we arrive near the Police Station, we find a place south of the road and west of the Police Station which is called Barah Gor (twelve tombs), and it is supposed to be the place where certain twelve martyrs were buried. This place is said to possess the efficacy of curing persons bitten by dogs; and men suffering from hydrophobia are often taken to that place and it is said they are cured of their malady.”

Ibrahim Khan Kakar : the Main Builder

Hafiz S. Ahmad gives an insight about the main builder of the monuments at Maner. He mentions :- “It was Ibrahim Khan Kakar. He was an Afghan by race, and was a disciple of Hazrat Makhdum Shah Daulat of Maner. Abdur Rahim Khan Khanan, the renowned general of Akbar and Governor of Gujarat, also was a disciple of the same saint. Ibrahim was a poor man and in very straitened circumstances. Once, he was recommended by the saint to Khan Khanan who took him along himself to Gujarat and employed him in his army. Ibrahim proved his worth and valour, rose in the Imperial service, and in Emperor Jahangir’s time, the title of Dilawar Khan was conferred on him. He remained during the rest of the life in Kishtawar and Gujarat, and did excellent service there; as has been mentioned in the memoirs of Jahangir. He died in 1028 A.H. (1619 A.D). While in Gujarat, he planned the construction of the tank and the mausoleums at Maner and deputed a certain engineer, Tangur Kuli Khan of Badakshan, to make the project and prepare the drawings of the proposed buildings. This engineer made his plans, and probably started the construction of the tank, but he did not live long enough to see his whole project materialise. Ibrahim Khan Kakar was, however, more fortunate in this respect; for he saw the construction of all his proposed buildings, so close to his heart, fairly started; though he also died before the completion of the best of them. He died in the year 1619 A.D., as mentioned before and was buried beside his spiritual guide, Makhdum Shah Daulat of Maner.”


Hafiz Shamsuddin Ahmad mentions “The greater part of Maner is now in ruins; but it must have been a large and well populated town in ancient times; as its remains, scattered over a large area, indicate. It is at present the centre of a Pargana with a Police Station, a Post Office and a Charitable Dispensary attached to it; but in ancient Persian records it is invariably mentioned as a ‘Badla’, i.e. a town; and old legal documents refer to it as Adalat-ul-Alia, a High Court, with signatures of two Qazis on them, which point out unmistakably to the fact that during the Muhammadan period, it must have been a place of great political importance. It was more or less an important place during the Hindu period also; for in the account of the conquest of Bihar by the Muhammadans, the historians mention Maner along with Bihar as a separate entity. This importance of Maner was, no doubt, due to its topography. Situated just at the junction of the two great rivers, the Ganges and the Son, it was on the high way of commerce and must have been a trade centre; while with a high and strong fortress on the river side to protect it, it must have commanded a position of great strategic importance in those times.”

Not much has changed since Hafiz wrote for the Oriental Conference in 1930. As mentioned by Patil, the importance of Maner in ancient times is still not fully understood. Apart from the so far known remains at Maner, much yet remain to be revealed. Since the place is known to have a long continuing history since ancient times, it deserves further exploration. Unfortunately, scientific excavations at Maner have not received due attention and much of its history still remains to be revealed. A tourist complex with a restaurant has come up in the vicinity of the large ancient tank, and secures some visitors from the locality. The site buzzes with local picknickers on the new-year day, and has occasional visitors on other days. Several pilgrims visit the shrine of Sheikh Yahya Maneri. The atmosphere here is charged with devotion and a continued reverence for the departed saint.

Leave a Comment