Building on the first part of this exploration, today we will focus on the Sheedi Jaat festival celebrated by Afro-Pakistanis at Manghopir and also the Sulphur Springs Public Baths.
The festival is a curious combination of solemn spiritual rituals and cultural celebrations.
There are songs in a bizarre blend of Balochi, Urdu and Gujrati, with a few Swahili words, celebrating blackhood. During the festival people make their pledges at the shrine of Pir Mangho through offering fresh meat (believed to be the sacrificial) to the crocodiles, and Sheedis believe that the creatures do not harm the saint’s followers. The highlight of the Manghopir festival is a garlanding ceremony, during which the Holy Successor (gaddi nasheen) puts a garland around the neck of the Chief of the Crocodiles called the Mor Sahib (Mr. Success of this rite depends solely on the mood of old creature, but according to his keeper, he obliges most of the time and presents himself for the ritual.
The annual festival provides the sheedis with an opportunity to strengthen their community ties and reaffirm their roots, although many of them are unaware of their African heritage and some deny that their ancestors were slaves and instead insist that they are descendants of black soldiers in the army of Mohammad Bin Qasim. Thus what happens here may be described as some pagan rituals of worshipping crocodiles along with Islamic influence. Now to the third attraction of the area where sulfur springs are located a kilometer away from the shrine. Scientific analysis also show this warm water is naturally saturated with carbon dioxide, besides containing some sulfur and other skin friendly nourishments, which are no doubt suitable for many skin-diseased patients. In 1963 a 200-bed hospital called the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center was established nearby and it is to date the largest hospital of skin care in Karachi. Owais, these two posts have to be amongst the most interesting posts I have read in a long while.
Sheedis now live in Southern districts of Karachi namely in and around Kharadar and Lyari area. Second note of their arrival in Sindh comes from Alexander Bailie’s book which notes Karachi as a big slave trade market in late 1700s and early 1800s. I have posted a short writeup about the Siddis on my own blog, based on quick online research, which you and readers of this blog might perhaps be interested in.
On another note, Pakistan’s black population has great contributions in the field of football and Boxing (not to mention ethnic Makrani music).
This is such an interesting article and I had no idea that Karachi had such a big black community or there history for that matter.
Our favorite haunt was a small Irani hotel at Guru Mandir, where we would sip hot milk tea and crumbly beef patties. Manghopir mela reminded me of my childhood days when I used to go there with entire family almost every year to enjoy the festivities there.


The year we entered adamjee (1988), PPP govt led by BB came in power and removed ban from student politics. Please Register with site to post a comment and avoid abuse and getting into personal arguments.
Comment By - Mayank Mishra Date - 15 Oct 2015 Time - 6:57AM I had no idea that people celebrate Diwali in Malaysia. The date of the festival is decided with mutual consultation among notables of the five socio-cultural groups of the Sheedi tribe each year. These include collective sessions of meditation accompanied by sacred lyrics often rendered by an elderly woman or man in a soulful voice, followed by dhamaal sessions.
Most of the songs contain the refrain of Sheedi Basha (read Badshah) meaning the black king. Owing to this belief, when a crocodile dies, it is buried with equal respect and formalities just as human being. If the mood of Mor Sahib Crocodile is not so good then a bribe in the form of chunks of fresh meat does the trick.
The pond in which they live had silted to a shallow depth of 3 feet and it was making crocodiles life miserable. Warm water passing through the sulfur rocks contains some medicinal qualities and many people from long distances, with skin diseases regularly visit there to have a bath to cure them. This book was reprinted last year (2004-05) by the Dawn group of companies and I spent a fortune to buy a copy of it :) Alexander Bailie says that atleast 600 to 700 slaves were imported to Karachi every year.
I never had the oppertunity to visit the shrine, but will definitely visit on my next visit to Karachi.
I second (or is it third or fourth) Adil that you must write a post about their history in Karachi. If you had grown up in Karachi, you might have noted that the Makranis (whom you call the shedis) were the custodians of the movie theaters. If you had a rupee, two friends could be happily fed while they played truant from the biology lab! In your visits to Manghopir, did you find the place as I have described in this article or was anything different.
And, of course, with the singing comes dancing in typical African rhythms and African dance called Leva. Because of strong conservatory efforts of Wildlife conservation society of Pakistan the number of crocodiles has reached up to 100. I lived in Karachi and had heard alot about Mango Pir and the crocodiles ther, but never got the chance to visit it.


One is that Mohammad Bin Qasim’s army had employed them from Africa and brought to lower Sindh and Baluchistan. In one year (1837) at least 1500 African slaves were imported from Musqat, Oman and other african countries. There is so much more to their history and contribution to Karachi than just the special dances that we might remember from PTV, and their donkey cart races in the city! West Indies’ cricket team was visiting Pakistan in 1980 and Malcolm Marshall was one of their bowlers.
You could not create any trouble, harass women, or blackmarket tickets without a Makrani setting you right!
Our neighbors were Justice Awan on one side, Justice Shaikh on the other, the Spanish counsul on the right and a bunch of poets behind.
They are a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed, I was in Adamjee from 1987-1989 and i have a lot of memories to share too. Every year the Sheedis, the local name for Afro-Pakistanis, gather in Manghopir area, where they erect a temporary colony and live there for an entire week with their families and dance and sing.
Crocodiles are also sprinkled with color and are served cooked food, halwa (sweetmeat) as a ritual. Now the pit has become too small for them and many a times cannibalism ensues due to mutual fight for space and grabbing for food. Therefore it is highly probable that present day Sheedis are descendants from these African slaves brought to Karachi some 200 years ago.
My best friend lived near St Lawrence and I myself studied at Admajee College so I am very familiar with the area. Since the article above is about Manghopir therefore we should spare our readership from our memories which may not be related to Manghopir.
This was blog was very interesting as it gives me some insight of the origingation of sheedis.
Those were the days when Adamjees ran the college themselves and searched for talent- at one time, they had a retired vice chancellor as principal. But in the thick of the karachi student strikes, he would just have to make an appearance in the balcony and four hundred students would melt into the walls as if they were never there. And that included the big student leaders from other colleges – some of whom went on to be ministers and Bhutto-henchmen.




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