The men huddled on what remained of the marble courtyard, the parts that hadn’t been ripped away by a bulldozer’s claw. A cloud of smoke rose above them as they passed around hashish joints — for the spiritual high, they said. They shook their heads to the frenzied banging of the drummers. Others leaped up, twirling, contorting and chanting in praise of the Sufi saint at whose shrine they worshiped.
In short, on a recent Thursday night, hundreds of worshippers at the Mauj Darya shrine repeated a tradition that the shrine’s keepers say has occurred in some form for about 450 years.
But activists fear this tradition may end with the shrine itself.
They say it is threatened by a 16-mile train line the government is racing to build through Lahore. The train route passes 11 heritage spots — from Mauj Darya, to a British colonial church, to the Shalimar Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is expected to ferry about half a million people every day within five years, said the head of the Lahore Transport Authority, Khawaja Ahmad Hassan.