At last count there were a total of 2,717 shrines in India while in Pakistan that figure was 3400. These are the well-known ones otherwise the figure might be much higher if smaller less known shrines that can be found in almost every corner of the country are also counted.

These are the shrines where the birth and passing away of the saint buried in that shrine are celebrated and observed respectively on a national and even international level as devotees come from the four corners of the world to participate.

In India, among the more well-known shrines is the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai. It was constructed in 1431 in memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant, Sayyed Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who gave up all his worldly possessions before making a pilgrimage to Makkah. Haji Ali Dargah is his tomb and Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari (R.A.) is considered the patron saint of Mumbai.

It is not without reason that Pir Bukhari is revered as patron saint of Mumbai. The reason is more or less the same as that which places the Shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi as a protector of the city of Karachi. It is widely believed that no disastrous cyclone will ever hit Karachi as long as the Shrine of Shah Ghazi stands on the sea shore of the city.

The Haji Ali Dargah enjoys same reputation as it didn’t suffer any damage during the massive storm in 1949 which caused much destruction in Mumbai and the heavy floods in 2005.

In Pakistan, all the shrines have been taken under the administrative control of the Auqaf department and their income supervised by the ministry of religious affairs. The income from these shrines is considerable as can be gauged from the fact that income of Data Darbar went up by Rs15 million to Rs230.97 million in Jan-Nov 2016. Considering the big jump witnessed in 2016, it can be safely assumed that these figures have increased manifold.

The ironic fact is that as the middle class and the lower middle class face more difficulties in terms of employment, low salaries and putting the food on the table for the families their visits to these shrines increase in the hope of divine intervention that will change their fortunes and make life easier for them and their families. This increases the income of the shrine and at least provides some solace to the devotees who cling to this hoping for some miracle.

A shrine whether in India or in Pakistan is the hub of activities that span a large spectrum. Within the Shrine is the keeper and his assistants but outside the shrine the whole area is also influenced by the presence of a shrine in their midst. Rows upon rows of flower shops that also provide Chadars, the colorful cloth with religious inscriptions that the devotee if he has the finances will place on the tomb of the revered personality as an offering that he hopes will expedite his requests to the saint concerned.

Shops offer the local favorite food, Biryani, which the well-to-do will order and then distribute to the waiting poor. The distribution of this much sought after rice dish is also something to behold. The distributor is at times overwhelmed by those seeking their share and sometimes the whole exercise ends in a stampede.

Not to forget the drug dealers and the drug addicts who are lying on the street outside these shrines. Some are waiting for food while others for some monetary help for the next joint.

All this happens under the watchful eyes of the local police. What bothers me is the presence of children the street urchins being brought up on the streets outside these shrines.

I wonder why no government or social agency provides protection or adopts these innocent kids, both boys and girls, to give them a decent upbringing and schooling to save them from being future drug addicts, pickpockets, thieves and involved in other social misdemeanors. Why these children are allowed to become street hardened criminals, which later add to the rising crime in cities across the country.

Talking of children reminds of the Shrine of Saint Shah Dolah located in Gujrat, Pakistan. The children here have sloping foreheads, narrow faces that resemble rodents, and are often intellectually disabled and dependent on others. There are many stories regarding their physical and mental disabilities.

The most common and widespread is that begging groups and gangs allegedly place iron bands around the heads of healthy children to induce such deformation. This again is a subject for attention from the right quarters and efforts to investigate and improve the lot of children if stories of their maltreatment are true.

The Shrine of Shah Dolah is a common pilgrimage site for women and married couples who wish to bear children. Actually, all shrines are avenues of hope for people who flock to them and spill out their desires giving them some hope and in return bring some tranquility in society.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

QOSHE - Shrines in the subcontinent - Zia Ul Islam Zuberi
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Shrines in the subcontinent

29 7
30.03.2024

At last count there were a total of 2,717 shrines in India while in Pakistan that figure was 3400. These are the well-known ones otherwise the figure might be much higher if smaller less known shrines that can be found in almost every corner of the country are also counted.

These are the shrines where the birth and passing away of the saint buried in that shrine are celebrated and observed respectively on a national and even international level as devotees come from the four corners of the world to participate.

In India, among the more well-known shrines is the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai. It was constructed in 1431 in memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant, Sayyed Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who gave up all his worldly possessions before making a pilgrimage to Makkah. Haji Ali Dargah is his tomb and Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari (R.A.) is considered the patron saint of Mumbai.

It is not without reason that Pir Bukhari is revered as patron saint of Mumbai. The reason is more or less the same as that which places the Shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi as a protector of the city of Karachi. It is widely believed that no disastrous cyclone will ever hit Karachi as long as the Shrine of Shah Ghazi stands on the........

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