After remaining suspended for more than 33 years, the annual Urs of Sufi saint Syed Qamar-ud-Din Bukhari will be observed in J&K’s Ganderbal district from Wednesday.
The four-day long Urs has a historical background and it had to be suspended because of opposition from followers of radical Islam.
Despite the strait jacket concept of Islam advocated by the Ahle Hadis school of thought, the iconic Urs at the Sufi’s shrine in Ganderbal stands out to prove that Sufism has deeper roots in Kashmir.
Till its suspension, the Urs at Ganderbal would attract hundreds of devotees who would come to pay obeisance at the saint’s mausoleum.
Sweetmeat sellers, fruit sellers, garment stalls and entertainment avenues for children would be the other highlights of the Urs.
The water transport from Srinagar through Jhelum and Sindh stream would enable scores of people who would come in ‘Dongas’ (non-luxury houseboats) to attend the Urs.
These Dongas would remain stationed on the Sindh stream for around a week when people from Srinagar would spend sometime away from city’s hustle and bustle.
Authorities have made arrangements this year to facilitate the movement of Dongas to revive this important aspect of the Urs.
People living in villages close to the shrine would invite relatives and friends on this annual Urs while family get togethers gave an important value addition to the devotees’ prayers.
The Urs formally begins Wednesday evening with nightlong prayers and chanting of ‘Doruds’ (prayers of the Holy Prophet).
“We had to restrict the Urs for the last 33 years because of turmoil. We would, however, perform the nightlong prayers at the shrine during all those years.
“This year, the grandeur and gaiety for which Syed Qamar-Ud-Din Bukhari’s Urs is known throughout the Valley is again returning to Ganderbal,” said a member of the shrine’s management committee.
One significant highlight of this Urs in the past used to be the participation of Kashmiri Pandits alongside their Muslim brethren.
While it is not known from where the saint came to this village, folklore has it that the entire area would get devastated because of the annual floods in the Sindh stream.
“Locals implored the saint to save them from the vagaries of annual floods and after this the saint started praying by the banks of the Sindh stream (where the shrine is located today).
“After he stationed himself by the banks of the stream, there were no annual floods. Pleased with the saint’s blessings, locals decided to celebrate the Urs at the shrine each year,” said the management committee member.
Whether the saint’s miracle or the extensive flood protection works undertaken by the government after Independence prevented the annual floods in the Sindh stream, the fact remains that the reverence for the saint has withstood all tides of fundamentalism and radicalisation in Kashmir.