KATAS/LAHORE: For the first time since Partition, 176 Hindu pilgrims from across India worshipped their lord Shiv Shankar at the historic Katas Raj temples on Friday.
The word Katas is derived from Sanakrit, and means ‘a string of tears’ or ‘weeping eyes’.
The two-day worship began from the ‘Holy Pond’, where only men bathed and shouted “Her Her Maha Dev” and “Jay Bholey Nath G” as they jumped into the water.
The Hindu pilgrims also washed Shiv Shankar’s idol, and played sunkh, a musical instrument, to honour their god.
This is the first formal Hindu pilgrimage after Partition, in collaboration with the Pakistani government, which tasked the Punjab Archaeology Department with the job to conserve about seven ancient temples at the site.
Locals say that there were around 100 temples around this site. Over the last two tears, informal delegations visited temples at the site and began performing rituals.
The pilgrims who are currently visiting the temples are from Indian Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Jallandhar, Mumbai, New Delhi and other Indian cities. Their visit was organised by the Indian ‘Sanatam Dharam Pertindhti Saba Punjab’, and they will be hosted by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and the Punjab Archaeology Department in Pakistan.
The bath in the ‘Holy Pond’ was followed by ‘Bhajan’ and a four-phased worship of Shiv at night. The Hindu pilgrims also worshipped some trees in the area.
Tight security arrangements had been made for the pilgrims, and they were escorted by heavy police contingents.
The pilgrims are being provided free accommodation, meals and all other necessary facilities at the Government College of Mines. However, they have been barred from visiting the city or any other site, and their movement was restricted only from the college to the temples and back. Their activities were also being monitored by intelligence agencies.
Locals have welcomed the step taken by the government to invite Hindu pilgrims, but they were disappointed when they were not allowed to interact with the pilgrims. Several locals, mostly women, were at the site to see the pilgrims perform their rituals, but security officials stopped them from doing so.
The visiting pilgrims told Daily Tines that the Pakistani government had taken special steps this time to conserve and develop the site, but said the main temple at the top of the site, which was not opened because of “security risks”, should also be conserved. “The government had made arrangements for us to worship at other temples, but the main temple should also be conserved,” Hareesh Kapoor, a pilgrim, told Daily Times.
The head of the Indian delegation told Daily Times that he was quite happy with the arrangements that had been made for the pilgrims.
Chakwal Nazim Sardar Ghulam Abbas has also expressed his willingness to spend money on the development of Katas temples. He will host a lunch for the pilgrims today, and Pakistan Muslim League President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s participation is also expected. The delegates will be in Lahore today to visit other religious Hindu sites.
APP adds: The UK-based Hindu Culture and Heritage Society is likely to build a museum, a library and a shrine at Katas Raj, said Mohan Gupta, the chairman of the society.