In the heart of Mangaluru city, a dargah stands tall adjoining the City Police Commissionerate Office. Despite the communal upheaval witnessed by the city in the last three decades, the shrine of Hazrath Saidani Bibi Sahiba continues to attract scores of pilgrims irrespective of religion, caste or gender.
Located close to Central Maidan near the Regional Transport Office, the dargah is a routine stop for government officials, bus operators, fishermen, students, women and daily commuters who offer salutation or prayers request.
“This is probably one dargah where non-Muslims devotees outnumber their Muslim counterparts, both when it comes to prayer visits or charity. Rather than a place of worship, many feel that a vow at this shrine brings them good luck and can change their destiny,” says Adbul Hameed, the manager of the dargah.
The tomb is said to be that of a Sufi saint, Hazrath Saidani Bibi, who was a family member of a fouji (soldier) belonging to Tipu Sultan’s army.
“She was a non-combatant and highly revered by people. She blessed those who came to her. So when she died around 1912, they buried her here instead,” former president of the dargah and retired SP KS Ibrahim says.
According to Ibrahim, the present location used to function as a stable for the horses in Tipu’s army. When the British took over later, they continued to use the area for the same facility. While there is no recorded history of how the dargah was originally set up, prior to 1981 a makeshift shanty shaded the tomb. People used to visit the tomb for prayers and their offerings were scattered at the place.
Following deliberations with the then Superintendent of Police KU Balakrishna Rau and Assistant SP HT Sangliana, police personnel decided to set up a committee to look into the day-to-day affairs of the dargah under the leadership of former IPS officer MA Shafi Schamand.
“However, it was made clear to us that since Hazrath Saidani Bibi hailed from a fouji family, the administration of the committee must also be undertaken by police officers and the same was incorporated in the bylaw of the trust,” Ibrahim recalls.
Then at the cost of nearly Rs 5 lakh, a local contractor named Rama Bangera was asked to recce the city to familiarise himself with the structure of the mosque, and in 1981 the construction of the dargah was completed. In 1983, the land that shares boundaries with the District Armed Reserve (DAR) and measures 3042 sq ft was handed over to the Wakf Board. Till date, this remains to be the only dargah in the district dedicated to a woman.
Reflecting the true spirit of communal tolerance of the district, in the 38 years of its existence the revered dargah has never witnessed any untoward incident. On a first-come-first-serve basis, the dargah donates nearly 90% of the contributions it receives on educational scholarships, and medical and housing needs of the economically backward section.
“On an average, patrons contribute Rs 1.7 lakh annually, either via the donation boxes or by cheque against which receipts are issued,” retired Deputy Superintendent of Police and incumbent dargah president TCM Sharief says.
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