Revisiting Mor Sahib’s crocodiles

Published: September 30, 2011
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New documentary explores phenomenon of the crocodiles who are not only treated as pets, but as deities at the shrine. PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO/EXPRESS

New documentary explores phenomenon of the crocodiles who are not only treated as pets, but as deities at the shrine. PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO/EXPRESS

KARACHI: There is much mystery among the general populace about the history behind the Manghopir shrine, the crocodiles and the ceremonies the devotees of Mor Sahib perform. A documentary by renowned German filmmaker, Till Passow, explored the rituals and deities in “Mor Sahib’s Wish” at the Goethe Institut on Wednesday evening in Karachi.

Passow, though absent from his own premier, is no stranger to either Pakistan or the mystical culture of sufis and shrines. He previously filmed at the shrines of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan in his 2005 short documentary, “Mast Qalandar”.

In the documentary, Passow films the devotees at the shrine in Manghopir and the rituals that are performed, letting the characters in his film explain the story of the magical pir. The pir is believed, by the Sheedi community (who trace their descent from Western African tribes brought to the subcontinent as slaves), to have been given gifts by Allah. They believe that if you ask with complete conviction then the pir helps you to fulfil your wish.

The mystery of the crocodiles

The documentary explores the unique phenomenon of the crocodiles who are not only treated as pets, but as deities at the shrine.

The woman says that the crocodiles come and listen to zikr (recitations from the Quran) and leave peacefully once the zikr ends.

Another shrine keeper explains that among the earliest disciples of Mor Sahib had asked him to give them some thing by which they could remember the pir by. At this the pir took a lice from his hair. This lice became a crocodile, to reside in the pond next to the shrine. When one of the disciples exclaimed that the crocodiles would in fact eat them, Mor Sahib espoused that the crocodiles, by the grace of God would not harm any one save those who provoke it.

Now, devotees give offerings to the crocodiles in the form of meat and sweets, taking a vow that if the crocodile consumes their offering, it means that their wish would come true.

Earlier, Dr Markus Litz, the Director of Goethe Institut in Karachi read out a short essay on sufis. He said that every religion was important and drew from past religions. The new religion acknowledges the wisdom contained within the old religion, respecting it and drew from it rather than shunning the old ways. He explained that when Christianity was established in Rome, it was built atop the temples of the old religion, not to disrespect them, but to draw the same respect as the people accorded the old ways.

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Reader Comments (1)

  • Asad
    Oct 3, 2011 - 6:07PM

    Complete Ignorance and gross Shirk (Associating other dieties with Allah) This is the biggest sin which is never forgiven by Allah. The devotees should ask Allah, for their wishes fulfilment, but instead they ask the Pir and Crocodiles. Biggest sin. When will people in Pakistan get knowledge of Islam? When will they understand that Islam’s basic concept is Tauheed – Belief in the Oneness of Allah AND asking for help from Allah only and worshipping only Allah.

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