Panch Pir

Panch Pir an important development in the concept of Pirism in Bengal. With the spread of Islam to distant lands Muslims came in contact with people of other religions. As a result Islam influenced other religions and likewise others also influenced Islam and the Muslims. The influence was mainly through the Pirs or saintly persons.

The adoration of Panch-Pir (five saints) was prevalent in some parts of Bengal, particularly in West Bengal in the districts of Burdwan and Midnapore. Panch-Pir, as family deities, represented by a small mound on a clay plinth erected in the northwest corner of one of the rooms of the house, was worshipped both by Muslims and Hindus, particularly of the lower strata of the society. On the mound was fixed a piece of iron, resembling a human head and five fingers resembling the five pirs. In sonargaon, there is a dargah known as Panch-Pirer dargah, and the sailors of the coastal districts of East Bengal, remember Panch-Pir along with 'Pir Badar', with a view of averting dangers.

It is difficult to trace the origin of the reverence to the Panch-Pir. The date of the Panch-Pir dargah of Sonargaon is not known. By the side of the dargah, there is a mosque, with no inscription attached to the mosque and it has been completely renovated so that the date of the construction of the mosque cannot be ascertained. Though the name of Parch-Pir is associated with Pir Badar in the ballads, Pir Badar also cannot be identified. There are several places where Pir Badar is remembered. But if Pir Badar of the ballads is identified with Pir Badar or Badar Shah associated with the Muslim conquest of Chittagong, it may be assumed that the Panch-Pir concept originated in the 14th century. Of course, the Panch-Pir could have been associated with the name of Pir Badar at a later date as well.

It is difficult to ascertain who the five pirs were. Lists of Panch-Pir found at different places differ, they include some local pirs, though one 'Ghazi Miyan' is common, but who is this Ghazi Miyan is not known. Those who are killed in jihad (religious war) are called Shahid (martyr) and those who come out successful are called Ghazi. Ghazi stands for valour and heroism. The poor and lower class village folk, therefore, adored Panch-Pir as symbol of power and they sought asylum under their protection. [Abdul Karim]