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Wednesday, 6 October 2010


Manghopir has the oldest Sufi shrines in Karachi, hot sulphur springs that are believed to have curative powers, and many crocodiles - believed locally to be the sacred disciples of Pir Mangho. Balochs often call this place as 'Mangi' or Garm-aap / Sard-aap (due to the presence of the hot & cold springs).

Sheedis and festivals

Manghopir is mostly inhabited by one of Pakistan's smallest ethnic communities, Makrani or Sheedi. Sheedi are said to be the descendants of African slaves brought from Zanzibar and maintain their distinct African identity in the midst of the dominating South Asian cultures.

Presently, these African-Pakistanis live in various parts of Karachi. Most are found in Lyari, but they are also found in Malir, Moaach Goth, Manghopir, and further interior at Sindh and Balochistan. Due to Lyari's ethnic population, it is often called 'Little Africa'. In Baghdadi, Lyari (an abode of such ethnicity) vicinities have names like Shedi Village and Nairobi. During the British rule or possible before, Baghdadi and many areas in Lyari functioned as a slave market where African slaves were brought and sold. Women from these black families worked as nannies for the children of traders. Later, these people amalgamated themselves with local Balochs and also adopted various Balochi and Islamic traditions, in addition maintaining their distinct African cultural heritage. For example, some African touch festivals like Gowaati, Layvaa (dancing over the fire), dhammal, beating conga drums and many forms of witchcraft are still practiced. A prominent Urdu poet and Lyari citizen, Noon Meem Danish, proudly claims to be the great-great-grandchild of an African slave from Zanzibar. "Now after centuries of amalgamation, these peoples proudly call themselves as Baloch or Makrani."

The crocodiles are an integral part of the shrine, chronicle of the saint, and are so tightly interwoven that it is almost impossible to judge between fact & fiction. There are many traditions about myth of crocodiles, as if it is believed that Baba Farid gifted the reptiles to Manghopir. The second myth is quite factious - during a visit of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (the celebrated saint of Sindh) in order to make the barren valley more inhabitable, he caused a hot spring to issue forth from the rock and a grove of date palms to spring up from the ground and the crocodiles were originally the lice of a saint, which he gifted to Pir Mango, to put them into the pond and then each turned into a crocodile. According to a third legend, the crocodiles were introduced in Manghopir by Mor Mubarak (also a saint), who brought them from a cave in Korangi, as a result, after the name of saint, the chief of crocodiles (the eldest one) came to be known as 'Mor Sahib'.

According to scientific explanations, these crocodiles were carried through some heavy floods, during ancient times and later gathered or collected at this pond. Archaeological investigations have also suggested the existence of a Bronze Age settlement (2500-1700 BC) near Manghopir, who worshipped crocodiles and before the advent of Islam crocodiles were also thought sacred for Hindus. More to the point, certain signs of crocodile-myth in form of animal magic & witchcraft are also seen in the African countries like Guinea and Zaire. Certainly, these trends are because of the unique nature of the reptile, which is always quick and ruthless and one who maintains a cool behavior at the surface of water, while paddling like a devil underneath.

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