Mela Charaghan to begin on 29th
By Shoaib Ahmed
LAHORE: Preparations for Mela Charaghan (festival of lights), to start on March 29, are in full swing with 400,000 people from around the country expected to participate in the three-day event.
The road leading to the tomb of Sufi poet Shah Hussain in Baghbanpura is being decorated, while the tomb itself is being cleaned and some areas are being whitewashed.
Shah Hussain (1538-1599) is commonly known as Madhu Lal Hussain, the story being that he adopted his Hindu friend Madhu Lal’s name to immortalise their friendship. He was around during the time of the Mughal emperors Akbar and Jehangir. Though of a poor family, Hussain was highly educated. His poetry is full of symbolism. Some of his most famous kafis feature the Charkha, as in those days foreign merchants used to sell cotton to Lahore, which the poor later weaved into cloth.
The festival, now not as popular as it once was, used to be called the Punjab cultural fair. It began with a celebration of Hussain’s birth, and included the seasonal Baisakhi festival, which marks the beginning of the cutting of the wheat crop. The rest of the festival was celebrated at Shalamar Gardens. The third and final day was reserved for women only, as it still is.
In 1958, President Ayub Khan ordered that the mela would no longer be celebrated at Shalamar Gardens. There used to be horses bought and sold at the mela, till the British Raj decided to separate this part of the festivities into the Horse and Cattle Show.
Nowadays, the festival is marked with the burning of candles and diyas in memory of Shah Hussain. There will also be drum beating and several dhamaals and qawalis.
Sheikh Muhammad Mushtaq, manager of the Shah Hussain tomb, told Daily Times of some of the preparations made for this years event. New toilets for ladies are to be constructed. Famous drummer Pappu will perform.
Mr Mushtaq said the inaugural ceremony would be held on the night of March 28. He said millions of people from all over the country would participate in the three-day festival.
A resident near the tomb of Shah Hussian, Aamir Iqbal, said all the youngsters in the area would gather at the tomb on the night of March 28 and dance for hours the beat of drums.
He said his favourite part of the festival was the scene when the whole tomb was lit up by the hundreds of thousands of lit-candles carried by people.