Nekmarad an ancient locality situated 8 km south of Ranishankail Thana headquarters in Thakurgaon district. A pir (Muslim saint) named Sayed Nasiruddin Shah Awlia arrived in this region probably towards the end of the 12th or early 13th century. After preaching Islam at different places in West and North Bengal he permanently settled in village Bhabanandapur where he set up a Khanqah' [hermitage] and devoted himself to the mission of spreading Islam.

People fascinated by his honesty, pleasant character, and pious lifestyle called him Nekbaba (Holy Father) or Nekmarad (Holy Man). Village Bhabanandapur was named 'Nekmarad' to show devotion and respect to the saint.

Ancient large ponds as well as lots of archaeological objects are spread over an area of 18 sq km around Nekmarad. Several ancient forts, stone and bronze statues, countless old bricks and foundations of buildings etc under the ground give the idea that a prosperous settlement occupied this place in early medieval times.

Pir Shah Nekmarad was buried here. Many stone statues were found in a large pond close to his tomb. On its banks and on the wide field to its southeast, stones and foundations of ancient buildings can be seen. 10 bronze statues preserved in an earthen vessel were found at a depth of 0.6 metres underground at the time of construction of the Nekmarad High School situated to the northwest of the pond. Lots of granite and black stones are to be found lying on the banks of another pond situated northwest of the road, 500 metres west of the tomb.

Some more historical relics are noticed to the north and southwest of the Nekmarad tomb. About 1.4 km north of the tomb an ancient mud-fort called Garhgoon is found in dilapidated condition. A number of very large ponds are there to the northeast of the fort. Lots of fragmented bricks are found on all four banks of every pond. This indicates that probably there were brick-built stairs on each of the banks. A huge stone-built well is found at a place called Kumarganj situated 2.5 km. south of the tomb. The well is now completely filled up. The well was perfectly built with rough pieces of sandstone cut to size in a curved manner and fixed with brick pegs in the middle. Probably this well of Kumarganj was built in imitation of the Gorkai well.

The history of Nekmarad is not very clear due to lack of authentic information. But on the basis of archaeological remains and popular legend researchers assume that two rulers, Bhim and Prithu by name, once ruled the region. These might be prithuraja of bhitargarh (3rd-6th century AD) who came from Kamrup-Kamta and the Kaibarta King Bhim (11th century AD). However, it is not possible to come to a definite conclusion about this question.

It is supposed that a fair used to take place in this region from ancient times, which would later be named 'Nekmarad Fair' as a sign of respect to pir Nekmarad. The fair continued to be held even in the British period. Existence of the fair has been noted in the land sketch drawn by Major Sherwill (?) in 1860. The fair, which began on the first day of Baishakh (mid-April) and went on for over a month, attracted crowds from far and near. The fair was an attractive centre for trade in rare and precious commodities.

The Khanqah of Nekmarad was a centre for cultivation of knowledge. Later, aurangzeb (1658-1707) donated seven hundred bighas (some 233 acres) of land for the maintenance and development of the khanqah. During the nawabi period the Nekmarad Khanqah played important role in the propagation of Islam, and spread of Islamic education and culture in the area under Tajpur sarkar. [M Osman Ghani]