Indo-Pak Heart-to-Heart

Three Day  Hinglaj Mata Yatra joined by Hindus and Muslims in Pakistan

Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR 3rd MAY 2024—-

 

If anything could be compared to India’s Vaishno Devi Yatra, in Jammu with the neighboring country, it is Hinglaj Mata Yatra in Pakistan. Both Goddesses -Vaishno Devi and Hinglaj Mata symbolize ‘Shakti’ or Strength and are Cave-residing deities that have a huge following not only among Hindus but also in other communities.

Just as many communities in India undertake the Vaishno Devi yatra for the Darshan of the Goddess Vaishno Devi for the desire to be fulfilled or pay their respects on wish fulfillment; similarly, a huge following is seen for Hinglaj Yatra recently, with pilgrims from the Muslim community joining in to pay obeisance to the Hindu Goddess Pakistan.

The same kind of frenzy and hardship are the hallmarks of both respective yatras, dedicated to two Hindu goddesses, symbolizing Divine Strength or ‘Shakti’. Goddess Hinglaj Mata is symbolic as an epitome of divine energy representing marital felicity and longevity; she stands for fortitude and wish fulfillment. Goddess Vaishno Devi is a manifestation of a supreme energetic force of existence whose motherly compassion compels her to indiscriminately bestow the divine blessings of wealth, wisdom, and power on all who humbly enter into her presence.

Both the Goddesses have been worshipped from pre-Partition times.  Currently, Goddess Hinglaj Mata’s Yatra is in the spotlight owing to the swelling number of Muslims joining the sacred Yatra to the Cave shrine. What Vaishno Devi Yatra is to India, Hinglaj Yatra is to Pakistan where the numbers are swelling yearly owing to reverence for the deity. This time the three-day Hinglaj Yatra had a record turnout of one lakh pilgrims including a sizable number from the majority Muslim community of Pakistan.

Legend has it that Hinglaj Mata temple cave is where the remains of Goddess Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva, the goddess of marital felicity and longevity, fell to earth after her self-immolation in grief. The temple is believed to be a sacred pilgrimage site where worshippers can have their sins forgiven by visiting and worshipping over three days.

The journey begins hundreds of kilometers away from neighboring Sindh province and packed buses could be seen setting off from the cities of Karachi, and Hyderabad along the Makran Coastal Highway. Owing to it being a minority shrine, Hindu pilgrims complain of inadequate parking leading to chaos year after year. Hence many pilgrims are seen walking along dusty rough terrain rocky parched terrain sometimes barefoot, carrying children and elders along with luggage.

It is believed in Shiv Purana, Daksha-Prajapati was looking for a suitable groom for his daughter Sati. However, Sati chose Lord Shiva despite her father’s objections. Angered by Sati’s decision, Daksha-Prajapati organized a grand ‘yajna’ but intentionally excluded Shiva.        Sati immolated herself driven by anger and insult. Shiva consumed by grief wandered the cosmos with Sati’s lifeless form. In the end, Lord Vishnu intervened by dismembering Sati’s body into 108 parts. Fifty of these parts fell on Earth while the remaining got scattered across the other planets, each forming a Shakti Peeth, a temple dedicated in the form of Goddess Hinglaj is believed to be where a piece of Sati’s remains fell from heaven what is today Hingol National Park, lasbela District, in Balochistan, Pakistan. A sizeable Hindu population resides in the restive Balochistan Province of Pakistan.

The temple is also known as Hinglaj Devi, Hingula Devi, and Nani Mandir. The temple shrine is situated in Hingol National Park in the Baluchistan Province of Pakistan. It is one of the three Shakti Peeths located in Pakistan two others being Shivharkaray Peeth and Sharda Peeth. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims take part in Hinglaj Yatra annually mostly from Sind, Baluchistan, and Karachi. Pakistan is home to 4.4 million Hindus, which is 2.14% of the total Hindu population in Pakistan. Goddess Hinglaj Mata continues to draw more and more pilgrims year after year.

