“Bacha bazi, Khuda razi,” – a Hazara restaurant boy.
Band-e-Amir is always a highlight of any visits to Afghanistan. The crystal blue lakes are simply miracle among the barren hills. The locals also believe it as a miracle.
Legend says that Hazrat Ali, or Caliph Ali bin Abi Thalib, came to Bamiyan, killed a dragon and created the 6 lakes of Band-e-Amir with his magical power. Considering that the Hazara people are Shiite, the Imam Ali (or Hazrat Ali) was always the reason of all miracles. I argued with a man from Chekhcheran, that it was doubted that Hazrat Ali even had come to Bamiyan. Hazrat Ali died after some years being the fouth Caliph in Iraq, and he spent most of his time in the Middle East. The Chekhcheran man said that according to a travel writing of a Chinese adventurer (possibly a Buddhist monk) visiting Bamiyan 2000 years ago, the dragon of Bamiyan was still alive. The dragon is now believed to turn to be a hill with mineral spring, the Darya Ajdahar. You need a high degree of imagination to see that the rock with water spring was a dragon.
I still don’t believe that the lakes were created by Imam ali.
But the pilgrims would of course disagree with me about this. It was said that the dams of the king, Band-e-Amir, was created by the magical power of the Imam, of which then converted the whole area to Islam. Next to the natural dam, which was believed as the place where Imam Ali had ever stood, a small shrine was founded. The shrine now turned to be a major pilgrimage site in the country. The deep, blue, cold water of Band-e-Amir is believed to have magical power to cure all diseases. It was Bethesda of the Muslims. People came here to pray. Women cried inside the shrine. They were overwhelmed by wishes and hopes. Then it comes the real suffering part of the pilgrimage: dipping themselves in the freezing water of the lake. There were separate places for male and female pilgrims. Each pilgrim will be tied by rope around his/her waist by the lake caretaker, then he/she had to jump to the lake, for some seconds only, before the caretaker pull him/her out. This happened for two or three times.
“Ya ….. Ali!!!” screamed the pilgrims before jumping. But then they cried inside the water. It was painfully freezing. To fulfil wish, it’s always a struggle. And pilgrimage to Band-e-Amir is among the painful pilgrimages.
“These people are silly,” said Anwar, a visitor from Bamiyan, “they believed that the lake was made by Imam Ali. Actually this doing is not Islamic at all.” He didn’t believe at all that the lakes were miracle of the Imam.
It was my second visit to Band-e-Amir. At my first visit 3 years ago, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the lake and failed to observe the pilgrimage activities. This time, I came by public transport from Yakawlang, got off at the junction, and walked for 4 hours to reach the lake. The high through villages was quite scenic, and I saw not only the main lake (which is usually referred as ‘Band-e-Amir’ but had a name ‘Band-e-Haibat’), but also some other lakes making the lake complex of Band-e-Amir. There were initially 6 lakes but one of them, Band-e-Kambar, dried 20 years ago.
I was sleeping in a restaurant next to the mainlake. Three years ago there was only 1 restaurant selling fried fish, but now Band-e-Amir had become major tourist destination plus pilgrimage site. There were several ugly restaurant buildings next to the lake, was built in last 2 years. Now, late September, the weather was getting cold. The pilgrimage peak season was almost over, and most of the restaurants had been left by the owners as the business had been becoming worse together with the drop of temperature.
Night was cold. But the boys of the restaurant knew how to make it warmer. Without TV channel, VCD was always a solution. They had an amazing collection of CDs, from dancing fat women show until sexy Iranian songs. And last but not least, American porn VCD.
“Che raqam keshvar ast… what kind of country is that,” commented an old guest when it came to an anal scene. They watched porn openly without any fear of being caught (even two police guys also joined the crowd).
Watching porn is somehow not regarded sinful, for them. But doing adultery, zinna kari, is sinful. What surprised me, the young boys told me that the sin of zinna is much bigger than baccha bazi (playing boy). No wonder why there are so many boy players in Afghanistan.
He told me a poet about ‘boy playing’ from Afghanistan.
Bacha bazi khoda razi (playing boys, God agrees)
Daurdaurish bumali (just rub around it)
Mabain ish nandazi (but don’t put inside it)