KARACHI: The provincial government on Thursday decided to cancel the annual urs of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, scheduled for April 12.
Officials in the Auqaf Department told The Express Tribune that the decision was made due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
As per the Islamic calendar, the three days of festivities at the shrine of Sufi saint Usman Marwandi – popularly known as Lal Shahbaz Qalander – starts from Shaban 18. Thousands from all over Pakistan flock to the shrine to attend the urs.
“Daily, 8,000 to 10,000 people visit the shrine. During the annual urs, the number of visitors climbs to around 800,000 to one million during the three days festivities,” the official in Aufaq Department said, adding that the shrine is now closed following Sindh government’s decision about the lockdown in the province.
When contacted, the Chief Administrator Aufaq Department Munwar Ali Mahesar also confirmed the news about the cancellation of the annual urs.
“After the government’s decision, we don’t allow any devotees or others to visit the shrine,” he said.
Another official in the department said that only the ‘dhamal‘, the practice of whirling – in a state of elation in response to the drums – performed by devotees to honour Sufi saints continues with a few employees of the departnent.
“Not only Lal Qalander’s shrine, but 14 other main shrines in the city are also closed,” said Mustafa Mirani who lives in the area.
According to Mirani, Pathan Kafi is adjacent to the shrine from where two to three thousand people get free meals daily, is also closed for people.