Sehwan is one of the oldest towns of the province of Sindh, in Pakistan. It is highly respected in interior Sindh, well known for the resting place of the great mystic poet, saint and scholar, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, who lived here in 13th century. The famous and beautiful shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar attracts thousands of faithful devotees throughout the year, especially during the annual Urs, making it an important pilgrimage site both for Muslims and Hindus.
It is possible that the name Sehwan originates from "Siwistan" or "Seevistan", the kingdom of Raja Dahir which even extended to Punjab under the name "Shivi". Sehwan was significant enough during the 8th century to be conquered by Muhammad bin Qasim in 711, and two centuries later by Mahmud of Ghazni. An abortive attempt was made by the Mughal emperor Humayun to capture it on his way to Umarkot but it finally fell to his son Akbar. Before this, it was the capital of the Thatta Kingdom under Juni Bek.
Today, Sehwan, popularly known as Sehwan Sharif is known throughout Pakistan due to being the location of shrine of Sufi patron saint Syed Usman Marwandi (born in Marand, Iran in 1117 - 1274) popularly known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar who preached religious tolerance among people of many religious particularly Muslims and Hindus and therefore his mysticism attracted people from many religions. He was called Lal (red) after his usual red attire, Shahbaz to denote a noble and divine spirit, and Qalandar for his Sufi affiliation.
Shahbaz's dedication to the knowledge about various religious disciplines, enabled him to become a profound scholar, eventually. He became fluent in many languages, including, Pashto, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Sindhi and Sanskrit. Lal Shahbaz lived a celibate life and died in the year 1274 at the age of 97.
Sehwan Sharif Airport serves Sehwan only during the Urs festival, the death anniversary of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. Pakistan national carrier Pakistan International Airlines operates daily flight between Karachi and Sehwan every year during the annual Urs which usually last for three days.
Sehwan railway station serves the town. Two trains briefly stop each day at Sehwan railway station: the Bolan Mail runs between Karachi and Quetta and has both economical and air-conditioned class, while the Khushal Khan Khattak Express runs between Karachi and Peshawar and has only economical class. The Khushal Khan Khattak Express calls at Sehwan railway station at around 2 AM when coming from Karachi and at 9 PM when travelling from Peshawar. The train leaves Karachi in the evening at around 7 PM and at 4PM from Peshawar daily. The Boan Mail calls at Sehwan railway station at around 12 midnight when coming from Karachi and at 1 AM when travelling from Quetta. The train leaves Karachi in the evening at around 6 PM and from Quetta at 11 AM in the morning daily. An economy-class seat in Khushal Khan Khattak Express is around Rs 350 from Karachi, Rs 800 from Peshawar, and Rs 600 from Quetta on the Bolan Mail, whereas a seat in Bolan Mail's air-conditioned class is Rs 800 from Karachi. You'll have to pay double when opting for a berth in air-conditioned carriage.
Sehwan lies on National Highway N-55, (the Indus Highway). The 1264-kilometer-long N-55 runs between Karachi and Peshawar and one can easily get a bus for Sehwan from cities situated along the highway. Buses as well vans, both air conditioned and non-air conditioned, are easily available throughout the day from the major cities of Sindh, and they can also be hailed at the highway.
Shared motorcycle rickshaws remain the only way to get around the city if you're not driving a car. They can be found on the streets, on the bus stops on N-55 and outside the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. They are extremely cheap mode to travel. A trip between bus stop on N-55 or railway station and shrine or Shahi bazaar takes only Rs 20. Expect to travel in sharing mode otherwise pay Rs 100 and the driver will not take another passenger on the rickshaw.
See and do
Present a chadar at the shrine
Many people offer garlands and a green chadar (shawl)" with Quranic inscriptions in silver or gold threads, humming verses at the shrine. Try to do so one yourself too. They can be purchased from shop which remains open 24 hours a day just outside the shrine.
- Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. 24 hour open. The famous and beautiful shrine was built in 1356 and decorated with Sindhi 'kashi-tiles', mirror work and a gold-plated door which were donated by the late Shah of Iran, Reza Shah Pahlavi. The inner sanctum is about 100 square yards with a silver-canopied grave in the middle; on one side of the marble floor is a row of about 12-inch-high (300 mm) folding wooden stands, on which there is a set copies of Quran for devotees to read. On the other side, beside a bundle of incense, are rows of oil-lamps lighted by devotees. Dhamal, unique dance form performed every Thursday evening.
- Urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. During the Urs celebrations (18th Shahban - the eighth Islamic lunar month), devotees dance rhythmically and with total abandon to the beat of drums (Naqqara Dhamal), finally ending in a spiritual trance. Sehwan becomes the focal point of more than half a million pilgrims from all over the country during the annual Urs. The streets of Sewhan are packed to capacity, as pilgrims, fakirs (dervish) and devotees make their way to the shrine, to commune with the saint, offer tributes and make wishes. The devotional dance known as ‘dhamal’, an ecstatic swirl of the head and body, is performed to the rhythm of the naqqara, a big barrel-shaped drum, some of giant size and placed in the courtyard of the shrine. Everybody is singing and dancing in praise of the saint, till late-night. Bells, gongs, cymbals and horns make a thunderous din, and the dervishes in robes, beads, bracelets and colored head-bands whirl faster and faster until, with a final deafening shout, they run out into the courtyard.
- Sehwan Museum. A small museum dedicated to life of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.
The Shahi bazaar of Sehwan is a long alleyway houses plenty of shop. The bazaar is the only marketplace of Sehwan and can be good place to hunt down the Sindhi handicraft and souvenirs. The bazaar is considered the oldest bazaar and surely gives a good example of a traditional bazaars of the region and worth to take a stroll. Open in the morning at around 9AM and closes at night.
There's a small market outside the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar which remains open 24 hours sell sweet candies, dry fruit , garlands and green chadar (shawl)"
Have free sweets and give out one yourself too
Devotees present free sweets, dry fruits and other sweet candies to visitors inside the shrine. Rejecting those free sweets is considered bad. You can as well buy those sweets from outside the shrine and give out them to other visitors inside the shrine.
There're many basic restaurants scattered throughout in this small town of Sehwan, all severing basic Pakistani food although not all are hygienic. Expect to pay minimum Rs 200 for a single dish wherever and whatever you eat. Restaurants outside the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar remains open 24 hours.
- Lajpal Restaurant (near Shahi Bazaar). A hygienic and clean restaurant. A dish of Karahi either Chicken or Mutton and Daal(pulses) is a must try. Have both non-airconditoned and air-conditioned sitting area.
- Sehwan Restaurant, Sehwan Bypass Rd (behind Sehwan CNG Station, Opp New Bus Stop), ☎ +92 25 4007299. Recently opened located on N-55 is the ideal for eating in town however costly. Serve both Pakistani and Chinese dishes. Serve some delicious Bar B Q dishes in outdoor dining area as well have indoor air-conditioned lounges.
There are plenty of small and big lodgings in town ranging from typical musafirkhana (rest house where Charpai, a traditional woven bed used in Indian subcontinent can be hired for a night sleep) to simple and basic hotels scattered throughout in this small town of Sehwan but mostly scattered outside and near the shrine. A double room sometimes without bed, but cable TV, attach bath can be hired for Rs 1,000 without air-conditioned during the off-peak season of the year. Whereas during peak season on the annual Urs, the prices of accommodation soar up-to as high as Rs 15,000 for a double room for three night stays. Ask to check the room first before checking in, to see whether the room meets your expectations.
- Hotel Sehwan Divine (Hotel Industry), Sehwan bypass Rd, behind Sehwan CNG Station, Opp New Bus Stop, ☎ +92 25 4620561-4, fax: +92 254000294, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Recently-opened 3-star hotel located on Indus High way N-55 with reasonable room rates and often huge discounts are offered. Has 60 a/c rooms very large in size with attached bath and balcony. Each room equipped with LED TVs, air-conditioners, free WiFi, complimentary breakfast, complimentary bottled water, and covered/secured car parking. Has double, triple as well as quad rooms with 2 double beds. The hotel has professional security guards and is the best in town and surroundings. Rs. 5,000 (double), Rs. 6,000 (triple), Rs. 7,000 (big discounts are offered usually).
- Lal Shahbaz Rest-house, ☎ +92 21 99206081. Basic accommodation run and owned by Sindh Tourism Development Corporation located on N-55. Has about 15 rooms, both non air-conditioned and air-conditioned. Reserve in advance through STDC office in Karachi.
- Larkana Al-Mansoor Hotel, Bypass Rd, ☎ +92 25 4620787. Another accommodation on N-55 with attached bath, double bed and TV. Has an open air basic restaurant. hotel have some air-conditioned room as well. Rs. 1,200 double non-airconditoned room.