In order to get the poor and illiterate communities rid of this painful practice, the authorities should assign the mental health experts and psychiatrists to establish permanent camps or at least during the 3-day Urs in January ever year, conduct the tests of suffering females and refer them for treatment in their own areas.
By Aziz Kachailo
Every year in January, thousands of male and female devotees from across the country use to pay visit to the shrine Pir Gaji Shah located in the western hilly areas of district Dadu, Sindh on the occasion of his annual Urs. Gaji Shah belonged to Khosa tribe and is said to be one of the Generals and Ministers of Kalhora rulers of Sindh. However, in a customary practice, a number of females accompanied by their parents or guardians make a regular visit every year during the 3-day annual Urs and also throughout the year to take refuge from a painful mental disorder generally understood to be a psychiatric problem but locally called as overpowered by a ‘djinn’ or ‘jinn’.
According to a myth narrated by the Fakeers (locally called as Khuthi Fakeers) or caretakers of Gaji Shah shrine the djinn, who are able to appear in human forms and to possess humans, essentially required a regular visit of the djinn-affected female for relief from painful condition every year and whirl her head to the tune of Surrando (an instrument like a Danbooro/Tanbooro but small in size compared to it) played by the Fakeers.
Khuthi Fakeers of Gaji Shah, said to have linkage with Mianwal Fakeers of Kalhora dynasty who ruled Sindh, can be found playing the ‘Surranda’ throughout the 3-day Mela (festival) in groups at different places in front of people belonging to various tribes of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab, mostly belonging to Khosa tribes of three provinces (Pashtu djinns are not yet found here) where a woman or women can be seen making fast movement of her head by rotating it left and right in a ‘Masti’ (Trance) for quite a long period till they completely faint with no more energy or sense to whirl further for ‘Sarod’ or Dhamal.
When a woman comes to senses after a while the Gaji Shah’s Fakeers inform the affected women’s heirs that the djinn has gone and left the patient for a year conditionally that she should confirm the patients’ arrival here in these Mela days or otherwise they (women) would more in pain due to the anger of the Gaji Shah’s djinn. For that reason, the djinn-affected females give assure of visiting again the next year for a refuge from djinn.
The enlightened people don’t believe the narratives of Gaji Shah’s Fakeers, as according to them it’s nothing but a myth propagated by the Fakeers for their own benefit. There is a general opinion that the females of these illiterate communities are faced with psychiatric problems caused by their conservative societies and family atmosphere. When the women are under the hysteria attack, the illiterate people think that any djinn have overpowered them.
In order to get the poor and illiterate communities rid of this painful practice, the authorities should assign the mental health experts and psychiatrists to establish permanent camps or at least during the 3-day Urs in January ever year, conduct the tests of suffering females and refer them for treatment in their own areas. This step should be taken on humanitarian grounds.