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12. Beginning of the Mela at Amir Pir

When Imam Hasan Ali Shah left Iran, some faithful and loyal Shi’ite soldiers from Kirman also joined the Imam’s caravan. Soon after his arrival in Sind, Sir Charles Napier posted him at Jerruk at the end of February, 1843 to secure communications as well as restore peace between Karachi and Hyderabad. The Baluchi leader Mir Sher Muhammad Khan attacked at Jerruk on March 23, 1843. The Imam spurred his fleet horse and advanced with full gallop, penetrating the front ranks of the enemies and fought against the overwhelmed odds. In the skirmish, the Imam’s horse skidded and he fell on the ground. Some thirty Ismaili warriors managed to bring the Imam in Hyderabad for treatment.

Soon after the tragic event of Jerruk, the Baluchis attacked the Shi’ite soldiers of the Imam, who were patrolling on the route between Jhimpir and Kotri. Some of them were killed and buried at the location of Amir Pir. When Imam Hasan Ali Shah arrived in Jerruk from Hyderabad after recovery, he visited the location with his few followers. He crossed the shallow water of the Soneri Lake and reached the hilltop of Amir Pir’s location on horse. He dismounted and offered fatiha on the graves of his Shi’ite soldiers. The followers preserved the marks of the Imam’s footprints, known as “Shah’ja Kadam.” The local Shi’ites walled the space with an alam (crest or emblem) inside on a staff, where a ceremony of its hoisting was performed before 1984.

The Ismailis from Muscat, Gwadar, Sind, Kutchh, Kathiawar and Gujrat flocked at Jerruk to behold the Imam before the attack on Jerruk. Looking the social and religious worth of a mixed gathering, Imam Hasan Ali Shah intended that such gathering should be held once a year in Sind for the scattered Ismailis to solve their social and religious problems. Jerruk was thick with the population of the Muslims, which could hardly accommodate the visiting Ismailis. During his above visit at Amir Pir, Imam Hasan Ali Shah liked its climate and resolved to purchase the land on hilltop. On his return to Jerruk, he is said to have told to his followers to hold an annual gathering at an open place, where the Ismailis of Sind had already become used to assemble from time to time. The purpose of the Imam was to create unity among the Ismailis of District Thatta, who lived in 16 villages and Shah Bandar in 4 villages. The location was acquired from the British government in 1845 in the period of Mukhi Alidina Asani (1793-1881), the first Estate Agent of Karachi, Lasbela and Sind. In other words, the Ismailis connection with the Amir Pir Mela dates from the time of Imam Hasan Ali Shah. According to the “Gazetteer of the Province of Sind” (Bombay, 1927, p. 42), “The connection of the Khojas with this region dates from the time of the British conquest, shortly before which the grandfather of the present Agha Khan (Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah) came to Sind from Persia.”

The Jhimpir Mela however was formally begun in 1851. The Muslims in lower Sind considered that it was started by their Amir Pir (Imam Hasan Ali Shah), the fair therefore became known as Amir Pir Mela. It ensues from an old manuscript that the first mela was celebrated with great pomp. It was attended by the Ismailis of District Thatta, Shah Bandar, Mulla Katiar, Hyderabad, Tando Muhammad Khan and Karachi. During the celebration, the marriages of 18 couples were solemnized.

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