Sint-Truiden Halmaalweg

Sint-Truiden Halmaalweg
20 April 2017

Walking from the Gurdwara to the station

Omleiding Brussel – Luik (By-pass)
STVV Stadium

Modern church off the Halmaalweg

Clock tower

Modern church

Sint-Truiden Gazometerstraat
20 April 2017

Walking from the Gurdwara to the station

Construction of sports facilities ?

When I left Sint-Truiden in 2013 there were plans to construct sports facilities here

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Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Dawn – My visit to Bulleh Shah’s tomb made me feel an otherworldly sense of peace

Sidra Zia

A few months ago, I had assigned a task to my students to bring in any poetic verse or prose in Punjabi, or just introduce themselves to the class in that language. The idea was simply to get them interested in a regional language, but it soon turned into a project where we worked on developing our own interpretations of Bulleh Shah’s poetry.

It was heartening to see how the teenagers in my class found the verses of a 500-year-old saint relatable with their 21st century life.

Coincidentally, my friend who is the founder of Saraab, an organisation formed to document the hidden variants of Pakistan, invited me on a trip to Kasur where she planned to film a documentary about cultural epicentres. I took this as the perfect opportunity for a field trip and asked my students to accompany us.

As the October day became sunnier, we grew increasingly impatient to begin our journey. As we parked at the corner of a busy street, we contemplated what we wanted to do next. Try the region’s fish which is famous across the province, or attend the hourly sessions of kafis (poems) being sung by mureeds (disciples) at Bulleh Shah’s shrine?

The kafis won, and we made our way through the traffic to the tomb of Hazrat Baba Bulleh Shah, arguably the greatest Punjabi poet and mystic this region has birthed to date.

Our journey began with a stopover at Baba Kamal Chishty’s shrine, where, according to the local folklore, if you could run up the steep stairs on the small hill while holding your breath, whatever wish you made at the top would come true.

After several failed attempts, we wandered through the shrine that was beautifully decorated with white and green tilework. As we weaved our way under the shade of old trees adorned with colourful strips of visitor’s wishes, we could hear the qawwals in the distance singing verses of devotion.

After another stopover at the small, but neatly maintained Kasur museum, it was time to pay a long overdue visit to the master of the poetic craft.

Bulleh Shah lived in the era of the great Sindhi poets Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Sachal Sarmast. Mir Taqi Mir, too, lived only a few days journey to the east.

The subcontinent spanned over a thousand miles, and Bulleh Shah’s voice was one of many that rose from the small towns of the Orient. Those voices still echo, from air-conditioned rooms in concrete jungles to radio sets held together by scotch tape under banyan trees.

A murshid (spiritual teacher) himself, Bulleh Shah is said to have studied in the famous mohallas of Lahore, with Kasur being his final resting place. The hunt for his tomb involved a drive through bazaars, followed by a short walk while navigating the great Kasuri markets, the scent of fried fish and rubber tyres in the air.

The tomb is a short five-minute walk from the parking lot. The enclosure holds a praying area, a white and green edifice reflective of Islamic architecture, in the courtyard of the shrine where I saw jewellery sellers and Islamic prayer books.

A short walk away is the entrance where local men, who were selling kasuri methi, made sure that we took our shoes off out of respect before going into the shrine. They had large stacks of pre-packed kasuri methi set at the entryway in case visitors wanted to buy them.

Two graves herald your entrance into the tiled courtyard, said to be the final resting place of Bulleh Shah’s greatest mureeds.

Across the graves in the middle of the large courtyard, for the hopeful, a tree sits next to the immediate sanctuary of Bulleh Shah, where strings and colourful strips of cloth are lifted by the afternoon breeze.

As we walked towards the domed structure, we couldn’t help but feel an otherworldly sense of peace. Peeking through the latticed stone, a hint of green and red stares back. It is the double coverlets on Bulleh Shah’s grave, green signifying his ceaseless attachment to Islam, and red a sign of undying strength.

