LAHORE - The 966th annual Urs of Syed Ali bin Usman Hajveri (RA) commonly known as Data Ganj Baksh commenced on Wednesday after zohr prayers following a 'chaddar laying ceremony performed by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The opening ceremony was attended by Senator Ishaq Dar, Punjab Minister for Law Rana Sanaullah, Minister for Auqaf Haji Ihsanuddin Qureshi, Secretary Auqaf Najam Saeed, DG Religious Affairs Auqaf Shabbir Malik, eminent ulema and mashaikh besides a large number of devotees. Renowned Qari Ghulam Rasool, naat reciters Hafiz Marghoob Ahmad Hamdani, Noor Sultan, Abdur Rehman Jami and Haji Saeed performed recitation of holy verses and naats on the occasion. The ceremony was rounded off by special prayers led by Khatib Jamia Mosque Darbar for the solidarity of Pakistan and progress of the nation. The chief minister also inaugurated milk sabeel opposite darbar complex. Ch Ali Mohammad, In-charge sabeel accompanied the chief minister. The milk sabeel will serve the devotees for the next two days. The religious meetings at Darbar mosque also commenced on Wednesday which included mehfil-e-naat and speeches by ulema. The grand mehfil-e-sama will commence at Darbar Complex Sama Hall in the morning. Meanwhile thousands of devotees paid homage to Ali bin Hajvari (RA) at the shrine. They offered flower petals, various offerings and chaddars at the shrine. The people of Lahore paid homage to the saint by carrying 'chaddars and taking out processions led by drums beaters. They travelled on foot from far of localities. The Mela Ram Park was humming with festivities where mystics sang and danced to the tune of flutes and recited mystic poetry. The Auqaf department has sanctioned a sum of Rs3 million for the lungar at the time of Urs of the saint.