What Sufi Festivals Mean to the People

It is the beginning of the Hijri year. A time that matters to me for two reasons: remembering Hussain’s determination and the Sufi festivals that will be held throughout the year across Pakistan. And this year I want to do something special: to attend all the Sufi festivals and document each of them! Wish I had undertaken this project earlier in my life when the festivals were held without any fear but I wasn’t mature enough to see what they mean to the people. I, like others, considered them ‘stupid’ and ‘superstitious’ but that’s so untre. Let’s see how:

The people who actually go to the Sufi festivals don’t really call them by their urban name, Urs. They call them “mela” and it includes all kinds of activities, not just paying salam to the dead Sufi. They are *festivals* for the people, occasions to rejoice.

Last weekend, when I was on a field trip in a remote Punjabi village, a girl told me, “If you were here a couple of weeks ago, you could see our dance, Sammi; there was a wedding. We are the best in Punjab in Sammi dance! Oh, you can come to the mela next month.” Now this place, Danabad, is a small village. They remember the Sufi festival as the time they will have dance, musical concert, and what not.

On a similar visit to Chakwal, when I asked a young boy about their activities, he was so excited about this race and kabbadi they have each year. When: “during the mela”!

You see, to the people the Sufi festivals do not mean “worshipping the graves”, as some conservatives would like to put it. It is the time people await to shop, play, dance, and attend live concerts. And that’s what I would like to document because they are the events that matter to the people and keep them going. Wish me luck!


Shuaib December 21, 2010 Reply

I love your passion for everything folk, man! Keep it going. Maybe I’ll join you on one of these trips some time. :P

Shiraz Hassan December 21, 2010 Reply

very well written Sohail. We desperately need more young writers like you.

admin December 21, 2010 Reply

@Shuaib: Thanks dude. You are more than welcome!

@Shiraz: Thanku :)

Hameedullah Khan December 21, 2010 Reply

Best of luck bro!!! I am so inspired by you. Wish I will be able to go on these adventures one day. :)

aqeeliz December 21, 2010 Reply

I haven’t been to any sufi festival since I was a kid, can’t wait to read all about them.

Arslan Younus December 21, 2010 Reply

Good luck Sohail. You’re doing a wonderful job.

Zahid December 21, 2010 Reply

Sohail your efforts, contributions and the research you are doing for the Pakistani culture are highly appreciated. This article has given a new thought about the Sufi Festivals. I will be very interested to read more facts about these Festivals / Melas.

Best of Luck

M. Saud December 21, 2010 Reply

Dear sohail…I am happy to c such a positive change in you, keep it up :P.

The sufiazzz are our strength and so will remain. They are the real founders of starting of preaching of Islam in subcontinent long before the arrival of Muhammad Bin Qasim. They were not only known as Peer-e-tareeqat but they were also great scholars of Shareea. They never asked or orderd or advised there followers to bow in front of them or their graves. One of great spretual scholar says.. “ koi b peer sab hava may nahi orta onky mureed onhy hawa may uraty aur khyali karamaat onky sath jorty rehty han” The point is what is this Urs and why it is celebrated and how it converted in to so called festivals or whatever. Urs means joy, happiness, weeding, fun etc. it is a Persian word and the Urs is the day when a spiritual leaders dies…. Means the day of death of a Peer sab is celebrated as a day of joy or happiness (it has its own background and justification which is valid, so it is not something controversial) and hence it becomes a festival where you can take fun.
But it is also true that a lot of people, A LOT OF PEOPLE worship the graves and bow in front of them which is definitely a SHIRK. The problem is, during these festivals, most of the people come to enjoy they even do not know why this Maila is being organized and who is this peer sab but on the other side if you go to the area of graves, you will see the different story and Sohail, you will accept the thinking of those so called conservative people. Sory if my words hurt some one.

SK December 22, 2010 Reply

Sorry to butt in. But I wanted to pick on what Mr.Saud brought into the discussion. I wonder what is more tolerable/ justifiable – having some people commit un-Islamic acts in the name of urs etc. OR having others blow them up (literally – into bits) including women and children because (in their version of Islam) the sufis commit `shirk`? Mind you, it is the latter type that have no hesitation in growing/ selling opium which is widely sold at urs/ mela. To me, both are imperfect as muslims – but I would rather have God decide (what else will happen on the Day of Judgement if we have done the tasks already??) . I would refrain from passing judgement especially because both groups believe they are doing the right thing – and perhaps both groups are better musims than I am. Regarding thre original idea – I salute Mr. Sohail Abid for seeing urs/ mela as cultural events – because I also believe that is what they really are.

M. Saud December 24, 2010 Reply

Dear SK….

thanks for ur comments. dear please read my statments once again very carefuly.. i am not justifying the worship of ppl to the graves i already mentioned it that it is an open shirk and shuld be stoped and i also admit that these events are not more then a mela or a drug selling spot. these urs and dargahhss have got nothing to do with the orignal theme of ideas of these sufiass….

Ahsan January 22, 2011 Reply

I wish i could accompany you but right now em in part of my life where my parents think “em not mature” enough for it. wishes for your venture and looking forward to your post.

Cal Takhar May 12, 2011 Reply

I would have liked to have seen the “sammi dance”
Rare glimpse into dances not seen too often…..

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