Mela Chiraghan (the festival of lights) kicked off on Saturday. A large number of devotees from around the country visited the shrine of Madhu Lal Hussain to pay tributes to the sufi poet and his close friend.
Religious Affairs Director General Hassan Rizvi and Lahore Auqaf Department Zonal Head Shamsul Haq laid floral wreaths at the shrine to formally launch the celebrations of the 425th anniversary of Shah Hussain’s passing away. The urs was dominated by malangs who seemed to be quite oblivious to what was happening around them. Many of the visitors joined the ritual dance. An alao (large fire), which is lit throughout the three days of the urs, was one of the main attractions for the visitors. Candles and lamps were being tossed into the blaze by those making wishes.
The event has attracted a number of marijuana and hashish addicts who go around smoking the narcotics right under the noses of police. Many drug users said the three days were for celebrations and that taking drugs during these days was okay. Bhang (cannabis) drinks were sold for Rs10 to Rs20 a glass. Some stalls also offered the drink free of cost.
The security around the shrine was strict. The visitors were allowed into the shrine through a single entrance. As many as 220 policemen were on duty around the shrine under the supervision of two DSPs and the Civil Lines SP. The devotees passed through walk-through gates but the scanners were not working. The visitors were being frisked by police and Auqaf guards.
Dhols (drums) were not allowed on the shrine premises. There were swings and traditional food for children.
Auqaf Manager Gohar Mustafa told The Express Tribune that the department had provided Rs458,000 for the event. He said that last year, Mela Chiraghan had generated a revenue of Rs600,000. He said that stopping people from taking drugs was not his job.
Hashish smoker Allah Rakha, who said he came from Gujranwala, said: “We who smoke hashish can enjoy smoking here without any fear.”
Amjad Ali, who had set up a bhang stall, said he was “serving the community” by providing them with momentum relief from worries. He said the drink was basically cannabis leaves mixed with aniseed and cloves. He said one could add dry melon and poppy seeds to it, but it was not essential.
A section of the shrine was occupied by malangs from various parts of the country. Most of them were dressed up in black and red gowns. Saeen Majh from Murree, who claims to be a follower of Baba Lal Shah, said the fire was lit to pay respect to the sufi. Zulfiqar Ali, a resident of Sukh Nehr, said he and his family had tossed candles and lamps in the fire making their wishes. He said they had been coming to the shrine for several years.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2013.