Driving through the congested bazaars of Kasur encroached upon by an army of motorcycle-rickshaws, you reach a busy intersection where you park and start walking along a narrow road. Noticing many other people walking in the same direction and hearing the sound of drumbeat from afar, you know you’re on the right track.

The entire 5-7 min Railway Road track meandering up to the shrine of revered Sufi saint Baba Bulleh Shah is dotted with multiple security checkpoints and walk-through gates, though the officials manning them appear least concerned. It’s a vibrant market with several shops selling the very popular Kasuri falooda, Kasuri methi, andrassay, qatlamma, aloo chaat and kababs to jewellery, clothes and shoes.

After entering from the rear gate of the high-walled barbed-wire shrine complex, the path to the main tomb is lined with devotees fanning visitors, and then you’re confronted with a massive swarm of people in the large courtyard. There’s a reason for this crowd: the 265th Urs of Baba Bulleh Shah is under way and these devotees have come to pay their respects.Devotional songs are playing aloud and hundreds of men of all ages, and a couple of women and malang, perform the dhamal in unison. There are children running around, while families sit in groups chatting or get some rest inside a large hall opposite the tomb.

Vendors roam around carrying nimko and other snacks, some devotees offer water to the visitors, there’s a stall in a corner selling Bulleh Shah’s kafis, jewellery and wristbands.

Saeen Mushtaq Ahmed, a malang is conspicuous by his appearance – as are most malangs, but this one is unique - clad in a loose white outfit, adorned with several beaded necklaces, dark sunglasses, and ghungroo. The 70-year-old devotee tells Dawn he’s been coming to the Urs all by himself for 35 years. Belonging to what he claims is the Kot Musa area, “I come here for my friend, my love. I love him and he loves God. These ghungroos are also his blessing; everything I’m wearing is his. I stay for the first day of the Urs and will return the next morning after Fajr prayers. This has been a ritual for over 30 years. I left home thinking I’ll offer Juma prayers in Bulleh Shah’s Kasur, and I did”, he says while swinging in a trance.Nimko vendor Ghulam Nabi from Sahiwal has two reasons for coming to the Urs: paying respects to Bulleh Shah and earning a living. “I’ve been coming here for seven years with my entire family. We stay here for all three days of the Urs. I’ve noticed an increase in visitors from the past few years.”

Dressed in a bright red flowing outfit is malangni Mai Mastani from Lahore. The bejeweled woman has been attending the three-day Urs celebrations for as long as she can remember. “I enjoy the langar; there’s no worry for food or anything. I come here at the doorstep of God’s own wali to walk on God’s path. This is haq ka rasta and we should walk on it, far from worldly matters. Besides, I also pray for whoever asks.”

Another devotee sitting on the white marbled floor outside the tomb is Rukhsana, who’s been attending the Urs since she was a child. She comes to Kasur alone from the Khuddian area. “I come here for our pir, our ancestors used to come here too and now it’s our turn. We pray here on all three days, donate and just play our part.”

Then there are some families who have just come for the festivity and entertainment. As the sun sets, a live qawwali begins after the Maghrib prayers and a horde of entranced visitors sit silently in front of the qawwals as they sing Bulleh Shah’s poetry, and malangs do the dhamal as the celebrations draw to a close for the day.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

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