Tuesday, December 1, 2009
SAVE THE CROCODILES OF MANGHOPIR
SAVE THE CROCODILES OF MANGHOPIR
By Dr. Babur Zahiruddin
In my life time I must have visited Karachi more then 30/ 40 times for the purpose of leisure, pleasure, work or to attend family functions. Hailing from an orthodox religious family I have always been inspired and attracted to visit Holy places and shrines for personal Nirvana and to pay my homage to the great Holy Sufi’s and Saints of the Indo Pakistan sub continent. I have visited most of the shrines in an around Karachi going right up to Sehwan Sharif but some how or the other I missed paying my homage to the shrine of Pir Manghopir. This time on a teaching assignment to Karachi I had a few days off from my busy schedule of delivering lectures, examinations and the most laborious job of marking papers that made me take a break.
Somehow or the other I got an inner inclination a sixth sense intuition and spiritual call to visit
the shrine of Manghopir.
It was a sunny afternoon on Friday 19th November 2009, when I along with my family made my way in the early hours of the morning from my sister’s house in DHA Karachi to Clifton and from there to Saddar garden. The roads were congested and traffic was slow like a snail, but my experienced driver SALEEM was very apt meticulous and expertly maneuvered his way in the traffic. Our Route took us to Bismillah Hotel Pak colony, Bara Road Habib Bank Chowk and Valika Stop. There we were caught in the traffic and had to wait for sometime. The road onwards from Valika Mills to Benares Chowk Baluch Colony and Pukthoonabad was dilapidated and broken which speaks well of the malfeasance, apathy and in competency of the Civic authorities. Finally after one hours plus drive we were able to reach the shrine of MAGHOPIR.
At the shrine we were mobbed by the beggars Vagrants and self styled religious guides who forcefully and emphatically offered their services to conduct us around the shine.
Without indulging too much into the religious background and the family tree of the saint buried there, (much is available on the net for which I have given the relevant links). I undertook my poignant religious rituals and paid my homage to the saint. My wife along with my sister and brother–in–law took a longer time to offer their prayers and paid homage like a devout devotee.
Manghopir has the oldest Sufi shrines in Karachi, hot sulphur springs that are believed to have curative powers, and many crocodiles - believed locally to be the sacred disciples of Pir Mangho. Balochs often call this place as ‘Mangi’ or Garm-aap / Sard-aap (due to the presence of the hot & cold springs).
Sheedis and festivals
Manghopir is mostly inhabited by one of Pakistan's smallest ethnic communities, Makrani or Sheedi. Sheedi are said to be the descendants of African slaves brought from Zanzibar and maintain their distinct African identity in the midst of the dominating South Asian cultures.
The crocodiles are an integral part of the shrine, chronicle of the saint, and are so tightly interwoven that it is almost impossible to judge between fact & fiction. There are many traditions about myth of crocodiles, as if it is believed that Baba Farid gifted the reptiles to Manghopir. The second myth is quite factious - during a visit of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (the celebrated saint of Sindh) in order to make the barren valley more inhabitable, he caused a hot spring to issue forth from the rock and a grove of date palms to spring up from the ground and the crocodiles were originally the lice of a saint, which he gifted to Pir Mango, to put them into the pond and then each turned into a crocodile. According to a third legend, the crocodiles were introduced in Manghopir by Mor Mubarak (also a saint), who brought them from a cave in Korangi, as a result, after the name of saint, the chief of crocodiles (the eldest one) came to be known as ‘Mor Sahib’.
According to scientific explanations, these crocodiles were carried through some heavy floods, during ancient times and later gathered or collected at this pond. Archaeological investigations have also suggested the existence of a Bronze Age settlement (2500-1700 BC) near Manghopir, who worshipped crocodiles and before the advent of Islam crocodiles were also thought sacred for Hindus. More to the point, certain signs of crocodile-myth in form of animal magic & witchcraft are also seen in the African countries like Guinea and Zaire. Certainly, these trends are because of the unique nature of the reptile, which is always quick and ruthless and one who maintains a cool behavior at the surface of water, while paddling like a devil underneath.
Hot springs and healing resort
There are hot and cold springs about a kilometer from the shrine. Warm water passing through the sulphur rocks is said to contain some medicinal qualities. Many people with skin diseases regularly come from long distances to have a bath to cure them. There are separate swimming pools and shower rooms for men and women. Scientific analysis has shown that this warm water is naturally saturated with carbon dioxide, besides containing some sulpher & other skin friendly nourishments, which are no doubt suitable for many skin-disease patients.
I along with my entourage took the services of a local guide who took us to the back of the shrine where there were hot sulphur springs in which many people were bathing. The hygienic and cleanliness of the bathing area of the hot springs left much to be desired the lesser I write about it the better it would be.
As I made my way to the crocodile compound I was struck with consternation, awe and amazement at the mammoth size, color & numbers of the crocodiles basking in the winter sun. The sight of such an enormous collection of reptiles must make the National Geographic channel coverage of crocs in the river of Africa and America look like a mini version. They remained there listless & lifeless like perfect stone statues as if someone had carved them out of stone except for an isolated movement of the limb and flicker of the nictating membrane of the eye.
They were more than hundred of them and mostly their ages ranged from seventy to eighty years. The head of the Crocodiles who is known as MOR SAHIB was about hundred (100) years old and was a sight to watch.
He was the centre of attraction with his retinue and seemed to command a mandamus authority over his kingdom.
There were some small babies as well who were swimming in the green murky and dirty waters of the pool whose size was not more than 150 / 200 square feet.
What really shocked me was that there was no organized systematic, regular arrangement for the feeding of these crocodiles as they were at the mercy of the local people & devotees. I enquired from the guide that from where and how are these mammoth creatures fed; I was told that the local villagers and devotees feed them daily in the afternoon between 3 – 4 pm. I looked up towards the sky with spiritual ecstasy and some how or the other thanked and praised the GOD Almighty that even in this remote and desolate place He had arranged for the food in such large quantity for these enormous creatures.
I have visited many crocodile farms and resorts in Thailand Malaysia and United States of America where I had to pay an enormous amount of entry fee to watch them playing and being fed.
Their enclosures were clean spacious and well kept with plenty of space for their swimming and basking.
They were fed regularly and were under care of dedicated care takers and veterinary doctors and of course the patronage and sponsorship of the local / state governments was very much there. There were no more than 30 / 40 of these creatures in each farm I visited abroad.
Its make me think and ponder that outside Pakistan we pay so much to see these sites and habitats of flora and fauna but in Pakistan where we have a rich cultural heritage of natural treasures we leave them at the mercy of nature, Auqaf, heritage departments and despondent individuals who are out only there to make a fast buck and do not care about our national and cultural heritage.
Please ask your self this question what type of a Pakistan are we leaving for our children? It is our duty to leave a legacy rich in flora and fauna for our future generations.
These are good slogans creating a sense of environmental awareness but in order to implement them each one of us must do our bit by contributing their efforts spare time and funds for the upkeep and preservation of our rich cultural heritage.
As a social activist, environmentalist and a conscientious Pakistani, I appeal to all and sundry especially the governor of Sindh, the Mayor of Karachi local MNA’s, MPA’s and all well to do philanthropists to come forward and join hands with me for the renovation extension of the Pond area and rehabilitation and well being of these Manghopir crocodiles.
Posted by Babur at 5:42 AM