Sacred Crocodiles

The sacred crocodiles are a different breed. They are friendly and docile. Children can swim in their ponds and people can have a bath oblivious of the larking animals around. There is a mutual respect for one another. These crocs have their names and can be called forth from the pond to greet the visitors. They allow the visitors to pat them. Some are strong enough to give a ride to the visitors. Pulling their tails is normal and brings excitement, laughter and giggles. Some even move out of the water and walk around.
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MANGHOO PIR CROX: THEY ARE DIFFERENT

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by Hafeez RM

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A look on any crocodile is frightening with its long narrow jaws, protruding teeth, thick skin and a powerful tail. They are found in fresh and salt waters, wetlands and canals. Saltwater crocodile are the largest, as long as 7 meters or more. This is followed by Nile crocodile with 6 meters and American Crocodile 4.6 meters. In all, 23 species of crocodile have been identified the world over.

Being fierce hunters, they attack their prey with lightening speed. They kill animal as heavy as they are and swallow their catch lock, stock and barrel.

The sacred crocodiles are a different breed. They are friendly and docile. Children can swim in their ponds and people can have a bath oblivious of the larking animals around. There is a mutual respect for one another. These crocs have their names and can be called forth from the pond to greet the visitors. They allow the visitors to pat them. Some are strong enough to give a ride to the visitors. Pulling their tails is normal and brings excitement, laughter and giggles. Some even move out of the water and walk around.

The crocs are treated like human being. If one dies, all rites are performed; the body is warped in cloth and buried in a grave. There are many places in the world where they are treated with awe and respect:

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SACRED CROCS IN THE WORLD

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  • Ouagadougou is a bustling city and capital of Burkina Faso, Africa. Sacred Crocodile Lake is the main attraction. Visitors can feed ‘tame’ crocs in the near village, Paga. Its residents believed that within each croc, there rests the spirit of their ancestors. People offer them live chicken, fish and meat.
  • Bakau is a tourist town in Gambia, Africa. It has a sacred pool and is home to more than 100 crocs. Every morning, a large number of foreign tourists visit the pool. They play with the animal and have their photos taken with the reptile. Barren women travel from far off places for a wash with the water of the sacred pool in the hope of fertility.
  • In East Timor, a country in South East Asia, there are a large number of crocodiles living in swamp. The country is known as Crocodile Island. It is one of the last islands in the long chain of the Indonesian Archipelago. East Timorese regard croc as their favorite animal.
  • In Khulna, Bangladesh, there is a shrine of Khan Jahan Ali where crocodile are flourishing in large number. People make offerings to these reptiles to ward off evil.
  • Near Karachi, Pakistan, there is a shrine with over 150 crocodiles living in a small pond in complete harmony and serenity.
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THE SAINT OF CROCODILES

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The sacred crocodiles cannot live in the wild. They must have protection and blessing of some spiritual leader, sufi or saint.

I have visited his shrine for a number of times in the past. But I especially went there two days ago, along with a friend, to gather data for this hub.

Our first stop was shrine of the saint known as Syed Sukhi Sultan or popularly known as Peer Mangho. This was the oldest shrine in the city, surrounded by hot-water springs, crocodile ponds and immense greenery. Situated on a hilltop, the shrine affords a commanding view of the surrounding area, mostly green in an otherwise barren land.

We were greeted by Ghulam Haider, a self appointed caretaker. Removing our shoes, we went inside to offer prayer on the grave covered with rose petals. There was a pleasant smell due to incense-burning. Though it was a normal day, a large number of devotees had come to the shrine and were whispering their secret wishes to the saint. Men wore embroidered caps with tiny mirrors. Women were clad in richly patched and stitched dresses.

Information gathered from Ghulam Haider and inscriptions on the walls revealed that the shrine was 700 years old. The background of the saint was shrouded in mystery. There were various legends wrapped around him:(i) a Hindu dacoit turned Muslim, (ii) a warrior coming from Arabia in the 13thCentury, (iii) a saint with real name of Kamal Din changed to Peer Mango when his bones were removed from his original grave and entombed in the present-day shrine.

God knows which version is correct but a wall plaque describes him as an Arab from Hejaz who came to India when Tatars were creating havoc. He joined the Mughal Army, led by Mohmud Tughlak, and fought against Tamerlane. After the war, he went back to Hejaz, present day Saudi Arabia, where he had a vision of the Great Prophet directing him to go to Ajudhan, the present day Pak Patton in Pakistan. He went there and met Baba Farid Gunjshaker who taught him and asked him to go to what is known as Manghopeer today.

Living with harmony and serenity in a small pond at Karachi, Pakistan

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SACRED CROCODILES

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Spell bounded by the holy narratives, we were lead to a nearby small water pond. Haider told us that there were over 150 crocodiles; the oldest one was 100 years. He pointed towards the oldest but we could not distinguish him from dozens others huddled together. Eventually, he crossed over many basking crocs, pat the head of the chief and placed a garland over his head.

Once again, there were many legends about these crocodile.

  • These reptiles were gifted by Baba Farid, the spiritual teacher of the Saint.
  • These animals were brought by “Mor Mubarak”, also a saint, from a far off area.
  • These crocodiles were carried through some heavy floods during ancient times and later gathered at this pond.
  • Another legend claims the saint himself had kept these crocodiles as pets.

Notwithstanding all these myths, people offer goat meat to these crocodiles. They touch them, pat them and twist their tales. In the past 700 years, there is not a single event when these crocodiles have harmed any visitor. This seems unbelievable as a croc is a ferocious and ruthless predator, normally paddling like a devil under the water to catch its prey by surprise. Hassan, an elder in the area, told us that the sacred crocodiles of Pir Mangho are respected not only when they are alive, but also after their natural death. When asked to explain,he said with a shine in his eyes, ‘When a crocodile dies, we give it a proper burial and wrap it in a white shroud after bathing it like we would do for a human being before putting it six feet under,’

Finally, we were taken to a nearby village. Its residents are from a closely-knit community known as Makarani or Sheedi. Again there is no authentic information about their origin. Some called them slave of Arab Merchants and some say that they were black soldiers of Mohammad Bin Qasim, the conqueror of Sindh. No one can say for sure where they came from. But researchers have pointed out that they have their roots in Zanzibar in Africa. Because of this, the village is known as Little Africa.

They celebrate their own festivals. The main festival is called “Sheedi Mela”, which kicks off when young Sheedi girls come out with specially prepared offerings for the crocodiles. First to be entertained is the eldest crocodile named as “Mor Sahib”. If he accepts the offering, he is garlanded with rose flowers.

The celebration lasts for two days. Men and women adorn themselves with tree branches, dance with enthusiasm and inspire others to get involved in the ritual. Congo drums are beaten with full force and the resident move around with flags singing in Swahili or in a language which no outsider understands.

Having seen all around the shrine in about two hours, we came out and drove about a kilometer to hot-water springs which are part of the shrine. There are separate timings for men and women. When we arrived, we were asked to wait for a while. Knowing that the ladies would take a long time, we postponed our bath and talked to some of the people around. We were informed that according to a chemical analysis, the water is naturally saturated with carbon dioxide, besides containing some sulfur & other skin friendly nourishments. This is true as, not far from the shrine, there is an internationally renowned Karachi Leprosy Hospital with 200-bed. It treats the patients with warm water gushing out of a fountain. The cure rate is reported 97%.

We returned in the afternoon after our spiritual visit to the tomb of a great saint and its disciples, the sacred crocodiles.

Source: Text, Video

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