Mela Chiraghan is Lahore-specific. It takes place at the shrine of Shah Hussain in Baghbanpura, on the outskirts of Lahore, adjacent to the Shalimar Gardens.
The festival used to take place in the Shalimar Gardens also, until President Ayub Khan ordered against it in 1958.
It is celebrated in Lahore in the last week of March. It is a three-day annual festival to mark the Urs of the Punjabi Sufi poet and Saint Shah Hussain. Shah Hussain is regarded as a Sufi saint. He was the son of Sheikh Usman, a weaver, and belonged to the Dhudha clan of Rajputs.
Shah Hussein had ideological affiliations with Dullah Bhatti. Dulla Bhatti was a famous legendary Rajput hero of Punjab, who led a rebellion against Mughal king Akbar. Dulla Bhatti was to be hanged publicly near Nela Gumbad or some place around Landa Bazaar in Lahore. Lahore Kotwal (Police Chief) Ali Malik was supervising the execution. Lahorites had flocked in large number to witness the execution. Shah Hussein argued with the Police Chief, Ali Malik. The infuriated kotwal threatened Shah Hussein saying, ‘I will get you nailed before evening.’
Shah Hussein retorted, You will be nailed before causing any trouble to me.
Ali Malik had to report to Akbar and tell him last words of Dulla Bhatti after it was over. ‘Dulla Bhatti kept calling names and abusing you’ Ali Malik reported to Akbar who was provoked to fury against Ali Malik on repeating every thing exactly. Akbar ordered Ali Malik to be nailed. Order of the King was implemented the same evening.
Shah Hussain’s love for a Brahmin boy called “Madho” or “Madho Lal” is famous, and they are often referred to as a single person with the composite name of “Madho Lal Hussain”. Madho’s tomb lies next to Hussain’s in the shrine.
Shah Hussein is considered a pioneer of the Kafi form of Punjabi poetry. A typical Hussain Kafi contains a refrain and some rhymed lines. The number of rhymed lines is usually between four and ten. It is also said that he is the one who introduced ‘Kafis’ as one of the genre of poetry. The devotees of Shah Sahib sing his ‘Kafis’ with devotion because they are mystic verses with a strong spiritual message in them.
Mela Chiraghan can be rightly called a second biggest festival of Lahore after the Urs of Data Sahib. This fair is also known as the festival of lights. Mela Chiraghan is the one among other fairs which depicts the picture of Pakistani culture. On Mela Chiraghan the devotees dance on the drum beats. The drum is beaten up by the professionally trained people who beat it in such a rhythm that the whole crowd seems to whirl on its beat. The ‘Kafis’ sung on the festival are the real entertainment for the people of Punjab.
On the last day of Mela Chiragha, only the women visit the shrine of Shah Hussain and perform the holy rituals.
Sujjen bin raatan hoiyan wadyan
Ranjha jogi, main jogiani, kamli kar kar sadian
Maas jhurey jhur pinjer hoyya, karkan lagiyan hadiyan
Main ayani niyoonh ki janan, birhoon tannawan gadiyan
Kahe Husain faqeer sain da, larr tairay main lagiyaan
Nights swell and merge into each other as I stand awaiting for him.
Since the day Ranjha became jogi, I have scarcely been my old self and people everywhere call me crazy. My young flesh crept into creases leaving my young bones a creaking skeleton. I was too young to know the ways of love; and now as the nights swell and merge into each other, I play host to that unkind guest ‘separation.
Rabba mere haal da mehram tu
Ander tu hain bahir tu hain
Room room wich tuun
Tu hai tana tu hai bana, Sab kuch mera tu
Kahey Hussain faqir nimmana main nahin sub tu
You are the only one who understands my feelings
You are inside me, you are outside of me
you are in every bit of me
Your are my everything
Helpless Hussain can only say, All this is your energy, not mine