Every year for three or more days–unofficially longer –countless thousands of people descend upon the Sufi shrine at the little town of Sehwan, Pakistan. In 2017, over two million individuals attended defiance of their February terrorist bombing of their shrine. Hazrat Sakhi Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Sehwan Sharif.
The adoring poetry and music of Sufis propelled Islam during South Asia countless years past, and Lal Shahbaz is among the most revered of all.
Celebrations start on the 18th of Sha’aban, per month at the lunar-based Islamic calendar, signaling the passing date of Lal Shahbaz. Even though it might look strange to celebrate somebody’s passing, because of his followers, it’s a day of pleasure: that the day Lal Shahbaz expired is that the day that his spirit escaped the cycle of existence and rejoined Allah in paradise.
But unlike other spiritual happenings in Pakistan, this passing day festival feels equally like an Islamic model of Burning Man as it’s a spiritual pilgrimage.
A Fast Guide to the Urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar at Sehwan, Pakistan
Even though it a crazy and enriching adventure, traveling into the urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar at Sehwan, Pakistan, could be a significant hassle. The festival sees much, far too many people squished into a tiny city, and for the upcoming few decades, the urs will happen during hot times year.
But I highly recommend the experience to any traveler interested in undergoing the furious power of Southern Asian festivals or learning more about Sufi culture.
Here is what you want to know about going to the urs for the next several years.
Here would be the Gregorian calendar equivalents of this day in the forthcoming years:
Ways to Reach Sehwan Sharif
Just two trains stop in Sehwan: the Khushal Khan Khattak Express (Karachi — Peshawar, market seating only) along with the Bolan Mail (Karachi — Quetta, market, and AC). If working on time, the two arrive at Sehwan Sharif in the middle of the night.
In case you’ve got a little more time or can not buy a ticket for both of these trains–Hyderabad is a sensible and well-connected town to begin your travels. Numerous trains operate from the significant cities to Hyderabad daily. To achieve Sehwan out of Hyderabad, you can hire a cab or take a local bus for 2 hours.
Sehwan is linked to Karachi from Daewoo, Pakistan’s most reliable bus support.
Otherwise, local buses move from Bhit Shah (two hours) and Hyderabad (two hours). Ask around to determine where the bus rack is where you’re.
Many pilgrim buses go from nearby cities to Sehwan all through the urs, and a few are pleased to provide rides to other people at no cost. When a bus is complete, ask to ride the roof. You will not be the only one!
Where to remain in Sehwan Sharif
Ah, now we get to the problematic part: lodging.
Throughout the festival, I moved to many different areas: in neighboring cities, on the roof of an (unfinished) construction ). Do not be like me, and attempt to sort out your lodging beforehand.
Hotel Sehwan Divine is a costly option, with double rooms heading for about $40 a soda regularly, but it is also the only hotel you can reserve in advance online. Expensive as it might be, it’s a beautiful hotel, and it’s own connected (and air-conditioned!) Sehwan Restaurant is the tastiest food choice in all Sehwan. It highly recommended if you are melting off your face and require a little bit of respite throughout the festival.
Recommended by Tim of all Pakistan Traveller, the very comprehensive Pakistan guidebook, it is near the shrine and considerably more budget-friendly.
For ultra-budget travelers, it is possible to camp out to the roadside–or anyplace with distance –or establish a camp/tent within Lal Bagh Park. Most pilgrims put up their camps within Lal Bagh. Foreigners will probably be taken in by entertained locals, but beware–thieves and pickpockets do ramble around the holiday season. See your possessions.
Dadu is a city near Sehwan with a few lodging choices.
Bhit Shah is just another city about two hours off, famous for its magnificent shrine to some other Sufi saint, Shah Abdul Latif Bhttai. Throughout the urs, you will see many pilgrims en route to Sehwan sleeping at the shrine’s courtyard (for free).
Things to learn about visiting the urs
Time to dive to the festival!
Dhamaal starts after the night namaaz. Dhamaal is your mad drum and dancing trance ritual performed in Sufi shrines. There are just three days of dhamaal, beginning on the 18 Sha’aban. Offerings can vary from simple cups of water, to little handfuls of candy, juice containers, to full meals foods of biryani or roti and daal. Don’t hesitate to partake, also understand that it is considered extremely rude to deny langar.
The lineup to the shrine is extended. In May, the lineup was shortest at the mid day, as it had been too hot for most people to stand out. The lineup is best to round dhamaal during the day.
There are various channels for women and men. The ladies line would be on the left side.
No sneakers are allowed in the shrine. Try leaving your sneakers using a shopkeeper nearby–they will be dropped to the audience differently.
You cannot bring cameras or bags to the shrine. Foreigners, you may be in a position to bring in a camera in case you are politely firm and ask it of their security guards in the shrine’s entry.
Red is the color. Bright red is your color to wear if you would like to dress to impress in the urs.
The telephone signal stinks. Whether it is due to the vast audiences or since security forces confine signs, know you can not count on your telephone constantly functioning. Calls and texts will gradually go through, but the information isn’t expected close to the shrine. Further off and in neighboring cities, I’d 4G with Zong.
Can NOT take videos or photos of safety guards/anything security-related. You may upset a good deal of individuals. I’d safety come and force me to delete a movie of this shrine line I listed in my phone that had a safety guard inside for a short moment.
Is It Secure To Stop By Sehwan Along With the Urs?
Not to frighten you off, but it is something which has to be mentioned: Sehwan was the goal of that substantial terrorist attack in February 2017.
Everything I can ensure is that the urs of Lal Shahbaz in Sehwan is what your government advises to keep away from several types of oft-targeted spiritual minorities (Sufis and Shias), big audiences, areas with a history of strikes.
Whether you wish to choose the danger is the choice –I am only here to inform you. Know that safety is taken quite severely throughout the urs.
There are authorities and ISI all around Sehwan. The rules aren’t reluctant to use force to quell crazed crowds (since I watched ).
There is no reassuring anybody’s security, but I would say it is a calculated risk worth taking.
The last note to my fellow woman travelers interested in going to the urs!
If you are heading into the urs, make sure you keep things conservative and be cautious. Not to stereotype, but the audience at the festival is mainly out of villages and the poorer rates of society–they are not utilized to women traveling freely, notably girls traveling alone. Let us say this isn’t the most enchanting place for a female traveler.
I visited with the urs using a bunch of male friends, and even after that, additional guys were uneasy occasionally, sometimes following me filming me. One day, I wandered about without hijab, and boy oh boy, it was a beautiful encounter (sarcasm–I have not been stared at a lot because of Bangladesh).
Be sure that you dress conservatively; salwar kameez along with a headscarf is highly recommended both indoors and outside the shrine. Short sleeves are definite. Be cautious with guys that talk to you–particularly young bachelors–and then lock your doors at night to stop creepers drifting in.
Pakistan event aware everyone about the latest and upcoming festivals.