The 772nd annual urs of sufi poet Fariduddin Masood Ganj Shakar started in Pakpattan on Wednesday.
Sajjada Nasheen Dewan Masood Chishti opened the celebrations that will continue for 15 days.
Chishti told The Express Tribune that two million people from all over the world were expected to visit the shrine during the urs. “The Bahishti Darwaza (heavenly gate) will be opened on the fifth of Muharram. Around one million people visit the shrine between the 5th and the 10th of Muharram. Necessary arrangements have been made to avoid stampede,” he said.
The celebrations started with the distribution of sugar among those in attendance. This was followed by distribution of sugared drink in clay cups.
Born in 1173, Baba Farid travelled extensively in the Muslim world and studied theology and philosophy in Bokhara, Makkah, Madina, Ghazni, Baghdad and Multan.
Harman Laal, 72, who has come from Ajmer Sharif, told The Express Tribune that he had undertaken the trip for spiritual awakening. “The power of a sufi’s words is amazing. Baba Fareed’s poetry is sweet as sugar and manna for his followers. It cleanses the body and the soul,” he said.
Dr Anwaar, a professor of mathematics from Karachi, said that Baba Fareed’s followers belonged to several religions. “We follow his words. They are full of wisdom. Sufis have shown that followers of different religions can be united. I have come here just to experience the spirituality. I will stay here for a week,” he said. Ali Naqvi, from Qallat, Balochistan, said: “I am a doctor. I first visited the shrine five years ago with a friend. I was so impressed that I started exploring sufism. I have read many books since then.”
Sardar Howindar Singh from the United Kingdom said he had come to join the celebrations and to learn the teachings of the sufi poet. “I was reading his poetry and I was amazed to find that they are very similar to Guru Nanak’s. The sufis do not divide people in the name of God. They unite them,” he said.
District Police Officer (DPO) Shah Nawaz Sandhela said that special security arrangements had been made to ensure security during the urs. “IG Mushtaq Sukhera has been personally monitoring the arrangements. As many as 1,385 policemen from Pakpattan and 800 from five others districts have been deployed at the shrine,” he said.
He said that 70 CCTV cameras had been installed around the one kilometre perimeter of the shrine. “We have also deployed 150 Elite Force personnel around the shrine as well,” he said.
District Coordination Officer Javed Akhtar said that 21 departments of the provincial and federal governments were on alert for the ongoing celebrations.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2014.