Hindu Pilgrims Ascend Pakistan’s Peaks in Vibrant Display of Unity and Faith

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In the rugged terrains of southwestern Pakistan, a spectacular sight unfolds as hundreds of Hindu pilgrims traverse steep mud volcanoes. Their treacherous ascent marks the inception of their religious journey, bringing color and life to these ordinarily desolate peaks. Amidst the whirlwind of dust, festively dressed devotees clamber up hundreds of stairs, or navigate the rocky inclines, holding lofty aspirations and faith in their hearts.

Their ultimate destination, an ancient cave temple known as Hinglaj Mata, is the focal point of their adorations. Seekers toss coconuts and scatter rose petals into the shallow crater as they seek divine permission to enter the sacred space. The intricate rituals performed here span over three days, making this one of the faith’s most significant pilgrimages.

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Are we in India? No, this is Hinglaj — located in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province — where more than 100,000 Hindu devotees embark on their sacred journey in April every year. Their initial steps start right after getting off chartered buses, their expressions hopeful and hearts full of anticipation.

The grandeur of Hingol National Park, which houses the ancient temple, gets amplified as the religious fervor of the largest Hindu festival in Pakistan, Hinglaj Yatra, takes over. Despite forming only 2.14% of the population in this Muslim-majority nation, the Hindu community, with their colorful traditions and faith-filled rituals, leaves no stone unturned in making their presence felt during the festive period.

Inter-faith harmony is palpable here as Muslim residents interact peacefully with their Hindu fellow citizens. While memories of historical disputes and temple attacks linger, the spiritual momentum of Hinglaj Yatra raises a beacon of hope for cross-cultural unity.

The cave of Hinglaj Mata holds deep significance for the Hindu devotees. They believe it is one of the places where the remains of Sati, the goddess of marital felicity and longevity, fell to earth. For them, this place is far more than a landmark; it is a beacon of their faith and resilience.

The most senior cleric of the temple, Maharaj Gopal, spoke of the inherent sanctity of the pilgrimage. “It is the most sacred pilgrimage in the Hindu religion,” he said. “Whoever visits the temple and worships accordingly during these three days will have all of their sins forgiven.”

The tangible energy of the bustling festival even brings Pakistan’s ordinarily quiet Hingol National Park to life. Stalls serving hot food under thatched huts, vendors selling flower garlands and incense, and shops offering vibrant trinkets, all mushroom overnight. Families making the arduous journey are met with comfort and peace as they participate in their rituals, praying for their heartfelt wishes to be granted.

However, the resounding enchantment and vivacity isn’t just restricted to the daytime. As the velvety dark of night engulfs the sky, Hinglaj Mata buzzes with activity, the shrine adorned with twinkling fairy lights. The Hingol River nearby serves as an opportunity for ritualistic bathing, further augmenting the communal vibe of the festival.

The continuity of such large Hindu gatherings in a country where openly practicing the faith is rare perhaps symbolizes the resilience and unity of this resilient community. However, this cultural unison also brings into sharp focus the bitter history and political hostility that froths in the South Asian landscape, often affecting the marginalized sections.

Versimal Divani, the general-secretary of Hinglaj Mata, voices this poignant quagmire. “We can visit this temple in our beloved country whenever our heart desires,” Divani laments. “But the global Hindu community faces hurdles. I urge the Pakistani government to issue visas so more Hindus can partake in this spiritual journey. The festival is not just good for spiritual growth but is beneficial for the economy as well.”

Amidst geopolitical strife and interfaith tensions, the annual Hinglaj Yatra presents a vibrant collage of unity, resilience, peace, and communal harmony, against the rugged backdrop of southwestern Pakistan. It’s a conversation starter — a testament to faith, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversities. Hinglaj, undoubtedly, remains a testament for our collective human spirit.