Kaliam Sharif fair draws thousands to shrine

January 13, 2020

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Clockwise from top (left) Camels in the field around the shrine, a view of the arch of Baba Fazal Shah Kaliami’s shrine, snacks being prepared at the fair and drum beaters perform before a crowd of villagers. — Photos by the writer
Clockwise from top (left) Camels in the field around the shrine, a view of the arch of Baba Fazal Shah Kaliami’s shrine, snacks being prepared at the fair and drum beaters perform before a crowd of villagers. — Photos by the writer

GUJAR KHAN: The annual village fair at the shrine of Baba Fazal Shah Kaliami in Kaliam Sharif drew thousands in the first week of the new year, retaining its status as one of the largest rural festivals in Gujar Khan.

Kaliam Sharif is near Mandra, around 30 kilometres from Gujar Khan. The village is famous because of the shrine of Baba Fazal Shah Kaliami, a 19th century saint of the Chishti-Sabri links to Baba Fareed Ganj Shakar of Pak Patan Sharif.

The 10-day mela is held every year from Dec 29 to Jan 9. It is attended by tens of thousands of people from across the country and abroad. One of its identifying features is that it is the largest gathering of camels, brought from remote parts of Pakistan in Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

The caravan of camels travels to Kaliam Sharif, and villagers from surrounding localities consider it their religious duty to provide devoteeswith food, shelter and fodder for the camels.

Malik Naveed Kaliami, a local journalist, said that all the residents of Kaliam Sharif and adjoining localities consider it an obligation to keep the doors to their homes and sitting rooms open to guests from remote areas, and for the 10 days of the festival everyone in the village is busy providing all the available facilities to visiting devotees.

Thousands of devotees are accommodated in people’s homes, and the camels brought to the village can graze on anybody’s wheat crops, he added.

He narrated a legend about thousands of camels that were camped in the standing wheat fields around the shrine. The crops were crushed by the camels, but grew back even stronger.

He said that the Kaliam Sharif village fair has become one of the largest markets for camels, which are sold to traders from various parts of the country.

The fair features a number of traditional activities, from competitions in which camels compete to lift weights to stalls selling small agricultural paraphernalia such as sickles, colourful rope and bells for cattle.

Vendors sell readymade clothing, blankets, mobile phones and CDs and dried fruit. One of the most popular parts of the fair are the sweets shops lining crowded streets selling sizzling jalebis and ammrassah, a sweet made of roasted rice flour.

Drummers and pipers can be seen performing, while qawwals from across the country line up around the shrine for their turn to perform for 10 minutes.

Malik Waheed Anjum, a lawyer in Rawalpindi from Kaliam Sharif, said famous qawwals such as Aziz Mian, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Ghulam Fareed Sabri have performed at the shrine.

He said langar with a special daal is distributed as well.

Mr Anjum said Baba Fazal Shah Kaliami was a contemporary of Pir Mehr Ali Shah of Golra Sharif. Saints associated with Baba Fazal Shah Kaliami had a significant role in spreading Islam and mysticism in the Potohar region before partition, he said.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020