Festivities at the four-day Sheedi Mela concluded on Wednesday in Manghopir after Sheedis offered fresh meat and halwa to the crocodiles of Hazrat Khawaja Hassan Mazar today to mark the end of the annual event.
The Sheedi Mela is an annual spiritual festival celebrated in June or July in Karachi’s Manghopir neighbourhood of Gadap Town.
The festival, which was once a regular feature in Manghopir until mid-2011, resumed in 2017 after a gap of seven years due to the law and order situation in the area. However, the festival was only held for a single day in 2017 and was celebrated half-heartedly because of internal community issues.
In 2018, though, the grandiose festival was celebrated for three days with all of its traditional rituals. It was celebrated after the neighbouring localities of Sultanabad, Pashtunabad and Kunwari Colony, were cleared of Taliban militants by law enforcement agencies’ crackdown.
This year, the sounds of drums echoed in the streets of Manghopir on Wednesday morning as Sheedi men, women and children performed their traditional dhamal over tunes on their sacred drums.
The annual procession started from Sheedi Goth, which is located near the shrine, towards Hazrat Khawaja Hassan Mazar in Manghopir. Attendees from across Sindh and Balochistan sang folklore during the procession.
“In the past, our elders never allowed any kid to even touch our sacred drums. The times, however, have changed and now they are aware of the fact that these kids have to learn this art to take the legacy forward,” said one of the attendees, Ali Baloch.
He added that now they allow every kid to do everything they want during the festival to take the legacy forward.
According to the people, the festival has been celebrated for centuries. “It was celebrated by our forefathers,” said Baloch. He said the Sheedi Melo roots back from India’s Jamnagar, Ratanpur and Bhavnagar.
The most interesting part of the festival is the feeding of the crocodiles living in the pond on the premises of the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Hassan. During the festival, offerings of fresh meat and halwa are made to Mor Sahab, the oldest crocodile.
According to locals, Mor Sahab, is believed to be more than 100 years old. When the crocodile ate the meat and raised its neck above the ground, the devotees perceived that their offering had been accepted.
“This festival is more important than Eid to all the Sheedis,” said a Sheedi woman, Hameeda. “Each community has the right to celebrate their festivals and share happiness,” she added.
“We feel happy when the crocodiles accept our offerings because it’s often called bad luck when they don’t take it,” she explained.
Sheedis believe that by honouring the crocodile their year will pass in peace and prosperity.