Integrated into the depth of the mystic culture, the festival celebrations of Sufi saints are some of the most important nights for all mystic lovers. These celebrations are more commonly known as ‘Urs’ and are conducted to commemorate the death anniversary of the Sufi saints. Their popularity in South Asia has led to their worldwide recognition attracting more than 500,000 devotees every year. Each Urs ritual takes place at specific dates. The most popular ones are:
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Data Ganj Bakhsh The Urs of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh is celebrated every year from 18 to 20 Safar (Islamic Hijri Calendar) at the Darbar Shareef in Lahore, Pakistan. Around 500 religious scholars and 200 spiritual leaders from India and Pakistan attend the event every year. Qirat competitions, free milk distribution, special prayers, lighting up of the shrine and local bazaar, beating of drums, and reciting hymns are some of the main elements of the festival. For three days, there is free food (Langar) distributed among the devotees as part of worship.
Bahauddin Zakariyah Suharwardy Multani died in 1268 in the region now known as Multan. His mausoleum is one of the most widely recognized across the country because of its unique structure. On the first day of the Urs, high profile attendees are allowed to clean the shrine with water performing a ‘ghusal’ of the shrine. Free meals are given to the participants. The community comes together to pray and participate in the festivities. Men, women, and children take turns to enter the shrine and leave small gifts.
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Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai In a small town of Pakistan known as ‘Bhit Shah’, you will find the darbar of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a Sindhi Sufi scholar, mystic, saint, poet, and musician. The Urs is observed for three days starting 14 Safar (Islamic Hijri Calendar). Upon entering Bhit Shah, the attendees are met with lights and decorations placed all over the town. The highlight of the Urs is the playing of the Tambooroo, which is a musical instrument invented by the late Sufi himself. It fills the night with its notes and chants that bring a sense of calm to the people.
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti The largest Urs festival is observed in Ajmer, a city in India. It honors the death anniversary of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, also known as “Gharib Nawaz” (Benefactor of The Poor). The festival attracts around 300,000 people every year. It is open to all faiths and is one of the only occasions where religious divides are forgotten. It is held in the Rajab month of the Islamic Calendar. This six-day Urs features night-long zikr, qawwali singing, and Badhaawa (a poem of praise) that is sung at the main entrance of the shrine
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Lal Shahbaz Qalandar The shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is located in Sindh, Pakistan, in a small town called Sehwan. On 18 Sha’aban (Islamic Hijri Calendar) there is a grand mela to celebrate the Urs of the Sufi saint. It attracts malangs (wandering Sufi holy men) from all over the country. The festival is dominated by Dhamal and Qawwali performances, folk singing, and traditional Sindhi wrestling. For many, this 3-day festival is the highlight of their trip to Sindh as they can witness the local Sindhi Sufi culture in full swing.