Despite the chill in India-Pakistan relations, thousands of people gathered on Thursday on both sides of the border for a week-long fair in memory of a saint revered in both countries.
The Chamliyal mela is held at a shrine on the border. It is an event that has been held for some 200 years. Baba Chamliyal, as the holy man was called, has devoted followers on both sides of the border. Thousands from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh besides the Jammu region have come to this area.
A large crowd is also massed on the other side, to receive shakkar (sugar) and sharbaat (water from a well) from India that are used as a paste to cure skin diseases. The Indian Border Security Force organised the event.
According to legend, Baba Chamliyal (real name Baba Daleep Singh Manhas) used to live in Chamliyal some 300 years ago. His charisma earned him a number of disciples and also enemy, who beheaded him. His body was thrown in Saidanwali (now in Pakistan) and the head in adjoining Chamliyal (on the Indian side) where he lived. His disciples built a mausoleum at Chamliyal. It is known as Chamliyal shrine.
One of his disciples got a skin disease which could not be cured. One day Baba came in his dream saying he should apply a paste of soil where his head fell with the water of a well nearby. He did that. The disease disappeared.
Even after partition, devotees from Pakistan used to visit the shrine. But after 1965 the Pakistani Rangers began to gather at the border outpost on their side where they would receive ‘shakkar’ and ‘sharbat’ from the shrine in India. After that, they constructed a shrine in the memory of Baba in Saidanwali.
A group of Pakistani Rangers still come to the shrine in India to place a floral chaddar on behalf of the Pakistani devotees.