BHIT SHAH, Dec 27: The 269th three-day Urs of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai began here with the beating of traditional drums at sunset on Thursday, the 14th of the lunar month of Safar.
However, officially the event will be opened on Friday morning, when a government functionary will lay a wreath on the grave of the sufi poet.
Devotees began arriving in the afternoon, mostly from within Sindh and southern Punjab, carrying their foodstuff and bedding to put up in the courtyard of the shrine, where tents were also pitched.
The number of people converging on Bhit Shah will swell when people returning from Larkana after attending a public meeting organised there to mark the 5th death anniversary of PPP leader Benazir Bhutto will visit the shrine to pay homage to the saint.
Shops in Bhit Shah have been decorated with colourful buntings and the pathway leading up to the shrine has been swept. Shops along thoroughfares are illuminated with colourful lights.
Most visitors to the shrine have wishes to be fulfilled with the intercession of the poet saint. Elderly couple Umra Khatoon and Mehmood Chandio are among them, who have arrived here from Ratodero town of Larkana district. Their family was affected by the recent but belated monsoon rains in the upper Sindh region.
“We lost everything. Our house collapsed and we didn’t get our rice crop,” says Umra in Sindhi. She works on the land of a private landowner and she would have got her share in the crop if rainwater had not accumulated in the standing crops. She says even to reach Bhitai’s shrine, she had to seek money from an acquaintance.
The Sindh government has been carrying out development work at Bhit Shah for the past several years, but Haveli, the residential area of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and his family, has not yet been repaired.
Haveli had been damaged over years and a major portion of the room where Bhitai meditated and prayed had collapsed. Rains in the past two years damaged it further.
Haveli remains closed, but Bhitai’s cot has been kept upstairs in the new dhamal court for ‘ziarat’. Even the outer surface of the shrine’s main domes has developed cracks. The shrine’s repairs will cost around Rs7 million.
“We have kept the soil excavated from the room to use it again,” says Mazhar Ali Shah aka Nazan Saeen, chairman of the Bhitai Development Programme and younger brother of the shrine’s Sajjada Nasheen Syed Nisar Hussain Shah. “All damage and repair work is done by faqeers of Laung Faqeer of Khairpur, who was a devotee of Bhitai. A batch of devotees will arrive here to take part in the repair work as per tradition.”
The main road leading to Bhit Shah also needs immediate repairs. Even necessary patchwork was not done until Thursday afternoon.