It took 43 years for passenger train service between Dhaka and Kolkata to resume after the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
That’s less than half of the Bangladesh to India service life of the Midnapore Urs. Since 1903, the governments of India, Bangladesh and for a time Pakistan, allow a Special Train carrying pilgrims from Rajbari, Bangladesh, to Midnapore, West Bengal and back, to continue its annual rail service largely uninterrupted.
“Every year on February 15th, people of all faiths go to Midnapore Urs to seek blessings of the Boro Huzur, a descendant of Boropir Abdul Qadir Jilani, who came to India from Iraq in the 19th century to preach Islam,” Abdul Mannan, the committee’s organising secretary, told Khabar.
Hindus, who also attend the Urs, call the saint Guru Dev. “The occasion makes an excellent gathering of all faiths of both Bangladesh and India,” Mannan said.
This unique train is a bond of friendship and religious harmony. We are proud of it,” Rajbari deputy commissioner Hasanuzzaman Kallol told Khabar South Asia.
Boro Huzur first came to Rajbari in 1901 to visit his followers in undivided India after he had inherited the title from his father on February 17th. Every year since that day, Bangladeshi disciples have attended the Urs festival.
According to Hazart Ali, Rajbari station manager, the train service was cancelled only four times in the past 111 years: during the Indo-Pak war in 1965; Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971; after riots following the Babri mosque destruction in 1992 and after the outbreak of plague in Surat in 1994.
“People know the Maitree Express is the only train between Bangladesh and India, but we have been operating the Urs special since 1903,” former Bangladesh Railway Director General T.A. Chowdhury told Khabar. Although it took years of negotiations between the two countries to launch the Express, Indian authorities had always been liberal about the Urs special, he said.
Anjuman-e-Qadria, the management committee in Rajbari, selects passenger applicants by lottery. The Indian High Commission in Dhaka issues visas based on the committee’s list.
Kabir Uddin Pramanik, a disciple who has attended the Urs ten times, told Khabar, “Our Huzur promotes peaceful co-existence of all religions. He promotes humanity.”