What Sufi Festivals Mean to the People

By Sohail Abid at http://sohailabid.com/

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!

Sohail Abid is a writer, an entrepreneur, a software engineer, a cultural analyst, and a lover of all things folk. He lives in Islamabad Pakistan and manages several websites and businesses as a freelance software developer. We at Pakistanis for Peace are proud to call him a friend of the site.

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