 

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Gwadar Baba Chandrakup- Mud Volcano

En route to the yatra, devotees from all faiths first climb hundreds of steps to a volcano that doesn’t spew lava but mud! This is the first gateway to the holy yatra. The Faithful throw coconuts- a symbol of a Healthy life and shower rose petals seeking divine permission to pay obeisance at the Hinglaj Devi.

The strange volcano crater is worshipped as Baba Chandrakup, in Pakistan also known as the mud volcano, revered as sacred by Hindus.

This time more than 100,000 pilgrims climbed the mud volcano clamouring through steep rocks or rock steps in southwestern Pakistan as part of the Three-day Hinglaj Mata Pilgrimage to one of the holiest Hindu shrines in Pakistan. The Volcano marks the start of the Holy Yatra with rituals of tossing coconuts and showering rose petals into the shallow crater of the mountain as an offering seeking divine permission to visit the holy Hinglaj Mata.

Chandrakup near Gwadar Port is regarded as an essential pit break for travelers on their journey to the shrine of the Shri Hinglaj Devi Mata Cave Temple. The pilgrims pray, ponder, and seek forgiveness for their sins. The behavior of the wind and the bubbling of the mud allows the ‘chadr’ to determine whether or not the pilgrim’s sins have been forgiven. Interestingly, The Hinglaj Devi Temple, some 200km west of the city of Karachi in the desert of Balochistan, is known for the Hindu goddess Hinglaj but it’s a common place for Hindus and Muslims who have been visiting the place for centuries. Some researchers are keenly studying and tracking the remote desert shrine’s rapid ascent to its current status as the most influential Hindu pilgrimage site in Pakistan.  It is also one of the most colorful and toughest pilgrimages in Pakistan where pilgrims bear the hardship of desert winds of an arid landscape with dust storms. However, the festive cheer and bright clothes of yatris bring upon a frenzied and happy mood of strength while climbing, in the collective chant and variations of –Jai Mata Ki!

People talk about wish fulfillment in bearing a child in a household deprived of the blessings of having children. The Hingol Park where the shrine cave is situated comes to life with hundreds of stalls selling snacks and drinks, ritualistic offerings to the Goddess, jewelry, flower garlands, incense, and items of superstition like sacred threads and lockets. “It is just like a ‘Mela or Fair, says Gopal Kumar. And further describes- “Food is seen prepared in the open or under thatched huts in huge ‘Degs’ just like in India”.

Nights are beautiful too with twinkling light strings to the chants of Jai Mata Hinglaj Devi where dholaks and chimtas are played albeit low key, to soft recitals of Kirtans and Bhajans. Babies are held up to the sky to be blessed, while holy baths are taken in the Hingol River waters.

PIX: Hindu devotees in Pakistan ritualistically climb stairs to reach the top of a mud volcano as a PIX: Hindu pilgrimage of Hinglaj Yatra in the cave temple of Hinglaj Devi Mata in Pakistan

 

 

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Hinglaj Mata will bring Pakistan & India closer: Dr Ramesh Vankwani, MP and  patron of Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC)

Dr Ramesh Vankani writes: Hinglaj Mata Mandir is one of the major religious sites of Pakistan,  located in Balochistan, Pakistan. Being one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in Hinduism, it is the heartfelt wish of every Hindu from Pakistan, India, and other parts of the world to participate in the Hinglaj Yatra at least once in their lifetime. As I observe, thousands of pilgrims take part in the Hinglaj Yathra during the festival.

I believe that very soon Hinglaj Mata temple will emerge as the favorite destination of religious tourism in the future. It will also help to bring the people of Pakistan and India closer to each other through religious tourism. Through the Pakistan Hindu Council, my efforts will bear fruits very soon and we will be able to make Pakistan an international hub for faith tourism.

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