LAHORE: Mela Chiraghan (Festival of Lights) kicked off on Saturday in celebration of the 429th urs (death anniversary) of renowned Sufi saint Shah Hussain, commonly known as Madhu Lal Hussain. The three day celebrations started after Religious Affairs Director General Dr Tahir Raza Bukhari laid a traditional chaddar on the grave of the saint. Every year, devotees from all over the country lay floral wreaths at the graves of Shah Hussain and Madho Lal, perform dhamal at the shrine, light candles for fulfilment of their prayers, and distribute food, water, milk, and juices. The last day of the Urs is reserved for women. Devotees poured into the shrine to pay homage to the saint, with all roads leading to the shrine filled with those coming to attend the celebrations, many of them in long queues and many busy buying flowers and chadars to put on the grave. All sorts of local foods were being served, especially gol gappay, qatlamaay, sweetmeats, and not to mention the bhang wallay pappar. A large number of people were present at the alao, a fire at the shrine which is said to be burning for many years now. The devotees were busy in lighting candles and lamps and many were seen enthusiastically performing the traditional dhamal to qawalis written by the saint.
Unlike previous years, swings were installed away from the venue toward the China Scheme due to security reasons. This situation created problems for parents whose children insisted on going for a ride. Following the security threats at shrines, the Lahore police made special security arrangements to cater to the devotees. According to a statement, at least 8,000 police personnel have been deputed inside and outside the premises of shrine along with many other intelligence personnel. Traffic of nearby roads has been diverted to other roads while special parking stands have been set up for the devotees coming to the shrine. According to an estimate, more than half a million devotees from around the country will attend this colourfull and unique festival. A mehfil-e-samaa will be held in which renowned qawwals will recite Sufi poetry during the urs. Religious and spiritual meetings will also be held and ulema mushaikh will throw light on the teachings of Hazrat Madhu Lal Hussain. The celebrations will continue till the night of March 29.