Charisma of Qalandar puts Sindh cultural department to shame

IT WAS a marvelous evening at the German consulate Thursday evening, where a grand show of dhamal and sufi music was arranged as part of the cultural week, which the consulate is celebrating, and has been organizing a series of memorable functions, in cultural and economic fields.

If last week, the consul general Dr tino Klinner had organized a panel discussion on training of manpower capable of providing quality management services to our corporate and other sectors, the latest event was on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a revered soil who taught peace and amity to the world through his thought

Every year his “urs” or anniversary celebrations take place at his mausoleum in Dadu district.

But the Sindh cultural department is in deep slumber of our valued assets and hardly has taken any interest in developing the archaeological site like Moenjodaro or Makli Hills near Thatta, or even organizing seminars, discussions etc on sufiism, which is recognized worldwide for its enormous value as heritage.

It was left to the US consulate first to organize a qawwali event on sufi poetry, and now it is German consulate to organize an impressive evening, to shed light on the great work of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalander and sell Pakistan to the outside world as a country, rich in history, which is exploited through arts, and cultural programme, could attract huge number of tourists from abroad.

Moenjo dao, a historic site with 5000 years old history of Lord Buddha’s preachings and history, remains neglected. It is taught as a subject in Japanese syllabi to students, and until not long ago, plane loads of Japanese tourists used to visit Moenjodaro for worship and learning more about their revered figure.

Today Moenjodari is in ruins, its brick walls, are crumbling into dust, and the site remains neglected and perhaps may vanish into history.

A great inspiring group of musicians and dancers, all males, enthralled an audience to a show at the consulate which may perhaps have not been seen before by many. From any angle, it was a great performance, memorable and awe inspiring. The kind of music played on Dholak and instruments, and individual or collective dancers worked wonders, evoking loud applause from the audience. The group was headed by Tufail Khan Sanjrani.

The show was organized by the Oxford University Press (OUP) and the Consulate General of Germany , and rightly titled as ‘Charisma of the Qalandar’ which featured a talk and presentation by the German anthropologist and author, Professor Jürgen Wasim Frembgen, on the unique devotional practices and rituals witnessed at the shrine of Pakistan’s most popular Sufi saint, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. This was followed by a mystical Sufi music performance by Tufail Khan Sanjrani.

Through a selection of colourful, visually fascinating images of artefacts, devotees, musicians, and faqirs, Professor Frembgen, in his presentation, transported the audience to the heart of the Sufi traditions, music, and culture associated with the Qalandar’s shrine in Sehwan Sharif. Professor Frembgen also read out excerpts from his ethnographic study At the Shrine of the Red Sufi: Five Days and Nights on Pilgrimage in Pakistan published by Oxford University Press. This vividly written narrative takes the reader on a journey to experience the spiritual rapture, ecstasy, trance, magic, and devotion at the annual urs celebrations held in honour of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar,.

Professor Dr Jürgen Wasim Frembgen is Chief Curator of the Oriental Department at the Museum of Ethnology in Munich, as well as Professor in Islamic Studies at the University of Munich. He has conducted ethnographic field work in Pakistan since 1981, including working in the Hunza and Nagar valleys, the Indus Kohistan, Punjab, and Sindh. Frembgen has more than a hundred English and German language publications to his credit.

With (OUP) he has published six books including The Friends of God—Sufi Saints in Islam: Popular Poster Art from Pakistan; Journey to God: Sufis and Dervishes in Islam; and Nocturnal Music in the Land of the Sufis: Unheard Pakistan. He has written extensively on cultures of the Eastern Muslim world between Iran and India, focusing particularly on Pakistan.

Earlier, Dr Tilo Klinner, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany welcomed the guests, introduced the author, and spoke about the expanding cultural ties between Germany and Pakistan. In her address, Ameena Saiyid, Managing Director, Oxford University Press Pakistan, said that the Sufi tradition has strong roots in the subcontinent.

“Jurgen Wasim Frembgen’s interest in the Muslim world and specifically Pakistan dominates his work and has brought to light many of the gentler and deeply interesting aspects of these cultures”, she further added. Dr Mehdi Raza Shah Subzwari, Sajjada Nashin, Qalandar Lal Shahbaz, spoke about the significance of the life and teachings of the red saint.