LAHORE - “I have been coming to Urs of Data Sahib for 20 years and spending three days at his feet. Data Hazoor preached love for mankind. Devotion to him brings magical changes in life,” says Hussain Elahi, a middle-aged devotee of Hazrat Ali Hajveri (RA), commonly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, whose 975th Urs celebrations began here yesterday.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar along with Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri and Auqaf Minister Syed Saeedul Hassan inaugurated the three-day celebrations by laying wreaths at the shrine of the 11th century Sufi saint. Teachings of Hazrat Ali Hajveri are considered a treasure of lslamic wisdom on Sufism.

Hussain hails from a village near Jhang, a city located 200km west of Lahore. He is among thousands of Hazrat Ali Hajveri’s devotees who come to Urs from far flung areas and call themselves malang of Data Sahib .

Clad in green clothes, they can be seen dancing and chanting on drum beats everywhere around the shrine. People enjoy free food, lit oil lamps around and inside the tomb and pray for peace. Distribution of free milk in large quantities is a special feature of the Urs. Separate arrangements were made for women and families. There will be a local holiday in Lahore on concluding day of the celebrations that is Tuesday.

Malik Zahoor and his family are frequent visitors to the shrine of Data Sahib . Zahoor says he brings to the shrine Halwa (a sweet traditional dish made with desi ghee, sugar, dry fruits and flour) every Thursday night from his home in Shahdara and distributes it to visitors. God, he said, bestowed his family with everything due to this act.

The Punjab Auqaf Department is organising the event and fixed a grant of around Rs100 million for the purpose. Devotees from India, Saudi Arabia, Europe and the United States are also participating in Urs. Elaborate security arrangements were made to avoid any untoward situation at the site. Qirat and Naat competitions, international conference on Sufism, Qawwali and Sama (music) events were organised in connection of Urs activities.

Hazrat Ali Hajveri is said to be the spiritual teacher of Hazrat Moeenuddin Chishti Ajmeri, another great Sufi saint called Tajdar-i-Hind (the King of Indo-Pak). Data Ganj Bakhsh means the master bestower of treasure.

Devotees of saints in the sub-continent celebrate death anniversaries of Sufis as their wedding celebrations in affirmation of the belief that death brings the saints into union with God.

Separately, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan organised the 4th national ‘Shan-i-Aulia Conference’ in connection with Data Sahib’s Urs. TLP leader Pir Ijaz Ashrafi and other clerics addressed the event. The speakers highlighted the need to seek guidance from the teachings of the great Sufi saint.