Roses adorn the headstone, and on every side of the great murshid stand people with their hands raised in prayer, silently murmuring hesitant words on their lips. For a minute, it was easy to imagine Bulleh Shah, surrounded by equally devoted listeners, writing the kafis that are still sung.

There is visible life in the enclosure and an inherent sense of peace – not even the scorching sunlight could dull the energy which surrounded his resting place.

Eventually, we settled quietly in the courtyard, eager to hear the kafis of Bulleh Shah being sung by the famous group of qawwals at the shrine. As the men sat up and a crowd began to gather, we watched them transform into passionate devotees.

The men slowly built up a crescendo, the aged and the young alike, and their voices rose with the harmonium. It was only when Tere Ishq Nachaya broke my stupor, I realised how time had flown.

I felt my limbs move, reverently placing a small baqshish, my show of gratitude, where others had placed theirs already. We sat there for a long while, listening to their perfectly stylised rendition of Bulleh Shah’s kalams. It was as though we were in a reverie as the voices of the qawwals drifted across the courtyard.

Bulleh Shah was believed to possess healing powers, and people travelled far and wide to come to him for their ailments. Fighting against the prevalent issues of caste, creed, and familial honour in 18th century Punjab, he devoted his life to art, despite initial misgivings from close family members.

More of a nomadic observer than a fighter, he still managed to shake the status quo, spinning out poetic verses to rival several of his famous contemporaries.

As one of his famous verses says:

Oh Bulleh Shah, let’s go there
Where everyone is blind
Where no one recognises our caste
And where no one believes in us.

As we silently walked out of the courtyard, I couldn’t help but think of Bulleh Shah’s undying message and compassion that is still revered today.

To see the wonderful pictures that go with the article click on the link below:

If you are interested in this subject I would advice you to read :

Of Sacred and Secular Desire: An Anthology of Lyrical Writings from the Punjab

by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 15th 2012 by I. B. Tauris
(first published January 1st 2012)

Dawn – A Sufi, a Sikh and their message of love, A journey from Lahore to Amritsar

Taimur Shamil

This article was originally published on 2 February 2016.

Lahore, 20 May 2017. Sufi music and architecture has always fascinated me. Consequently, I have taken it upon myself to explore the tribal areas of North Pakistan and the remote areas of Sindh to learn as much as I can about the Sufi culture.

During recent travels, I happened upon the shrine of renowned Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir of the Qadariyyah Sufi order in Lahore.

The shrine is situated in what T S Eliot calls, “streets that follow like a tedious argument”.

The saint’s life history, however, contains clear messages of peace. His times were soon to be followed by cultural degradation and “insidious intents”.

Surrounded by a populated area, the shrine is home to many poor people to whom it provides free shelter, and food on Thursdays.

“Thursday evening is considered to be a Mubarak day for Sufis,” explained Ghulam Fareed, a Qawwal vocalist. Him, along with other Qawwals, have been regular visitors at this shrine. He sings here because he feels the act gives him a sense of belonging.

“This shrine has given us an identity.”

Singing qawwalis here also helps them make a living. After interacting with a few Qawwals, I realised that it’s not just mere appreciation and money; these Qawwals spoke with a sense of purpose as well.

To them, Sufi singing is a way to spread the message of unity and harmony, and they take immense pride in it.

Here, every Thursday, Qawwals sing in the courtyard of the shrine, while men and women clap and sway to the rhythm. Some men dance in ecstasy, some sing along, while others pay their tributes to the saint by bowing in front of his grave.

The air is filled with the mixed scent of roses and locally-made incense. Salvers of sweets and other food items are distributed among the crowd, both inside and outside of the shrine.

There are certain food items that are specific to the Sufi shrines in Lahore and can be found around Mian Mir; for instance, Qatlaammay (desi pizza) and Doodh Badam (milk with nuts).

On the outskirts of the shrine, vendors swarm the place. They sell dahi baray, chaat, sharbat and samosas to the visitors.

One of the samosa vendors, Akbar Shakir feels he doesn’t belong in the posh areas of Lahore, only here in the street next to the shrine.

