Channan Peer Mela – A Festival Surrounding Myths and Devotion:
The shrine of Hazrat Emad-Ud-Din, famously known as Channan Peer, is situated about 65 KM away from Bahawalpur in the desert of Cholistan. Channan means ‘moon’ in the local language. The village, also named after the Sufi Saint, has his tomb built at the place that is allegedly his burial spot. It is an open grave with a roof but no walls.
To celebrate; the death anniversary of the Sufi, a festival is arranged every year for decades that lasts for seven weeks, the fifth one known as the most blessed. Previously, people from the district of Bahawalpur were the only attendees of the mela.
People came to pay respect from around the nation as the story travelled across. They wanted a glimpse of the most widespread, well-liked carnival of South Punjab. People begin to arrive by the end of the winter season after travelling for months: to remember the life, sacrifice, and teachings of Channan Peer. Different cultural and traditional activities take over the village to prepare for the festive. The locals give an overview of their heritage and beliefs to the visitors that come.
About Channan Peer Mela:
Where Channan Peer Mela takes Place?
Travelling through Derawar to Din Garh, the village of Channan Peer is found between these two forts. Drylands, cracked surfaces, and the arid area; barely has anything to offer other than the tomb of Channan Peer. Mostly found dull during the day and dark at night, the village is far away from modernisation. That is why the locals look forward to the festivities of Urs that bring the village back to life from its usual dreary days.
When Channan Peer Mela takes Place?
Starting from Thursday of February, the mela goes on for seven consecutive Thursdays of the spring season. The fifth Thursday, however, is considered to be sacred that makes it the most significant one. This particular Thursday attracts people who visit the tomb to say special prayers hoping their issues resolve.
Throughout the festival, the shrine gets washed with rose water. People take turns to do it since they believe they are playing a significant part by doing so. Locals arrange naat khawani, recitation of Holy Quran to bless the soul of Sufi and his followers. Several oil lamps are lighted, and individuals take turns making sure they do not blow off as it carries spiritual meaning.
The Legend of Channan Peer and his Grave:
The Origins of Channan Peer:
Numerous tales; surrounding the life of Channan Peer are present. How he was born, the life he had, and the mystery surrounding his death. Channan Peer was a son of Hindu Raja of Jaisalmer, Sadharan, and his Rani, Naino. The couple was well respected and privileged with everything but a child.
Upon arriving at a reputed Saint, Jalaluddin Surkh Bukhari, Rani meets him and asks him to say a special prayer for the childless couple to be blessed with a child. The Saint prays for them but at the same time foreshadows that the child born will be a Muslim. Later, the couple gives birth to a boy who was born reciting Holy Quran.
The King immediately calls for his own blood’s execution because he cannot stand a Muslim. The Rani begs to spare her son’s life, and the Raja changes his decision from killing to exile. The boy is left alone on dry, lifeless land until he gets discovered by a Hindus group who sees him feeding on a deer. The Raja then again orders to murder the child while the Rani leaves her place to save him.
The story varies from person to person about what happens then. Some believe the child grew up as a Sufi who helped several Hindus convert to Islam. While some assumed, the Raja succeeded in taking the life of his son. Channan Peer, however, vanished some 600 years ago. His death is still a mystery as some say he blended into the hot sand, never seen again.
The Fables Built around Channan Peer’s Tomb:
The shrine of Channan Peer does not have any walls. Hundreds of years ago, the devotees tried building four walls around his tomb but failed. There are accounts of people completing the walls and waking up the next day with them destroyed. People witnessed the walls going down after getting hit by lightning.
There are stories of the whole thing collapsing overnight without any concrete explanation. That is when they give up on the idea of building a mausoleum and accepted it as the divine’s desire. No one attempted to make it again in the last two centuries after witnessing these mysteries.
The Significance of the Channan Peer Mela:
There are several reasons why both Muslims and Hindus visit the shrine of Channan Peer every year. The festival is mainly known for vows made and things done to acquire a better future.
Concept of Tabarruk:
People visiting the Channan Peer Mela throw away a scared sweet known as Tabbaruk on the ground. The legend says whoever eats the sweet after picking it up from the dunes will lead; a blessed life by attaining worldly pleasures such as comfort, money, and happiness.
The Tree of Jund:
There is a large tree present in the land of Channan Peer, Jund, a Cholistanian Tree. It holds immense significance as it is grown over the grave of Channan Peer’s mother. Each year, people come to tie a red cloth on one branch and say a mannat, a promise. If their wish comes true, they will donate something in return. After having their vows fulfilled, people return to untie the cloth and make charity.
Activities for People at the Channan Peer Mela:
Groups of supporters coming from across the country do not only visit for the religious and spiritual values, but they also come for the entertainment and food served to those attending the festival. Amusing and thrilling things people get to witness at Channan Peer are:
Variety of Performances:
The festival offers different performances, such as theatre shows representing diverse cultures. Stories of locals: the saints and the folk tales get acted on in these theatre performances. It gives people a better idea of their culture and heritage. To entertain the kids that accompany their parents, magicians prepare magic displays.
Display of Animal Show:
At one corner, a man laughs as his camel dances to the sound of dhol, a musical instrument played by a musician. On the other side, a group of individuals paints their donkeys and horses. The camels, too, get decorated by men who want their animals to stand out among the crowd.
Types of Rides:
The motorbikes, cars, tractors are not the only form of travelling present at the festival. Locals ride camels, horses, and donkeys to get to their desired location. The animals are also brought; for shows and races where they perform music attracting a large crowd.
Different forms of dancers move around. People dance to their local songs, the excited faces, moving in circles in a group, clapping their hands, and moving their bodies in synchronisation as the sound of Cholistan’s music takes over. Then comes the Sufi music where people wearing white make rounds with one hand in the sky and the other down, deeply immersed in the Sufi song, making everyone move along a bit. The Saraiki Jhoomar is also in the race as the Saraiki music plays in the background: people dance to their most loved tunes, moving their bodies freely like dancing their worries off.
Vendors gather to set a marketplace for the people who attend the festival. They sell things at low prices: making them affordable for the poor. They come with various colourful, traditional, beautiful khusas (shoes), bangles, clothes, and decorative items. A crowd of men and women assemble to bargain the prices and get the best thing in return.
A freshly made variety of food is available around the festival. Street food, and tandoor, all found in one place. Different stalls set up provide BBQ, roti, salan, and rice, everything prepared in front of the buyer’s eyes. Sellers advertise their sweets, promising theirs is the finest. Merchants use their old machines to extract juice from the most desired sugarcane that instantly boosts the buyer’s energy.
Magic shows are not the only attraction available for the children: different moveable swings are installed to entertain the kids throughout the festival.
The tales surrounding the festival and life of Channan Peer attract people from across the country. People coming from diverse areas stay together under one sky and spend seven weeks in tents to enjoy the festival’s magic to the maximum extent.
Written by: Mariam Nadeem
Edited and Managed by: Javeria Qadeer