Every year, my grandparents used to take us to Uncle Devraj’s house in Karachi where together we celebrated the annual full moon sighting, known as Diwali. Devraj was Hindu, and my grandfather was Muslim, but they both spoke Sindhi and shared familial roots. Theirs was not a unique story. Unlike in Punjab, where partition brought bloodshed on an unprecedented scale, the Sindh province to the south saw little or no communal violence. The Hindus of Sindh largely stayed behind. Muslim and Hindu families shared bonds that reached back generations; a sense of respect for community prevailed. My grandfather even had his own collection of Hindu icons in his study. Perhaps I’d taken the Durga from Devraj’s house thinking it would be equally at home with him.
Those memories, long forgotten, came flooding back when I decided to make a trip to the Hinglaj—a Hindu holy site located half a day’s journey from Karachi. The Hinglaj temple is located in a cave in the Hingol mountains. It is where the goddess Sati’s head (one of the forms of Durga) is said to have fallen from the sky after her body was cut into 51 pieces by Vishnu. “The Hinglaj is to us as the Ka’abah is to you,” said my local Hindu guide, Danesh Kumar, referring to the shrine in Mecca toward which all Muslims direct their daily prayers.
KARACHI: It is approximately 250 km (155 miles) from Karachi, Pakistan’s most populated city. Moreover, it is near the peak of one of the mountains of the Makran Coastal Range. And from the Indus Delta River and the Arabian Sea, it is 120 km. The area of Hinglaj Mata Temple is located in the rugged mountains, and its journey is extremely tiring.
The pilgrimage of Hinglaj Mata Temple is also famous among the local Muslims, particularly the Zikri Balochs (predominantly an ethnic Baloch group originating from Iran). They call it “Nani Ki Haj.’
“The Baloch and Hindus have been living just like brothers for centuries. We even attend each other funerals. And it is manifest to everyone that the Baloch and Hindus are facing alike problems. They are not complainants about the Baloch people. They, if you ask, call themselves Baloch and they are Balochs,” said Asif Magsi, who is a resident in Lasbella District of Balochistan.