To witness the wonder of how devotion beautifies art one has to travel to Chiniot. But the place has something more than that to offer.
In a country where every month is turned into a Muharram, owing to the bloodshed and violence across its map, Chiniot presents a reason for the bewilderment of the propagandists. In this town the tazias associated with the tragedy of Karbala are created, decorated and carried by not Shias only, but the Sunnis, too. In fact, it can be easily claimed that they are in majority in these processions.
The mourning of Hussain (AS) and the tazias from the town of Chiniot have a history older than that of Pakistan. Amazingly, and perhaps most fortunately, the former’s history is free of any sectarian divides or violence. This little miracle in the town of Punjab is like sprinkling of peaceful rain over the soil that is burning with violence and hatred.
Distant from the desire of fame or the sectarian hatred, the hands and hearts that create these hallmarks of unity, these masterpieces of art, are themselves creatures of devotion, for it is devotion that kneads man’s essence into purity.
But as important as devotion is from one end, so is praise and appreciation from the other. How hard can it be to realise that it is these creators who, like the poets who created the form marsia (loose variant of elegy) in poetry with a distinguishable place, create these structures in their distinguishable space.
When Mir Anees departed from this world, Dabeer had spoken of him in a couplet that made history, in which Dabeer dubbed Anees the God’s conversationalist.
It is difficult to imagine if there will be a Dabeer for every Anees from Chiniot. In the war of faiths, it is culture that is suppressed and targeted. If culture is martyred, our breaths would not be enough to count us alive. It will be a death that will not be mourned by anyone. There will be no elegies. There will be no tazia. The art of making history is not for the vainly dead. -Translated from Urdu by Aadarsh Ayaz