Kunal Shrivatsa

Annual Chamliyal Mela, where faith overshadows Indo-Pak hostility, begins today

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Jammu: The stage is all set to host the annual ‘Chamliyal Mela’ tomorrow after a gap of two years at shrine of Baba Dalip Singh Manhas, popularly known as ‘Baba Chamliyal’, near the village of Chamliyal in Samba district.

The revered shrine is on Zero Line just 200 meters away from the Indo-Pak International Border while its distance from Jammu is around 45 kilometers.

‘Chamliyal Mela’ is celebrated every year on fourth Thursday of June with equal zeal and enthusiasm on both sides of the International Border, about 600 yards apart, one being at Chamliyal on Indian side, and the other at Saidanwali village of Sialkot district in Pakistan.

While the Mela is held for three days at the shrine complex on the Indian side, it is held for a week on the opposite side of the border in Saidanwali village.

It is worthwhile to mention here that the Pakistani nationals were allowed to come to the Indian side of the border to pay obeisance at the shrine till 1971. However, after the 1971 India-Pakistan war, the practice was stopped.

Following the restrictions on Pakistani nationals’ entry to Indian side, only a delegation of Pakistan Rangers was allowed to offer ‘Chadar’ at the shrine and, in return, they carry ‘Shakkar and Sharbat’ from the shrine for the devotees in Pakistan. However, this ritual too stopped since 2018 when the Mela was cancelled at Chamliyal following the killing of four BSF personnel, including an Assistant Commandant, by Pakistan Rangers on June 13 that year.

Since the historic ‘Chamliyal Mela’ couldn’t be held for the last two years owing to Covid pandemic, it is expected that this time around a huge rush of devotees will throng the sanctum sanctorum to pay their obeisance.

Keeping in view the ever-increasing rush of the devotees, the Samba district administration and the Border Security Force (BSF) have made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the Mela including traffic regulation, medical facilities, drinking water facility, security arrangements and additional buses to accommodate the rush of pilgrims.

One of the unique features of the Mela is that it is a true epitome of communal harmony and brotherhood as the shrine is not only revered by people on both sides of the International Border but thousands of people from this side of border, from different faiths reach the sacred place to pay their obeisance during the festivities.

People from other states like Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan come in thousands to pay their respects at the shrine.

“This shrine is the biggest example of communal harmony as people of both sides of the International Border offer their prayers together. This Mela presents a unique picture of unparalleled bonhomie among the people on different sides of the border,” said Gurdas of Ramgarh.

According to folklore Baba 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 the 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 to as ‘Shakkar’ and water ‘Sharbat’ on their bodies.

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