Kasur is a satellite city of Lahore, Pakistan, that in 1947 found itself just 15 kilometres from the new border created with India.
Not much to look at, Kasur is instead home to a cultural tradition that outshines its modest size. Kasur is the final resting place of Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri, better known as Bulleh Shah, an eminent 18th century Punjabi poet and philosopher.
Punjabi poetry and culture is, in my opinion, somewhat under-appreciated, particularly in modern Pakistan, where much emphasis is placed on the nationally-important Urdu tradition. Even to the casual observer, Punjabi literary tradition seems rather lost into the bargain of modern Punjabi bhangra beats and Sikh-Punjabi pride.
Born in 1680 in Uch, a holy city in southern Punjab, Bulleh Shah grew to be one of the major humanist writers and thinkers of the time. Even those unfamiliar with his works may have heard the musical renditions of his poem Dama Dam Mast Qalandar (click here for a modern version by Indian singer Rekha Bhardwaj).
Bulleh Shah’s shrine is suitably a home for reverence, music and dance, where visitors come to pay their respects, and some lose themselves to dhamaal (the head-spinning dance associated with Sufi devotees).
Out on the southern edge of Kasur, at the top of a flight of stairs, sits the small tomb of Hazrat Baba Shah Kamal-ud-din Chishti, a locally important Sufi saint. Chishti’s tomb and shrine is also a magnet for Sufi singers and ascetic types, making for some seriously colourful characters.
Beyond the city limits of Kasur lies Ganda Singh Wala, the place where Lahore’s Ferozepur Road crosses the border into India. (Ferozepur Road is one of Lahore’s main arteries however its destination, the town of Ferozepur, now lies across the border in India).
Here, as in Wagha to the north, Pakistani and Indian soldiers lower their respective flags and officially “close” the border nightly. Ganda Singh Wala differs in several ways however; the border here is never officially ‘open’; the ceremony is simply a formality. Out of the way, the crowds at Ganda Singh Wala are smaller than those at Wagha. However they’re no less rowdy; in fact the border at Ganda Singh Wala slices across the road diagonally, meaning that the cheering and jeering crowds of patriots sit face-to-face, like dogs straining at their leashes.
The ceremony is simple and quick, and much more compact than that at Wagha. The jeering nationalist exchanges between the crowds, however, takes a slightly ugly turn when things get personal between members of the opposing nations.
Perhaps one can take solace in the fact that the whole place was named after Ganda Singh Datt, a Sikh soldier in the British Indian Army, a nod to India-Pakistan peace efforts. In a reciprocal move, the border post is known as Hussainiwala on the Indian side, named after Muslim saint Pir Baba Hussainiwala.
Kasur is easily reached from Lahore in about two hours, by taking the Lahore MetroBus to Gajju Matta, then boarding a local bus for the final 30 kilometre drive to Kasur. Autorickshaws and qingqi rickshaws wait at the bus station to take travellers to Bulleh Shah’s tomb. Alternatively, Kasur is about 90 minutes drive from Lahore in a private car.