Every Thursday night in the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, heavily intoxicated Sufi followers take part in festival of music, dancing, and chanting. Beginning around 9pm the deep bass of beats from a long, double-sided drum can be heard from the Madho Lal Hussain Shrine – a thump thump thump fueling vigorous coordinated movements.
You can see this weekly Sufi festival which I attended, in the video above. It’s one of those times where showing you makes much more sense than attempting to describe the unison spinning, headbanging, and guttural chants. A gathering which takes places within a cloud of opium and hashish, dispersing light from small fires lit all around; adding a mystical quality to what you’re seeing. (With a possible contact high included.)
Until the morning the dancers go, spinning and shaking their heads vigorously causing their long black hair to fly in the air. Children play around the shrine, families sit at the steps, while closer to the music groups of men sit around campfires drinking teas and taking heavy hits from joints loaded with opium and weed. You can hear more about my experience right after it happened in this episode of the foXnoMad Podcast.
As an observer (filming with conspicuous camera and microphone) hardly anyone paid attention to me. Despite the energy, crowds, and semblance of chaos, the atmosphere was relaxed – likely in part due to the actual local atmosphere.
The Sufi festival at the Madho Lal Hussain Shrine is yet another example of what it’s like to travel in Pakistan. An unexpected experience in a country that has more contradictions than it might seem from the outside.
I couldn’t help but notice that I saw no females at all in this video and didn’t hear you comment on this. Are women unwelcome at this festival? Either as spectators or participants? Do they gather elsewhere? Just curious…..Thanks. 🙂
Most of the women and children were around the shrine itself (there’s a bit shown in the first part of the video). I don’t think there’s any formal restriction but it would probably just be socially awkward to be around the dancing or smoking areas was my interpretation.
Thanks, Anil. I suspected as much but I try never to make assumptions about cultures with which I’m unfamiliar.
A good rule to go by, glad I could add some insight.