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A man kneels at a grave in the ruins of a Sufi shrine to Bibi Jawindi in Uch Sharif, Pakistan. (The structures were destroyed by floods not people if I remember correctly) Sufi poetry and music and scenes like this brought me back to Pakistan many times over the last two decades. This was my first image published in National Geographic magazine back when Chris Johns was still The Editor. A lot of people ask what it takes to get into Nat Geo so I guess for me it was this image. Though truth be told great single images are a dime a dozen out there so really it’s about building a larger story of images that flow together. At the time that story for me was Sufism and was one I chased all over the world for years with no assignments until the very end when I had amassed a fairly large body of work. I used money I made painting houses and straight up credit card debt to fund those early trips. sufism
This guy again!!! Zafar! I sat with him every time I visited the shrine of the Sufi scholar, mystic, poet, and saint Shah Abdul Latif Bittai in the village of Bhit Shah in the Sindh, Pakistan. He was always there, sometimes advising people, sometimes sweeping the marble floors, sometimes just hanging out amongst centuries old graves outside the shrine. Pilgrims like Zafar often have no belongings beyond a few clothes and jewelry and live off the donated food at the shrine, where they read and pray and sing day and night. #sufism
One more from Uch Sharif! This one is the facade of the shrine (16th Century) of Ustad Nuriya, Sufi saint. You can see more of this shrine in my post from yesterday. It is one of three tombs at this location and all have partially collapsed as a result of environmental conditions, especially a massive flood in 1817 when half of the structures were washed away. Humidity, salt infiltration, and erosion continue the decay. The 3 structures are on the tentative list to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. #UchSharif #Sufism
A whirling dervish dressed in red at the Urs (death anniversary celebration) of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. A profound scholar of religions and contemporary of Rumi, he travelled around the Muslim world in the mid 1200’s and settled in Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan, where he was eventually buried. The annual Urs brings more than half a million pilgrims from all over Pakistan. The three-day feast fills the narrow streets of Sewan with pilgrims, fakirs and devotees. They visit the shrine to commune with the saint, offer tributes and ask for their wishes. They sing and dance day and night to folk bands and Quawwali groups. #DamaDamMastQalandar
A pilgrim’s hand touches the name of God on solid silver doors covered with verses from the Quran (Koran) at the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, in Pakistan. #Sufism
A drummer twirls at the center of a gathering of Sufi pilgrims at the Urs (death anniversary celebration) of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. A profound scholar of religions and contemporary of Rumi, he travelled around the Muslim world in the mid 1200’s and settled in Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan, where he was eventually buried. The annual Urs brings more than half a million pilgrims from all over Pakistan. The three-day feast fills the narrow streets of Sewan with pilgrims, fakirs and devotees. They visit the shrine to commune with the saint, offer tributes and ask for their wishes. They sing and dance day and night to folk bands and Quawwali groups. #DamaDamMastQalandar!
I miss the cold marble (and warm heart!) of this holy place. The shrine of the Sufi scholar, mystic, poet, and saint Shah Abdul Latif Bittai in the village of Bhit Shah in the Sindh, Pakistan. To sit and hear the singing and prayers. To smell the flowers that are piled onto the graves. These shrines are such special places. #Sufism #ShahAbdulLatifBhittai
Portrait of a pilgrim at the shrine of the Sufi scholar, mystic, poet, and saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai in the village of Bhit Shah in the Sindh, Pakistan. Pilgrims like this often have no belongings and live off the donated food at the shrine, where they read and pray and sing day and night, sleeping on the marble floors or amongst centuries old graves outside the shrine. #sufism
A Sufi pilgrim reads verses from the Koran from at the shrine of the Sufi poet, scholar, mystic, and saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, in the village of Bhit Shah in the Sindh, Pakistan. The shrine was built in 1772 by Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro. The tile work is classic Sindhi style. Signed/Editioned Prints of some of these Sufism images coming soon!
Ive been asked several times in the past week if women participate in the sufi gatherings and rituals I have been sharing. The answer is Yes! In much smaller numbers but usually with equal or greater intensity as their male counterparts. This woman participated in the dhamaal, in hands and knees, whirling her hennaed hair in circles in an ecstatic trance, outside the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai in the Sindh, Pakistan. Though dancing is common to all the places I saw Sufism the dhamaal in this form seems to be particular to South Asian Sufis. One of the people watching explained it that when a djinn (one of the many spirits connected to the pre-Islamic Arabian beliefs) goes into a human body, the only way you can get rid of it is by coming to a shrine to do dhamaal.
The tomb of Sufi saint Baha'al-Halim is the oldest (14th century) of the three tombs at Uch Sharif in the Punjab, Pakistan. (See my post from yesterday to see all 3 in one frame) All three tombs have partially collapsed as a result of environmental conditions, especially a massive flood in 1817 when half of the structures were washed away. Humidity, salt infiltration, and erosion continue the decay. The 3 structures are on the tentative list to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. #UchSharif #Sufism
Bhit Shah, Pakistan, at the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. Sacred trees are associated with many of the Sufi shrines around Pakistan and all have many rituals. In one of those rituals devotees of the Saint tie string or cloth to the branches praying to the guardians of the shrine to intercede on their behalf for any number of wishes in their lives. Women hoping to get pregnant sometimes also eat the leaves or bark of trees like this in the hope that their wish will be fulfilled. Anyone out there ever tie something to this tree in Bhit Shah? #Sufism