Chamliya (Jammu): Despite the chill in India-Pakistan relations, thousands of people gathered Thursday on both sides of the border for a week-long fair in memory of a saint revered in both countries.
The Chamliyal Mela is held at a shrine about 50 km south of Jammu right on the border.
It is an event that has been held for some 200 years, starting from the fourth Thursday of June.
Baba Chamliyal, as the holy man was called, has devoted followers on both sides of the border.
Thousands have come to this area, which hugs the border, from other states, including Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh besides the Jammu region.
A large crowd is also massed on the other side, to receive 'shakkar' (sugar) and 'sharbaat' (water from a well) from India that are used as a paste to cure skin diseases.
The event is organised by the Border Security Force (BSF) in India.
Shyam Kumar Sharma, a middle-aged farmer from Jalandar in Punjab, said he had come to express his gratitude to the saint.
'My son whom I brought here last year was cured of a skin disease that doctors could not cure,' Sharma told IANS.
There were thousands like Sharma, looking for treatment or simply praying or expressing their heartfelt thanks for deeds done.
According to legend, Baba Chamliyal (real name Baba Daleep Singh Manhas) used to live in village Chamliyal some 300 years ago. He was a religious man and revered by locals.
His charisma earned him a number of disciples. His popularity also earned him an enemy, who beheaded him when he was returning home.
His body was thrown in Saidanwali village (now in Pakistan) and the head in adjoining Chamliyal village (on the Indian side right on the border in Ramgarh sector) where he lived.
His disciples built a mausoleum at Chamliyal. It is known as Chamliyal shrine.
Sometime after his death, one of his disciples got a skin disease which could not be cured.
One day Chamliyal Baba came in his dream saying he should apply a paste of soil where his head fell with the water of a well nearby.
He did that. To his surprise, the disease disappeared in no time.
Even after the Indian partition in 1947, devotees from Pakistan used to visit the shrine.
But after the 1965 India-Pakistan war, the Pakistani Rangers stopped sending devotees.
Instead, they would gather at the border outpost on their side where they would receive 'shakkar' and 'sharbat' from the shrine in India.
After that, the Pakistanis constructed another shrine in the memory of Baba Chamliyal on their side in Saidanwali village.
A group of Pakistani Rangers still come to the Chamliyal shrine in India to place a floral 'chaddar' on behalf of the Pakistani devotees.