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Watch: 500,000 gather for interfaith Festival of Lights in Lahore

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The festival is attended by Christians, Hindus and Sikhs as well as Muslims
The festival is attended by Christians, Hindus and Sikhs as well as Muslims -
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AP
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People from across Pakistan have been gathering in Lahore to celebrate the 431st annual Festival of Lights.

Devotees offer prayers and candles, song and dance at the shrine of 16th-century Sufi poet and saint Madho Lal Hussain to have their prayers answered.

The festival celebrates the Muslim poet's love for a Hindu boy, Madho, and with it interfaith harmony.

The three-day festival, which locals call Mela Chiraghan, takes place at his shrine on the Grand Trunk Road, Baghbanpura, where an estimated half a million devotees will gather around a blazing bonfire. Madho is also buried at the site.

Pilgrims carrying chiraghs — small oil lamps — toss them into the bonfire hoping that their prayers will be heard and their wishes granted, and whirling dervishes dance and recite Kafis written by Shah Hussain.

Ruqaya Butt is visiting the festival with her daughter. "I came here for my daughter, she is disabled, she cannot walk properly, so I offer prayers for her and God willing, she will get well soon. I have complete belief in Madho Lal Hussain," she explained.

Attendee Amara Ahmed outlined the significance of the festival: "The sage being celebrated here is a Muslim poet who fell in love with a young Hindu man. The pilgrims coming here believe that he had a special past so they bring different problems to [offer to] the saint and ask for a resolution."

Known as an occasion for interfaith harmony, the festival sees Christians, Hindus and Sikhs join Muslims, seeking intercession from their patron saints

Visitor Salman Mehmood Qazi explains: "Following the teaching of Madho Lal Hussain, one can find love, peace and harmony at this place. And following that love, peace and harmony, we can find a total interfaith harmony at this very place."