KARACHI: About 70 kilometres off Dadu in interior Sindh, a newly built shrine dedicated to “Murshid di billi” – a cat belonging to Pir Gaji Shah has piqued a lot of interest and visitors.
According to research and scholars, Pir Shah, a spiritual leader, was a military commander in the Kalhoro dynasty in the 1690s in Sindh. Pir Shah is immensely popular across Pakistan, especially Balochistan and Punjab, and people celebrate a three-day Urs, every year in his remembrance.
A caretaker of the shrine, Manzoor Hussain Khoso said, “Gaji Shah laid down his life while defending local people from invaders. And after his death in the hills of Dadu district, his body was transported to this place by his camel.” The camel who transported him is also considered sacred by his devotees.
However, the cat has its own story to tell. According to traditions, the cat was a beloved of the spiritual leader and walking beside the spiritual leader, the cat stopped short upon her master’s hard voice. And died on the spot.
Shah’s devotees not only observe Urs for the camel but they also observe it for the cat as well. “We love and respect everything which was close to the spiritual leader,” Khoso said. “But due to lack of awareness and literacy, some people bow down to the cat’s grave despite being told not to.”
Shah was also known as the “King of Jinns” as a result of which many visit his shrine for exorcism purposes. Khoso explained that people who are possessed come here for treatment. The visitors who come for this gyrate their heads in the courtyard of this shrine at the tune of Surando [a local musical instrument] until they are unconscious. It is believed that while they are unconscious, they are helped with the blessings of the spiritual leader.
Research scholar Aziz Kingrani, however, has a different point of view. He claimed that “Gaji was not a saint. Ghazi Khoso alias Gaji Shah was appointed by the then Kalhora ruler, Mian Nasir Mohammad Kalhoro to defend Sindh’s border area with Balochistan.”
“Ghazi was killed in 1691 during a fight between Brohi tribe of Khuzdar area of Balochistan and Kalhora army,” he explained. “He was laid to rest here and people started respecting him.”
Kringrani said that the title of Shah was given to Gaji by the Kalhora dynasty, adding that the famous ruler of the dynasty Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhora was also given the title of Shah.
Speaking on the exorcism ritual that takes place at the shrine, Kingrani said that people suffering from various diseases including hysteria visit the shrine on the assumption that the ‘jinns’ will help them along with having faith in the blessings of Shah.
A completely different version of the shrine was presented by Pakistan Peoples Party legislator Ghulam Shah Gilani who insisted that Pir Shah belonged to Uchh Sharif of Multan and was handed over to the local tribe Khosa by his father.
“The Kalhora rulers hired him to fight notorious dacoits and invaders after looking at his powerful built and influence,” Gilani commented. “He laid down his life while defending this area.”
“He had shown his influence through the divine power instilled in him,” the PPP lawmaker claimed. “That is why locals started believing him to be a spiritual leader.”