“Quality is not ensured at these rairrhis but is it ensured at the hotels?” questioned Aleem Khan, a visitor to the darbar. “After seeing what’s going on in expensive food chains that people dine in, I think we are better off over here,” he added, pointing to the samosa carts close by.

Women constitute a huge number of devotees here.

“I was sick for the last two years,” said Sakeena, 32. “I went to many doctors and hakeems but no one knew what my problem was. I took medicines but nothing worked.

Then one day, my mother asked me to go to the shrine and pray for myself. I am much better since then. I believe that Awlia (friends of God) have the power to make things work for you,” she added thoughtfully.

Historically, I learned, Mughal royals and nobility would frequent the Shrine of Mian Mir religiously.

According to local and British historians, Dara Shikoh had given orders to build the mausoleum of Mian Mir Shikoh. He was a Mughal prince with Sufi and mystical inclinations. He strongly believed in social harmony and a peaceful co-existence.

Shikoh authored several books on Sufism, and wrote a treatise on Bhagavad Gita (a sacred book on Hinduism). His book Sakinatul Aulia is dedicated to the life and works of Mian Mir.

Shikoh’s intellectual pursuits made him strive for a heterogeneous culture and harmony in the subcontinent, an important ingredient that was much needed in the 17th century as much as it is required now.

Students of history, who are proponents of a pluralistic society, mourn the execution of this philosopher prince who was killed by his puritan brother Aurangzeb Alamgir.

Many modern-day historians are of the view that Shikoh was the bearer of the legacy of King Akbar whose stance was Sulh-e-Kul (Peace with all), a stance that Sufis, too, have taken.

On my most recent visit to the shrine, I met many Sikh yatris who had come to pay homage to this great saint. Many of them were from Pakistan, while some had come from India. Mostly Sikh Yatris come here during the birthday celebration of Guru Nanak.

What makes the Sikhs visit the Shrine of Mian Mir ? I was curious to know. I met a group of Sikhs and asked them.

“To us, Mian Mir Sahab is as divine as the saints of Sikhism,” replied Diljeet, who came to visit the shrine from Ferozepur, India.

Sufis and Gurus, and their message, transcends geographical and cultural boundaries. “They are the beacons of light,” added Gursevak, another devotee.

Mian Mir was an icon of unity, tolerance and love during and after the Mughal era. According to Sufi as well as Sikh traditions, Mian Mir laid the foundation of, what is now known as, the Golden Temple Amritsar, also known as Harmandr Sahib.

Mian Mir is said to have travelled from Lahore to Amritsar on the invitation of Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth Guru of Sikhs, who asked Mian Mir for his blessings.

The story goes that Mian Mir was revered by Guru Arjun Dev. Both were divine figures of their respective religions, had mutual respect for each other and also had a similar notion: respect for humanity.

The goal of human life, according to Sufis, is to realise the divinity within; irrespective of cast, creed and religion. Harmandr Sahib, in this sense, is more of a cultural hub for the people of Punjab; it is a place where self-actualisation is promoted. It is also marked as a Gurdwara — literally meaning door of the Guru.

On these grounds. Mian Mir laid the foundation of a worship place of a nascent religion.

It is noteworthy that Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh faith, includes the kalaam (poetry/works) of renowned Sufis like Baba Fareed of the Chishtiyyah Sufi order.

And hence, aptly, the kalaam of popular Sikh poet Ravidas jee resounds at the Shrine of Mian Mir in Lahore today as a reminder of humanity and tolerance, echoed by this shrine’s existence.

In today’s era of chaos and war, such places of religious and ethnic harmony always manage to leave the heart at peace, if only for a little while.

Taimur Shamil is a broadcast journalist based in Islamabad. His areas of interest include religion, culture and politics.

