A Muslim artisan has devoted his abilities to shepherding the lifeless amongst Bangladesh’s Hindu minority alongside a peaceable journey to the subsequent life.
Taher Ali Khan has crafted hundreds of shrines to departed family members across the tranquil grounds of Barisal Mahashashan, the nation’s largest Hindu crematorium.
The religious mason prays 5 instances a day and adheres to all of the precepts of the Islamic religion, however has usually discovered himself keeping off criticism from individuals who query his calling.
“My prophet stated to seek out bread by sincere work. And he suggested us to chorus from stealing, hurting others or committing any crimes,” Khan, 60, informed the AFP information company.
“I work right here developing tombs,” he added. “I don’t see something that may jeopardise my faith.”
Hindus account for about 10 p.c of the majority-Muslim nation’s 169 million individuals and are nicely represented in politics, enterprise and the civil service.
However their numbers have dwindled from roughly 1 / 4 of the inhabitants in 1947, when thousands and thousands of Hindus and Muslims fled to India and Pakistan respectively after the partition of the subcontinent into two separate nations alongside spiritual strains.
One other mass exodus coincided with the nine-month Bangladesh battle of independence in 1971.
Information of the recent religious violence, wherein at the very least six individuals together with two Hindus have been killed, upset Khan, who spent the next days calling on Hindu mates to ask about their security.
“I take into account Hindus to be my brothers and sisters,” he says.
“They love me due to my work. I pour my coronary heart out into developing tombs as a result of everybody desires to construct one thing lovely for his or her lifeless.”
Khan spends most of his time on the crematorium, labouring away at ornate samadhi shrines that crisscross the grounds across the funeral pyre.
The extra humble monuments are small and unassuming concrete slabs, comparable in model to Western tombstones, with ashes from the lifeless buried beneath.
The most important are elaborate, multitiered edifices with vibrant spires that tower over the small man-made pond that greets guests on the graveyard’s entrance, which may promote for as much as 250,000 taka ($3,000).
“If I construct a wonderful Samadhi for the lifeless, it offers me monumental satisfaction,” he says. “I really feel like I’ve carried out one thing to assist them really feel good and to mourn their lifeless nicely.”
Khan realized his commerce 35 years in the past and by his estimation has constructed greater than 10,000 samadhis within the time since – most of these round Barisal crematorium are his handiwork.
“Take a look at this lovely one,” he says, gesturing at one of many shrines throughout a tour of the graveyard.
“The household wished one thing lovely for his or her younger boy, who died all of the sudden. I did it with all my love and care.”
His work is in excessive demand from Hindus residing in Barisal and from far-flung farming communities across the southern river port.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not he’s a Muslim, he does a stable job,” stated Gouranga Das, who got here to the grounds to cremate his mom and once more search Khan’s providers.
“He made my grandfather’s tomb and it was very good.”
Yearly throughout the Bhoot Chaturdashi pageant, when Hindu worshippers honour their lifeless by adorning samadhis with candles, he receives dozens of invites to commemorate family members.
After spending greater than half his life working at Barisal Mahashashan, its homeowners additionally take into account him household, though he nonetheless nominally works as a freelancer.
“Individuals come to him for developing tombstones for his or her family members as he’s the very best,” stated Tamal Malakar, the crematorium’s basic secretary.
“We love him and his work.”