3 comments on “Celebrating the Urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Part II: The Festival

  1. Richard,
    This is a nice companion post to your first part. As for the grim part of the celebrations, I believe this is integral to any religious celebration where there is mass congregation. The crowd management or general administrative arrangements which goes by the term ‘bandobast’ in Urdu, can never be perfect for the simple reason that it demands discipline and restraint on the part of pilgrims who are prone to taking offence at the slightest restriction as infringement on their faith. The other reason is that a ‘mob’ has its own dynamics which is taken as a cover for unseemly activities.

    I didn’t mean to sound cynical. But that is an unfortunate reality. I don’t know whether you follow news of this part closely. Recently, celebratory fireworks at a traditional religious celebration in Kerala led to death of over 100 persons. Everyone is wiser in hindsight, but before the event it would have been impossible to enforce ban in the face of a frenzied crowd of thousands who have come to watch the show which is a part of ‘religious’ tradition.

    Leaving that aside, I come back to the point I made in the first part. Now I am more sure that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s ‘Dam mast Qalandar mast mast’ is not another ‘variant’ of ‘Damadam mast Qalandar’. Not only the tunes are different, the lyrics are very different. Obviously, there are many songs in the praise of Qalandar, which may contain some common refrains.

  2. AK, thanks for the interesting comments.

    With regard to “Lal Meri Pat” vs. “Dam Mast Qalandar,” the reasons I would call them variations are:

    1. Both songs have gone by the same title and have been traced to the poem known as “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar” and are often called by that name. Nate’s post, which I referred to in Part I here, mainly discusses the song as known via Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan but cites the poem “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar,” even quoting from it.

    If you look at the lyrics of both songs, they have pretty specific refrains or repeated chants and references in common. Both poems repeatedly refer to “Sakhi Lal Qalandar” or “Sakhi Shahbaz Qalandar”; both include repeated chants of “Dam mast Qlanadar”; both contain repeated references to Jhulelal.

    While looking at a few sites on “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar”/”Lal Meri Pat,” I saw one that contained comments from a reader pointing out that people’s renditions of the song often vary, because a lot of people add new lyrics or change the lyrics slightly and generally improvise, and that this is a familiar quality in Sufi songs. So, this also supports the idea of looking at these songs as variations rather than entirely separate pieces.

    I understand that there is a genre of songs referred to as Qalandri dhamals, and I once did a blog post of such songs specifically sung by Noor Jehan for different Pakistani films. (I could supply a link here, but most of the clips in that post are gone.) I’ve wondered if they all refer to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, but I concluded, not necessarily.

    I’ve looked up the terms “Qalandar,” “dhamal,’ and “mast” (often transliterated as “mustt”)… While I am pretty certain you never have to look up the word “dhamal,” depending on your familiarity with Sufi terms, etc., maybe you would re. the other two words? (Dont really know…) Anyway, though the definitions may vary slightly, I’ve gathered that “dhamal” is kind of a wild party, “mast” is a spiritually informed intoxicated kind of wildness, and Qalandars, per Wikipeidia, are “wandering ascetic Sufi dervishes” but also high-level kinds of saints. Also, per Wikipedia, famous Qalandars included not only Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, but also Bu Ali Shah Qalandar and Shams Ali Qalandar.

    So, a Qalandar song doesn’t have to contain repeated references to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar or Jhulelal, but the two we’re talking about do, and their “common refrains” take up a large part of the songs, too.

    And that sums up the reason that I am still tempted to call the two songs “variations.” This is all from fairly superficial research and maybe you know something that I don’t :), but so far, that’s the conclusion I am still leaning toward.

    Musically, the “Mast Mast” song does not seem to contain the melody by Ashiq Hussain, though Ashiq Hussain’s song kind of contains the same rhythmic chant within. As I wrote in the last post, the Kathak dance seems to be backed by the “Mast Mast” song – or at least something close to it (I will have to listen again) – so it probably would be more consistent for the post if that item were not included. I guess the advantage of a blog is that I can make those revisions over time… I wonder, though, if V. Anuradha Singh saw the post and was pleased to see her dance and now would be disappointed and/or perplexed to see it gone. :) Anyway, these are things I guess i could think about at some point.

    I agree with you on all points regarding religious festivals, crowd control, etc. I’ve seen a lot of news over the years about stampedes during pilgrimages, etc. I’ve also seen the news about the fireworks deaths in Kerala, but I didn’t know the toll was so high.

    Of course, the cause of this sort of phenomenon doesn’t have to be religious. Looking at my own thoroughly non-religious experiences in the U.S., the description of the surging, crushing crowds and the somewhat scary mass abandon reminds me of certain rowdy rock concerts (especially some with very large “mosh pits’) or mass protests. (Unfortunately, at the mass protests, the police and other authorities actually often deliberately caused the crushing conditions in the crowd, as opposed to preventing it.) In any event, I certainly could relate to Louise Brown’s descriptions of the Urs festival!

  3. I am so happy to finish the two parts having enjoyed the second one more ! So much past that we need to constantly remind ourselves about.The Sufi’s to the Bauls of the East a common thread.I am reminded of the Rath Yatra that beats the crowds in numbers and intensity and number of deaths.In fact, many commit suicide or voluntary death as salvation in front of its wheels regularly each year.A different kind of “sati” since they are invariably widows,aged or destitututes.Euthanasia,perhaps? Louise Brown would find this darker than black ,perhaps.Sometimes in a chauvinistic way I feel the Sub-continental religious practices invite the West because they still see and get excited through Rudyard Kipling’s books.

    The overlap of the two cultures Muslim and Hindu is very evident along with the different motivations and histories depending on what you subscribe to.On the one hand the broad-minded would be cheered by the Sufi syncretism ,some of the faithful would believe that it saved Islam from the “kafirs” and when under assault.Does Religion then bring all under one umbrella of unity or breaks people apart? Does the inspired music in tribute tell a contrary tale of the common humanity? Or our continuous search of identity conflicts with the larger world of sharing and diversity? History records and stands witness to rituals and lifestyles,institutions and their legacies with the passage of time alternating between spiritual large-heartedness to demonic hysteria and mindlessness of the faithful. The practice of Islam is under attack and some are busy instigating that the faith and its ideology is violent.Christianity is the religion of the powerful in the first world and its rise and spread had similar histories.

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