Sacred Spaces and Expressive Bodies: At the Urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar
MetadataShow full item record
The shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is located in the rural city of Sehwan in Sindh, Pakistan. Sehwan is a site of pilgrimage for thousands of devotees at the annual festival known as urs, spanning three days to commemorate the death anniversary of the saint. Men, women, and transgender participants engage in many rituals at the urs among which the prominent is devotional dancing called dhamaal. This thesis project relates sacredness of spaces and hyper-reality of the festival with the performances of rituals that involve diverse publics. At the urs and otherwise, the shrine space provides devotees, largely poor, a collective non-verbal expression in the form of dhamaal. Dhamaal gives expression to the body in a society that does not normally encourage such expressions in the public sphere. This thesis argues that the Sufi discourse in Sehwan makes the body of a devotee an expressive body.