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Pakistani pilgrims seek good luck from crocodiles

From Reza Sayah, CNN
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Crocodile blessings
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pilgrims seek good luck from crocodiles at annual festival
  • Legend says crocodiles grew from lice left by saint 700 years ago
  • Visitors bring offerings of goat meat and candy
RELATED TOPICS
  • Karachi
  • Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- To the average person, holding a child over the jaws of a hungry crocodile does not seem like a smart idea.

But a small community in southern Pakistan believes it can bring good luck.

Once a year, members of the Sheedi community come dangerously close to giant crocodiles in a festival that leaves both spectators and reptiles with their mouths wide open.

Sheedis believe the crocodiles in the pond in Manghopir -- near Karachi -- are sacred.

Legend has it a saint left his lice there 700 years ago, and they grew into crocodiles that make miracles come true.

"All the wishes and prayers of people who come here are granted by God," said Ghulam Akbar, the caretaker of the shrine near the pond.

But the crocodiles can't work on empty stomachs; thousands came to this week's four-day festival with offerings of goat meat and candy.

Caretakers say no one has ever been hurt at the event, and everyone leaves with new-found joy.

At least one baby boy didn't seem very joyful. He cried as a man held him over a crocodile's snapping jaws.

Onlookers snapped cell-phone photos. Drums thumped. People danced and cheered.

Like most Sufi Muslims, Sheedis worship to rhythmic beats to achieve a state of trance and become closer to God.