Manmad in Maharashtra’s Nashik district has maintained a harmonious amalgamation of different religions for centuries now
Located in the Nashik district of Maharashtra, Manmad houses the largest grain storage warehouses in Asia, administered by the Food Corporation of India, and its railway junction is an important station for all south and west bound trains. A missed train at midnight was what left me stranded at this city. Little did I know as I lay on the platform, trying to catch some sleep amidst the stench and rats that beyond the grimy tracks lay a delightfully mysterious city wrapped in the shroud of anonymity.
At the first glimpse, Manmad seems to be like any other overcrowded poverty-ridden Indian town. Puddles, open drains, walls plastered with peeling movie posters of aberrant local productions, sweaty workmen labouring in and out, shouts and raucous calls from salesmen and hawkers.
However, the distinctiveness of Manmad emerges out of the petty mundane, as we travel further into the heart of the city.
The first things that one notices are the different headdresses bobbing up and down out of the crowd — men in turbans (synonymous with the Sikh religion), Nehru topis (Hindus, particularly the Marathas) and white skullcaps (Muslims). And the surprising part of all this is that diverse religions mingle and blend harmoniously to form the very backbone of Manmad.
Abdul Hamit, who owns a small biryani outlet next to a mosque, has seen Manmad growing from a tiny town to a crowded city. Scratching his unruly beard, he recounts the generations his family has been here since Emperor Aurangzeb shifted his capital from Delhi to Aurangabad to unseat the Marathas. The looming threat of inter-religious conflicts has ever been present; however, Manmad never succumbed to it. It is the historical sensibility of its people that has kept Manmad alive and thriving.
Located within a stone’s throw distance from the railway station are two mosques, a famous gurdwara and two temples. Different religions dwell in this city without any apparent boundaries between them. Though there have been rare skirmishes between different groups in the past, there does not exist any open hostility between the sects.
With no tourist attraction, no industry has come up here apart from the recently established offices of petroleum companies. The city of about 125,000 people faces severe water crisis during summers, forcing people to dig deeper to draw hard water from the ground.
However, more than the water crisis, people here are more concerned with the rapid intrusion of politics in their daily lives lately, which is also defacing the facade of local architecture and the charm of the city as a whole.