To see the beautiful pictures that go with the article go to :

Gent: Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan

Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan
15 April 2017

The children play an important role

Flagbearers and Panj Piare

The Palki Sahib with the Guru Granth

Tram 22 waiting for us to pass
Gebroeders Vandeveldestraat

Crossing the Gebroeders Vandeveldestraat

Sint-Michiels Kerk

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

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Gent: Korenmarkt & Conduitsteeg – Kortedagsteeg – Gentbrugge Stelplaats – Gentbrugge Moscou

Korenmarkt & Conduitsteeg
5 April 2017

Korenmarkt – Tram 1 to Wondelgem

Korenmarkt – Sint-Niklaaskerk and Belfort

Conduitsteeg between Veldstraat and Korte Meer

Brabantdam / Kortedagsteeg
5 April 2017

Good progress on this missing link !

Gentbrugge Stelplaats
5 April 2017

Tram 21 to Zwijnaardebrug

Gentbrugge Moscou
8 April 2017

Tracks to Gentbrugge and Dampoort station
From there trains continue to Eeklo or Antwerpen

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Gent: Tolpoort – Rabot – Hortensiastraat / Geuzenhuis / Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara

Tolpoort – Rabot – Hortensiastraat
31 March 2017

I took tram 4 from Tolpoort to Rabot
Another 4 approaching the Rabot stop

Tram 1 to Flanders Expo

Hortensiastraat – Tram 1 to Evergem

Hortensiastraat – Tram 1 to Evergem

02 April 2017

Geuzenhuis – Vrijzinnigen/Humanists
During the March Profundo programmes the Gurdwara, The OLV Sint-Pieterskerk and the Geuzenhuis were visited

Gent Gurdwara
02 April 2017

Bhog of Akhand Path
Reading of the final pages of the Guru Granth Sahib

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

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Gent Gurdwara: School visits – Sassekaai and Neuseplein

Gent Gurdwara
School visits
27 and 30 March 2017

27 March : group photo
With sevadar and Granthi Singh

30 March : Granthi Singh and Sevadars

30 March : Students having tea and ‘snack’

 Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

Sassekaai and Neuseplein/Tolpoort
Works, no trams
31 March 2017

Sassekaai – no Tram service !
I suppose they are working on the drains
It looks like the drains empty out into the docks

You can just about walk past the works
Cars and trams have no hope getting through

Tram 4 Neuseplein – Two Tram 4 services
1) Moscou to Voormuide
2) UZ to Tolpoort

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Ledeberg Internaat & kerk – Gent Korte Dagsteeg – Gent Gurdwara

Ledeberg Internaat & Kerk
23 March 2017

Technical Business School
Primary School – Kindergarten
Ledeberg – Langestraat

Our Lady’s presentation
Internaat – Welcome
Ledeberg – Zuidstraat


Gent Korte Dagsteeg/Brabantdam
26 March 2017

The hole in the ground has gone !
Tracks are being laid !

When will the new tram 2 start running ?

Gent Gurdwara
School visit
27 March 2017

Sevadar, Granthi, students and staff

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

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Gent: Geuzenhuis – Gentbrugge Schooldreef – Gurdwara Mata Sahib Kaur

19 March 2017

The HQ of the Gent Vrijzinnigen or Humanists
They played an important role in the 18, 19, 20 and 30 March visits to the Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara, the OLV Sint-Pieters church and this beautiful building.

Gentbrugge Schooldreef
20 March 2017

We got a small shelter against the wind and the rain on the Schooldreef stop for north-bound tram  21

This shelter came from the abolished Clarissenstraat stop

Gurdwara Mata Sahib Kaur
20 March 2017

Granthi Singh active in the kitchen

Tasty roti

Our visitors watch the Granthi reading the Guru Granth Sahib

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Gent Trams – Sassekaai and Voormuide

Sassekaai – Voormuide
18 March 2016

Sassekaai – digging holes !

The tracks are still in place but tram traffic is not possible

It looks as if the dirty water from these drains will end up in the harbour

Sassekaai – Tolhuisdok

Voormuide – Temporary terminus of tram 4
The Gentbrugge Moscou to UZ service has been cut in two parts
for the duration of the works on the Sassekaai.
Gentbrugge Moscou to Voormuide vv
Tolpoort – UZ vv

Pakistan Cultural Society VZW
18 March 2016

The Pakistan Mashid involved in our interfaith & belief work

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Published in: on April 19, 2017 at 5:56 am  Leave a Comment