By Beena Sarwar / Sapan News Service
January 5, 2022: An international delegation of 200 Hindu pilgrims in Pakistan for a four-day religious tourism visit departed this week after performing religious rituals at a recently restored century-old shrine in the country’s north.
The pilgrims from India and the UAE started arriving on Saturday, January 1, via Wagah border and Dubai to visit the Samadhi (shrine) of Hindu guru Shri Paramhans Dayal Ji Maharaj in Teri village, Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The yatrees (pilgrims) included 159 from neighbouring India who arrived in Pakistan through Wagah border. They were transported to Peshawar by air and to the Teri Samadhi by road amidst tight security. A heavy police contingent was also employed at the Samadhi.
Last year, a mob had set the Samadhi on fire. The Pakistan government has restored the damage.
After the incident, the government also arrested and fined several people, including members of the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) party, for vandalizing the place of worship. Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that anyone targeting the country’s non-Muslim citizens would face stern consequences.
The visiting pilgrims told reporters they appreciated and moved by the arrangements made for them as well as the opportunity to pay their respects at the Samadhi. Many were overwhelmed with emotions.
Footage from state-owned Pakistan Television on January 1, 2022, showed 159 Hindu pilgrims from India arriving in Lahore via the Wagah land border.
“We felt as if we have entered jannat (paradise) when we reached here,” Varona Malohtra, a pilgrim from New Delhi, told PTV.
The visibly emotional visitor said that she felt fortunate to visit the Samadhi and hoped that pilgrims from both India and Pakistan would be allowed to visit their holy sites across the border.
“The hospitality extended to us in Pakistan and specially in this province made us feel at home,” she said.
Another pilgrim, Aishwar Das, hoped that such visits between the two countries would continue in future.
“The primary purpose of Hindu pilgrims, led by Shriman Mahatma Param Nityanand Ji, is to visit the Samadhi of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj, Teri Temple,” said parliamentarian and patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani. He appreciated the arrangements of the Karak police.
Vankwani said the Hindu Council is also arranging regular visits of Pakistani delegations to Muslim shrines in India. The first such visit to Ajmer Sharif Dargah in Rajasthan is scheduled for late January.
In early December, Vankwani signed an agreement with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to launch special charter flights from the UAE facilitate religious pilgrims.
Hindus form the largest non-Muslim majority in Pakistan, accounting for 2 percent of the population of the country which gained independence from British rule in 1947, when the subcontinent was partitioned into Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India.
At the time of partition in 1947, there were 428 Hindu temples in Pakistan. Over time, many fell into disuse. Some were turned into housing, offices or shops.
In 2019, the Pakistani government started the restoration process for 400 of the temples, with a plan to reopen them for the Hindu community.
Lead image: Hindu pilgrims from India crossing over to Pakistan to visit the Puj Shadani Darbar Temple Hayat Pitafi, at Wagah border, December 4, 2021. AFP file photo.