Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (d.1274 A.D)

Lal because of his red attire, Shahbaz denotes his free spirit like the great falcon, bird native to Sindh and Qalandar - one who knows one’s inner being - is the Sufi sect he belonged to.
His real name was Syed Muhammad Usman and he was born early in the 13th century in Marwand, Iran. His father became a dervish, that is one who has taken a vow of poverty and austerity, and his mother was a high ranking princess, Even as a young boy, he showed strong religious leanings. He knew the Qua’ran by heart at age seven, and at twenty he was initiated into the Qalandar order. He dressed from then on in beggars clothes, embraced poverty, wandering throughout Middle East. In 1263, he arrived in Multan, Punjab where people begged him to stay. He continued his journey south, eventually settling down in Sehwan in southern Sindh, where he took up residence in the trunk of a tree on the outskirts of town.

The legend has it that the incumbent fakirs in Sewhan sent him a bowl of milk filled to the brim indicating that there was no room for one more. He returned the bowl floating a single flower on the top. His legend spread far and wide by the time of his death in 1274.

The shrine around his tomb, built in 1356, dazzles the eye with its Sindh kashi tiles, mirror work and two gold-plated doors - one donated by the late Shah of Iran.

Urs, which means death anniversary of a saint, is celebrated every year at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz in the first week of February. The usr is a carnival as well a religious festival. It attracts over half a million pilgrims mainly from Sindh and Punjab who flock into Sewhan, a small town of about 30,000. Local residents take in many relatives and guests but most people pitch in tents. On each morning of the three day feast, the narrow lanes of Sewhan are packed to capacity as thousands and thousands of pilgrims, fakirs and worshippers make their way to the shrine to commune with the saint and make a manta - a wish.

The pilgrims file into the inner sanctum clutching, caressing, kissing, touching and feeling the grave, the railing, and the doorposts.They communicate with the saint with eyes closed. Most offer flowers and a green chadar with qar’anic inscriptions in silver or gold threads.