Monday, January 16, 2012
At the Urs in Bhit Shah
Bhit Shah: Desperate to find her mentally handicapped missing daughter, an elderly Baloch woman, Ganj Bakht, has come to the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai.
Despite the weather being bitterly cold, she is staying in the open courtyard of the shrine along with many other women.
“I am a Sawali and have come here to ask Bhitai to find my daughter Shah Bibi,” she said as she wrapped herself in a sheet of cloth to protect herself from the cold which increased in its severity after the sunset of the 13th of Safar – the day the three-day Urs of Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai began.
Her daughter was in her mid 30s when she went missing, she said.
Ameer Hamza, a small restaurant owner in Ghotki district, has brought a goat to be sacrificed on the morning of 14th Safar. “We will distribute the lungar here as a mark of respect to our Murshid, he said, adding that he had been performing this ritual for a long time.
Till Wednesday men, women and children had converged at the shrine in Bhit Shah, a small town in Matiari district, to celebrate the 268th Urs.
The first Dhamal, according to Syed Aneesul Hasnain alias Faqeer Juman Shah, marks the beginning of the Urs which officially opens on Monday morning.
Elderly Fida Hussain Brohi has a different story to share. “I want my son out of prison,” he said. He will pray at the shrine for his son’s release.
Hundreds of thousands of devotees turn up at the shrine to pay homage during the three-day Urs. Many of them who have already come are staying in the courtyard of the shrine and burning firewood to keep themselves warm.
For the fourth consecutive year the devotees will not be able to visit Takht Gah – the abode of Bhitai – because it is in a dilapidated condition. A portion of it caved in three years ago.
“If we allow visitors there it will collapse and might lead to casualties,” said Mazhar Ali Shah alias Nazan Sain, brother of the shrine’s Sajjada Nasheen Syed Nisar Hussain.
He said the antiquities department did not pay attention to it. “We were told that Rs5.5 million was sought from the Auqaf department but it has not been given,” he said.
There are cracks at different places in the shrine’s structure. According to a shrine’s employee, Nawab Lanjwani, a mere touch will cause the affected part to collapse.
The shrine – built around 345 years agoneeds extension to accommodate the large number of devotees. Structure of the shrine needs refurbishment because recent heavy monsoon rains caused serious damage, causing cracks in Lakhi gate, Wazoo Khana and other places.
Some repairs have been carried out in patches and some refurbishing has been done. During recent rains, the roof built with woods started leaking. Devotees cramped into a Musafir Khana built in 1964, but it could not accommodate them.
Annual budget allocation for Lungar in Musafir Khana is quite inadequate. Last year Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah promised that one fourth of the annual income from nazrana (donations) at the shrine would be allocated for distribution of food among devotees, but according to Mazhar Ali Shah, the promise is yet to be met.
“We pursued it but there has been no progress,” he said.
Picture: A devotee prays at Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai's shrine. Photo: Hussain Afzal/Dawn.com
[Click on the title to the original article with many more photos.]