By Haroon Khalid
The South Asian culture is rich because of its various hues and diversities that characterize its idiosyncrasy. Bright colors, rituals and superstitions for practically every action, and numerous festivals all give a distinct flavor to the South Asian life. There is a saying that in Pre-Partition Lahore there were 30 days in a month and 31 festivals. Most of these rituals and practices are not as obvious as they were a few decades ago, however if one is willing to dig beneath the surface and explore the rich heritage of Pakistan’s unexplored rural and sub-urban life, one would end up unearthing celebrations that would leave one surprised and asking for more.
The annual festival to mark the urs celebration of Syed Akbar Ali Shah at a small village near the historical city of Chunian is one such tale of the fascinating life in India and Pakistan. The Saint had 4 sons viz. Khwaja Abdul Aziz Mast, Ghulam Mustafa, Muhammad Ashraf and Khalil Ahmad. Khwaja Abdul Aziz Mast was the eldest of them all and the heir of the Sainthood (Kadi Nasheen). He was a colorful character, who gave a unique blend to his father’s annual urs. He started calling eunuchs each year to take part in the festivities. He would treat them with a lot of love, an act which no one else was willing to extend to them, not even his own brothers. He would say that those whom no one loves, I would, which also endeared him to the eunuchs. Every year they would come to the 9 day and night celebration of the urs, dance and sing all night, collect money from their adorers and sleep all day. His brothers, in particular, Ghulam Mustafa, was more puritanical in his approach and condemned the ‘disrespect’, these eunuchs brought to the final resting place of his father. He gave his brother an ultimatum to end this ‘un-Islamic’ act. Baba Mast, as Khwaja Abdul Aziz Mast is popularly known was a man of love, who did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. He left the spot, where the Kadi Nasheen used to sit, and moved a few kilometers towards the Chunian city, next to the Balloki canal. The eunuchs also accompanied them. Gradually the pomp and splendor of the tomb also shifted to where Baba Mast had established himself, so much so that after a little while, his brother was left with no other option but to call Baba Mast back. Continue reading