Tag Archives: pilgrimage

Hindu Muslim Unity: a Sufi and Sikh spread a message of love

Mian Mir shrine, Lahore

Mian Mir shrine, Lahore

LAHORE: During recent travels, I happened upon the shrine of renowned Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir of the Qadariyyah Sufi order in Lahore.

The goal of human life, according to Sufis, is to realise the divinity within; irrespective of cast, creed and religion. Harminder Sahib, in this sense, is more of a cultural hub for the people of Punjab; it is a place where self-actualisation is promoted. It is also marked as a Gurdawar — literally meaning Lord’s door or the door of the Guru.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindu pilgrimage in Pakistan

Hindu pilgrims, Pakistan

Hindu pilgrims, Pakistan

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.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistan welcomes Hindu pilgrims from India

Indian Hindu pilgrim visits Katas Raj in Pakistan

Indian Hindu pilgrim visits Katas Raj in Pakistan

As many as 85 Hindu pilgrims from various states of India came to Katas Raj, their holy site, on Wednesday evening and left for India on Friday. They were welcomed by District Coordination Officer (DCO) Asif Bilal Lodhi, Assistant Commissioner Choa Saidan Shah Samina Saif Niazi and other officials concerned in two receptions.

Speaking in one of the receptions Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Saddiqul Farooq assured the Indian pilgrims that they would always be welcomed in Pakistan with warmth and affection. He stressed the need of interfaith harmony. “We should respect every religion. If we respect humanity our problems will solve,” he maintained. He urged the pilgrims to take the message of love and peace to their country.

Shiv Partab Bajaj the leader of the pilgrims while speaking on the occasion thanked the Pakistan government for making tremendous arrangements for the pilgrims. “The love and respect which you people gave us can never be forgotten,” he said. He added that when he came first time at Katas Raj in 1982 the temples were in pathetic condition , but now the holy site had been renovated.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistan’s ancient temples draw interfaith crowds

Hinglaj Devi pilgrimage shrine in Pakistani caves

Hinglaj Devi pilgrimage shrine in Pakistani caves

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.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistani Muslims honor Hindu pilgrimage site

holy dip before entering pilgrimage site

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.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim pilot first to rescue Kedarnath pilgrims

rescuing pilgrims in Kedarnath

DEHRADUN: When the IAF flew it first sortie to save pilgrims trapped by the raging waters of the Alaknanda in Kedarnath , at the cockpit was Wing Commander S M Yunus. The first batch of 20 people was evacuated to Guptkashi. From there, they made their way to Dehradun. Yunus reckons he might have flown about 500 people in innumerable sorties to safety. “We continued the operation on June 18 and 19,” he said from his current location in Joshimath. “I was then told to rescue people from the more isolated Harsil sector, ahead of Uttarkashi, and in a restricted helipad at about 6000 ft.”

So what was it like for a Muslim to be one of the first to come to the aid of Hindu pilgrims? Yunus laughs out loud before giving a quick answer. “In the Air Force we are taught only one religion – to be Indian . That is what IAF pilots are trained to be. Had it not been for such tragic circumstances, I would have been grateful and happy to see the holy shrine.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslims assist Hindu pilgrims on mountain trek

elderly Hindu pilgrims being carried over glacier by Muslim friends

Every year half a million Hindu pilgrims make a harsh and dangerous trek up mountainous terrain to the 5000 year old  Amarnath caves shrine in Kashmir. Kashmiri Muslims are often seen helping out their Hindu brothers and sisters on this pilgrimage.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Goodwill in Kashmir

Kashmir valley

Muslims have always lined up with earthen bowls of milk for their Hindu brothers on the annual festival at Khir Bhawani shrine.

“We have been making this small gesture of goodwill for our Pandit brothers annually. There is nothing unusual about this. It is part of our culture,” said Noor Mohammad Bhat, 54, a resident of Tullamulla town.

Devotee Chaman Lal is deeply touched by the kindness and love of the local Muslims.

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