PAKISTAN: Reema Abbasi’s just-released compendium of Pakistan’s historic temples, is full of such stories where belief, minority identity, secular faith, bigotry and extremism criss-cross all the time. These are mostly ancient Shiva and Shakti temples: some date back 1,500 years and others, a few centuries. But like all shrines, they’re not just stone and sculpture, their lives are deeply intertwined with society and politics.
There are over 70 lakh Hindus in Pakistan, mostly in the borderland deserts of the south and in Sindh. The numbers are dwindling (last year 500 fled in the face of extremist threat). But these ancient temples – over 40 of them – are places of worship for them and for pilgrims from India and elsewhere too. Contrary to what most tend to believe, they are also much loved shrines for many Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan. In Thatta, Sindh, recent efforts by land-grabbers to swallow temples was opposed by not just the Hindus but also Muslims and Christians.
“I am proud of this solidarity – people didn’t wait for the government to take the step. When the establishment saw the public response it stepped in to protect the temple,” points out Abbasi.
Read more: Communal Harmony