Bhitai Urs celebrations begin

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A DEVOTEE dances to the beat of a drum as the Urs of Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai began on Friday.—Online
A DEVOTEE dances to the beat of a drum as the Urs of Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai began on Friday.—Online

HYDERABAD: The 272nd Urs of Sufi saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai kicked off in Bhitshah, about 50 kilometres from here, on Friday. The three-day celebration commenced on 14th Safar, Thursday, with devotees arriving in Bhitshah right after Magrhib prayers. The provincial government and the Shah Latif Foundation have organised separate programmes to mark the occasion.

There was a departure from the tradition of the formal inauguration of the Urs, according to the shrine’s Sajjada Nasheen (custodian) Waqar Hussain Shah.

“As was the custom, my predecessors would appear in the shrine’s courtyard in the morning on the last day of Urs. But a gathering was held in the courtyard under my supervision on Thursday where scholars recounted Bhitai’s spiritual message,” he said.

“In the evening we offered prayers outside the mausoleum’s doorstep along with many devotees,” said Waqar Shah.

“Sunday’s gathering is relevant from our point of view as I’ll address devotees in the shrine so that followers of Bhitai should carry forward his message to every nook and corner of the country,” he said.

Accompanied by his brothers, Syed Mustafa Shah and Syed Khawar Shah, Juman Shah, the ragaee faqir and Zulfikar Shah (in-charge of Bhitai’s 100 faqirs), Waqar Shah walked up to the main entrance of the shrine but didn’t cross the doorsill and kissed it to pay his respect. A Sajjada Nasheen never enters his murshid’s roza (shrine) in his lifetime, according to the practice laid down by the first Sajjada Nasheen, Shah Jamal Shah, Bhitai’s paternal nephew.

Furthermore, there will be scholarly gatherings in the courtyard, Sufi kalaam by Sufi singers for the next three nights, said the custodian.

“Sughar’s kuchehri which is story recitation replete with folk wisdom read in verses that will be narrated by storytellers,” he added.

On the last day of the Urs the Sajjada Nasheen dressed in Bhitai’s attire that includes his cap, alfi (a sleeveless long kurta-style), godri (shawl), holding the saint’s rosary beads in his hand, will sit among his devotees and then offer prayers to mark the closure of the Urs.

“Bhitai’s shrine has existed for centuries but its message has been lost and I want to make it relevant for today and I think this is the proper time to do so. It was Bhitai who gave the concept of a global village. People must understand that we must help the weak and the downtrodden,” he said.

Thousands are reaching Bhitai’s shrine to pay their respects to the great Sufi saint. Many plan to stay in the courtyard for three days along with their families.

The shrine’s edifice has been illuminated with colourful lights. The Sindh culture department will be holding a literary conference in the centre of excellence on Saturday (today). Other events to mark the event include industrial exhibition, horse racing and wrestling competition (traditionally known as malakhro).

Meanwhile, the provincial government officials commemorated the event in their typical manner. Adviser to the CM on Auqaf and Religious Affairs Dr Abdul Qayyum Soomro laid a wreath at the shrine and offered prayers. Speaking to journalists, he said: “It is the need of the hour that Bhitai’s message is spread across the world for which steps should be undertaken. Bhitai had given a message of peace 250 years back and had it been followed society would not have witnessed chaos which we are seeing today. Bhitai’s message has not been adopted by people and today no one is safe in the world.”

He also said his department controls 80 shrines and mosques in Sindh where different types of works were being undertaken.

Sharmila Faruqi, CM’s adviser on culture, also visited the shrine and laid a wreath.

She also inaugurated ‘Shah jo Bagh’, a cultural village. Talking to journalists, she said: “Through his poetry Bhitai had spread the message of peace and love to the entire world. The culture department is working on various projects relating to the Sufi saint so that the world comes to know about the greatness of Bhitai.”

She further said: “Bhitai’s poetry could help do away with today’s negative perceptions which emanates from intolerance.”

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2015