Nicholas Schmidle relates his experience at the annual three-day festival marking the death of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar at Smithsonian.com. Every year, a few hundred thousand Sufis converge in Seh- wan, a town in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province for the festival.
In the desert swelter of southern Pakistan, the scent of rosewater mixed with a waft of hashish smoke. Drummers pounded away as celebrants swathed in red pushed a camel bedecked with garlands, tinsel and multihued scarfs through the heaving crowd. A man skirted past, grinning and dancing, his face glistening like the golden dome of a shrine nearby. “Mast Qalandar!” he cried. “The ecstasy of Qalandar!” for the saint buried inside the shrine. The men threw rose petals at a dozen women who danced in what seemed like a mosh pit near the shrine’s entrance. Enraptured, one woman placed her hands on her knees and threw her head back and forth; another bounced and jiggled as if she were astride a trotting horse. The drumming and dancing never stopped, not even for the call to prayer. Continue reading