Thousands of devotees converged to participate in a two-day mela that began on Friday, to pay their respects to Baba Rode Shah at his samadhi in Bhoma village on the outskirts of Fatehgarh Churian, where customary liquor offerings were made.
During the course of the mela, it is common to see devotes, including women, making their way to the samadhi with bottles and containers full of liquor. The offerings are then distributed among devotees, both men and women, who consume the liquor as 'prasad'.
Devotees scramble to reach the samadhi, where liquor is distributed in glasses. And as one would expect, the priests are also in a drunken state. Even the cops on duty are not far behind. Many cops can be found lying on the roadside in an inebriated state.
Though the administration has deputed an ambulance of the health department for the devotees, one ambulance is barely enough to cater to the huge rush.
Baba Rode Shah, who belonged to Dhavaan village of Gurdaspur district, had left his family and settled here at the site of the samadhi in 1896. Legend goes that the baba was once approached by a farmer of this village who, despite being married for a couple of years, was issueless. With the blessing of the baba, a male child was born to the couple, who offered a sum of Rs 500 to the baba for having blessed them. But the baba refused to accept the money and asked the couple to purchase a bottle of liquor everyday and offer it as 'prasad' to his devotees. This practice continued till they offered liquor worth Rs 500.
Gurnaik Singh, a relative of the baba who manages the shrine along with his father, said the holy man used to collect liquor in a vessel and offer it to his devotees, but he himself never consumed alcohol.
Gurnaik said that liquor is offered throughout the year at the samadhi, but the offerings go up during the mela.
A majority of the people who come here are issueless couples who believe that they will be blessed with a child if they offer liquor at the shrine, especially during the mela. Even newly married couples from nearby villages come to seek the baba's blessing.
Bhoma is also famous as the native village of Shah Mohammad, a renowned Urdu poet in the days of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Many famous personalities have been devotees of the baba. It is said that playback singer Mohammad Rafi and Shah Mohammad used to visit the samadhi regularly. Mohammad Rafi had sung a number of songs and hymns in praise of the baba.
As the followers of the baba are by and large rural folk, much of the liquor offered is countrymade. As a result, devotees carrying IMFL are more sought after. However, there are devotees who prefer to brew their own liquor, which, they believe, is pure unlike the liquor purchased from the market.
The mela is held every year ever since the baba died in 1924. Thousands of people from Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi visit the samadhi to seek the baba's blessings around this time of the year.