Enroute our destination, a friend mentioned that the locality we were passing through was one of the most volatile in the city and a Gutter Baghicha activist was murdered here. “We are activist too”, I said. See the ‘Gutter Baghicha bachao’ sticker on the car.
No one spoke after that. We managed to reach Manghopir safe and sound. The first impression: One and half hour journey on a bumpy road from city center was worth all the pain. To get there drive to Regal Chowk, head to ‘Garden’ touching IBA city campus and Gandhi Garden. After twisting and turning in narrow Garden roads (Ask the directions from chat waala if you feel lost, they were helpful, there were plenty), take Manghopir road, cross lyari expressway and drive for approx. forty minutes before you reach ‘Naya Nazimabad’. Five more minutes and you will reach the shrine.
So who was Pir Mangho? There are many stories associated with the saint and mysterious pond of 100 crocodiles. Some say that it was Mangho Wasa, the notoriuous 12th century dacoit who looted Baba Farid Ganj Shakar (AD 1173-1266). However his interaction with kind Babad Farid changed his destiny forever and he converted to Islam and started practicing Sufisim in the area. He was burried in the famous shrine when he passed away. Others say that it was Sakhi Sultan Baba who is actually burried in the shrine and Pir Mangho was his disciple. There is another legend which states that Mangho was a pious arab (looks like a piece of text book history) who chose this place as his final abode. People at the shrine add further to the legend. According to the person taking care of crocodile pond, the crocodiles were lice in Mangho Pir and/or Baba Farid hair which were thrown into the pond and later it turned into crocodiles.
Nearby chowkandi-esque graves are the first thing that you notice at the shrine. There are few of them here and there. Turn left from the graves and reach to the entrance. Take your shoes off and take the token from the child taking care of shoes. Climb up the staircase and you will reach the shrine. Its a humble one. The caretaker, in his loud voice was trying to convince devotees to put a coin or two in the box.
There is a small bazaar near the shrine which leads you to the pond and sulfer stream. In these narrow streets, you will find plenty of handicrafts and snacks’ shops. The stream is inviting but full of poeple all the times. On your left is the sanctuary of crocodiles which is impressive to say the least.
The caretaker of the pond will ask you to buy some meat for the crocodiles. Do that. Two hundred rupees is enough to get you the entry. At one end of the pond is a gate which leads to muddy rectangle portion of the sanctuary. It is full of crocodiles, sunbathing in pallid yellow sunshine. They hardly move giving an impression of concrete blocks instead of a vicious beast. The caretaker jumped off the fence into the den. Concrete blocks hardly moved. “Do they fight”, a friend asked. “Yes they do, but amongst themselves”, replied the caretaker. See this one has lost a good part of his front. The caretaker forced wide open a lazy half slept crocodile’s mouth. He was right. “Crocodile’s of Manghopir have never harmed a human”, he further added, with his arm half inside the crocodile’s mouth.
Believe it or not. The place is worth a visit.