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Fairs, Festivals, Melas

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Indian and Pakistan border forces celebrate Chamliyal Mela
by Tahir Nadeem Khan

     Chamliyal (J-K): Indian and Pakistani para-military troops guarding the borders joined thousands of devotees at the annual religious fair held at the Dargah (mausoleum) of Baba Dalip Singh Manhas near the border village of Chamliyal village in Jammu region on Thursday. This annual fair was discontinued following the attack on Indian Parliament in December, 2001 and later revived in 2004 as a part of the peace initiative mooted by the two. Thousands of devotees including many from Pakistan took part in the fair. Officers and other personnel of Pakistani Rangers crossed the border to offer 'Chaddar' at the shrine. And in the process, the Border Security Force (BSF) officials played hosts to their Pakistan counterparts, giving them handful of soil from the shrine which happens to be a part of the tradition, practised since many years. A high ranking officer of the Pakistan Rangers who took part in the fair termed the event as stepping stone in bridging the divide between the two nations - Pakistan and India. "Certainly, this is a step forward to enhance the mutual co-operation, trust and understanding between the two security forces. And we are looking forward to have more interaction, more exchange of views with the BSF officials," said Brigadier Masood, Pakistan Rangers. The pilgrims were happy with the opportunity to interact with people from across the border. "A hostile environment was created between the two countries due to militancy. A good message is spreading from here as people from both the countries are interacting. The message is that people residing in both the countries they want peace, brotherhood and solace," said Mohammad Hussain, a devotee from Lahore. Reportedly, this festival dates back to more than 300 years and it takes place at two spots, 600 yards apart, one being at Chamliyal on the Indian side and the other being at Saidanwali in Pakistan. According to folklore Dalip Singh Manhas, a pious person, was returning home when he was assaulted by some criminals and beheaded. His body fell in Saidanwali village (now in Pakistan) and his head in Chamliyal. One of his disciples suffering from an incurable skin ailment had a vision of Baba telling him that the soil where his (Baba's) body had fallen had medicinal value. Baba then advised him to mix the soil with water and apply it over the affected parts. The disciple tried it and was cured. As news spread, people began thronging this place and turned it into a holy shrine. Since then, believers follow the ritual of applying the soil of Chamliyal referred as 'Shakkar' (surgar) and 'Sharbat' (water) on their bodies.
-June 26, 2009

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