One of Karachi's oldest festivals, Sheedi Mela comes to a close

Three-day festival celebrated to honour Hazrat Khawaja Hassan also known as Manghopir


The festival restarted last year after a hiatus of seven years due to security concerns. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN

KARACHI: Festivities at the three-day Sheedi Mela concluded on Sunday in Manghopir. Sheedi elders will place a chadar at the shrine of Hazrat Khawaja Hassan, also known as Manghopir, today (Monday) to mark the end of the annual event.

The festival, which was once a regular feature in Manghopir, resumed last year after a gap of seven years due to the tenuous law and order situation in the area. However, the festival was only held for a single day. This year, though, it was celebrated for three days.

The sounds of drums and ululations echoed in the streets of Manghopir Sunday morning as men, women and children of the Sheedi community performed their traditional dhamal.

The procession moved in synchrony with the beat of the drums. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN The procession moved in synchrony with the beat of the drums. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN

The annual procession started from Sheedi Goth, which is located near the shrine. Seven girls, whose faces were covered with chunri dupattas, balanced trays full of sweets on their heads during the march. The men held the community's historic blue flag as they moved in synchrony with the beat of the drums.

Later, the community visited the pond alongside the shrine to pay respect to the crocodiles living there, which are believed to be spiritually associated with the saint. The heads of four clans of the Sheedi community went inside the enclosure and called the name of the oldest and largest crocodile in the swamp, Mor Sahab. According to locals, Mor Sahab is 127 years old and is the chief of the crocodiles. When the animal came out of the pond, the chiefs adorned its body with fragrances, a garland of flowers and sprinkled sindoor on its forehead. Later, they offered meat to Mor Sahab.

The Sheedi clan's chiefs adorned Mor Sahab's body with fragrances, a garland of flowers and sindoor. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN The Sheedi clan's chiefs adorned Mor Sahab's body with fragrances, a garland of flowers and sindoor. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN

When the crocodile ate the meat and raised its neck above the ground, the devotees perceived that their ritual had been accepted.

Situated on a hill in District West, the shrine of Manghopir stands amid the dust of nearby marble crushing factories. The shrine is considered a cultural hub for the Sheedi community.

The Sheedi community arrived as slaves and soldiers from Africa centuries ago, according to a local resident, Ghous Qambrani. "The sounds of celebrations have echoed in the area after many years," he added. Qambrani complained that the government was not providing facilities to the devotees of Manghopir.

Devotees perform dhamaal in memory of Sehwan blast victims

Ghulam Ali, who came from Balochistan to take part in the festival, said that for the past few years the festival could not be celebrated due to law and order situation. "Only we can understand how we stopped ourselves from celebrating the annual urs of our master," he lamented.

Girls balanced tray of sweets on their heads. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN Girls balanced tray of sweets on their heads. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN

"All the wealth we have today is a blessing of Mor Sahab," said Saira Sheedi, a member of the Sheedi community. "The government needs to help us expand the pond, as the area where more than 150 crocodiles are living is not sufficient enough to house all of them," she remarked.

The festival sends a message of peace, tolerance and brotherhood of Sheedi community, said another local resident, Abdul Ghani.

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