DADU: The 762nd Urs of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar got under way at the shrine of the Sufi saint in Sehwan on Tuesday with widespread complaints of poor arrangements for water, power and other basic facilities for thousands of devotees — men, women and children — who endured the extremely hot weather conditions as the town, like the rest of Dadu district, is sizzling in 50 degrees Celsius these days.
The three-day Urs celebrations were kicked off by Sindh Auqaf Minister Abdul Haseeb Khan. He was accompanied by the secretary and chief administrator of his department.
They laid wreaths on the Qalandar’s grave and offered fateha marking the start of the celebration.
Sharing concern of the general public and the media over inadequate arrangements of drinking water for devotees and power outages despite the local administration claim of no loadshedding during the course of the Urs, the minister said outlets (sabeels) had been set up all around the shrine while water tankers were mobilised to ensure availability of drinking water to devotees at the shrine as well as along the routes of leading to it.
He said the local administration had also set up medical camps for the devotees who needed treatment and medicines during the celebrations.
Later, the minister visited sites of the ongoing uplift projects at the shrine and issued directives for completion of the works within the stipulated time.
Jamshoro Deputy Commissioner Sohail Adeeb Bachani, who is also the Mela committee chairman, said that if water was not available at any place around the shrine, the matter could be reported to him so that necessary arrangements could be made on an urgent basis.
Soon after the formal opening ceremony, thousands of devotees started taking part in mystic rituals, that included singing, dancing and playing traditional musical instruments amidst typical mystic slogans intermittently raised by ‘holy men’ and Sufis.
The devotees have arrived at the shrine from all parts of the country, as well as abroad, to participate in the celebrations.
Many of the visitors complained of unavailability of drinking water and ice amid extreme heat.
Scores of people fell unconscious, after suffering heat stroke, and were taken to medical camps and hospitals for treatment.
Initial reports suggested that as many as nine of them died on Tuesday.
Heatstroke reportedly claimed at least seven lives in Sehwan on Monday and four the day before. Power outages added to the devotees miseries.
There were also complaints about poor sanitation arrangements at and around the shrine.
Despite all odds, most devotees continued with the rituals and traditional customs at the shrine without caring for the troubles. They visited the Qalandar tomb and grave in a disciplined manner and added their voice to the slogans and recitals reverberating the shrine.
Kafis (sittings to share Qalandar’s holy character) were held in different parts of the shrine.
At one of such sittings named Pathan Ji Kafi, people in big groups are routinely served free meals round the clock.This routine never breaks down.
Traditionally, groups of people called ‘Lahootis’ stay for a day at a specific place within the shrine to start their holy journey on foot to the shrine of another saint, Shah Noorani (Lahot La Makan).
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014