Luv Puri

A shared cultural legacy

The BSF has built a community kitchen and guest house for the pilgrimsThe mud and water of the shrine believed to have curative properties

CHAMBLIYAL: The 317-year-old Chambliyal mela, which brings the people of India and Pakistan together every year, symbolises a shared cultural legacy. It is celebrated on both sides of the border during war and peace. This year, it will be held on June 22 in the backdrop of the bilateral peace process.

The Baba Chambliyal shrine is close to the zero line in the Ranbir Singh Pura sector of Jammu and Kashmir. It adjoins Pakistan's Sialkot district in Punjab. Pilgrims from as far as the North-Western Frontier Province participate in the mela.

"Arrangements for the mela are being given final shape," G.S. Virk, Deputy Inspector-General, Border Security Force, told The Hindu.

In Pakistani village

In the Pakistani village of Saidanwali, about 100 m away, people wait for mud and water from the shrine. The BSF men will hand over the mud and water to Pakistan Rangers of the Chenab regiment, who will be accompanied by Mazar Hussien, village head. Hussein, whose family members are disciples of Baba Chambliyal, will then lead the delegation of devotees.

Arrangements are made by the BSF's 39 Battalion. But in the backdrop of the peace process, locals are also chipping in to make it a grand success.

Chowdhary Garo Ram, Congress MLA, says: "For centuries, this mela has united people of different religions, caste and creed. Now, it is uniting countries.

Lot of enthusiasm

There is a lot of enthusiasm among the people for the mela. Even in times of animosity between the two nations it has acted as a catalyst in bonding people."

Until 1947, a family that migrated from Chambliyal to Pakistan looked after the shrine. Since then, it has been looked after by the BSF, which has constructed a community kitchen and guest house for pilgrims.

People rub themselves with the mud

People with skin ailments come to the shrine and rub themselves with the mud, which they call shakkar (sugar), and water from the well. Then they stand in the sun for some days. Scores of men and women perform the ritual throughout the year. It is believed that the mud and water of the shrine have curative properties.