Shrine Culture: The Sufi face of Lahore

A woman lighting up a chiraagh — a ritual mostly seen at Sufi shrines in the subcontinent.

From Daily Pakistan by Shahbano Shahbaz

Sufism, defined as the mystical system of the Sufis, is no less than a divine culture weaved into the history of Pakistan. The practice of Sufi customs within the subcontinent is a spiritual and complex discourse itself with not only an extraordinary timeline of tales, it also leads to the establishment of shrines culture. With an evolution of over 1000 years this sacred practice left its mark in the form a spiritual culture that promotes love, tolerance and inclusiveness.
A shrine is recognized as a holy place due to its association with a heavenly personality. Lahore, the city of love, has been known for being packed with shrines and tombs.  Let it be made clear that shrines and tombs originate from the same roots, however, they are both separate branches of remembrance. Sufis like Bulleh Shah, Mahdu Laal Hussain, Mian Mir Qadri and Shah Jamal Qadri became famous by the title of Murshad, which means spiritual leader, although time has proven they were much more than just leaders for even the greatest leaders have tombs but never has one had a shrine. A tomb is regarded as a place of melancholy and sorrow whereas a shrine is a place of hope, love and harmony.

Any king can have a tomb but not a shrine, No king’s tomb can ever bless its people with spiritual enlightenment. – Muhammad Yahya  Khan

This makes saints not only preachers of love but also the pioneers of shrine culture.  Each shrine having its very own significance, history and custom is cherished in its own way. Specifically focusing in the most notable names of Sufism within Lahore are we come across the names and shrines of  Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh, Hazrat Mian  Qadri, Madho Laal Hussain , Shah Jamal Qadri and  Hazrat Shah Inayat Qadri. These darbaars have kept their enfolded saints alive far beyond physical existence. To be in love to such an extent that it develops into an example for witnesses, for that love to become the height of all love to have existed can only lead to the phenomenon of a shrine. The love from a saint to his God is exquisite.


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