HYDERABAD: Thousands of devotees made their way to the small town of Sehwan to pay homage to Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar on his 761st urs.
The Jamshoro district administration expects a massive turnout of over 1.5 million visitors for the annual three-day celebrations that began on Friday. The event would conclude on Sunday. The urs was inaugurated by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, who paid a visit to the shrine on Friday morning, laid a floral wreath and offered Fateha. Paying tribute to the saint, the governor said that Lal Shahbaz Qalandar played a very important role in boosting Sufism and preaching the message of love and peace in this part of the world.
“With the ever growing tentacles of terrorism, the path of these sufi saints show us the way out of this menace,” he said. “His education mirrors love, sacrifice, sympathy and justice.” He also urged the devotees to spare a minute and pray for peace in Sindh and Pakistan.
A whole range of activities including Sugharan Jee Katchery [conversation of the folks], International Adabi Conference, musical concerts, agro-industrial exhibition, Malakhro [wrestling] and cattle shows have been organised for the occasion. Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (1177-1274), whose real name was Syed Usman Marvandi, was born in Marvand, Afghanistan after his family migrated from Baghdad and Mashhad. He was a known philosopher and poet of his time and was said to be fluent in Persian, Turkish, Sanskrit, Arabic and Sindhi.A contemporary of Bahauddin Zakariya, Makhdoom Jahanian of Uch Sharif and other celebrated saints, Marvandi made Sehwan his abode and lived there till his death. Despite being located in a relatively remote town, his shrine attracts a huge crowd, including pilgrims from Punjab and Hindu deveotees from India.
The urs, besides being an intense devotional activity, also generates significant economic activity for motels and traders dealing in edible items.
Amid the fanfare, the excitement saw a damper with incidents of drowning and heat strokes. On the first day alone, around two elderly people, including a woman, died of heat stroke while three others reportedly drowned according to the local doctors. Deputy commissioner Sajid Jamal Abro said that the district administration is alive to the problem and has set up free medical camps besides declaring emergency in the town’s two government hospitals. He also said that a ban has been imposed on swimming in the waterways and 20 ambulances, a dozen boats and 60 divers, including six from the navy, have been stationed near the shrine to prevent such incidents.
Expansion work hits snags
Meanwhile, the shrine’s beautification and expansion works could not be completed in time despite repeated deadlines set by the provincial government over the last five years.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2013.
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