Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Om Trayambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushti Vardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanat Mrutyor Mukshiya Mamrutat
By : Amar Guriro | Published: March 01, 2011
KARACHI - Hindus throughout Sindh have made all arrangements to celebrate one of the biggest Hindu festivals, the Maha Shivratri (the Great Night of Lord Shiva), which would be celebrated tomorrow (Wednesday). The Hindu community has decorated local temples with colourful flags, lights and buntings, and the statues of Shiva in every Shiva temple in Karachi are bathed with milk for the big night.
Women and children have bought new clothes and various pooja (worship) items for the prayers to be held on the night when every Hindu family would devote the entire night to chanting ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ (‘I bow to Lord Shiva’) and other holy mantras.
Though arrangements have been made to celebrate the event at all local temples, the central programme would be held in the centuries-old historical Shiva temple located inside a cave in one of the city’s posh areas, Clifton.
According to Maharaj Shanjav Sharma, the festival is celebrated every year on the night between the 13th and 14th day of the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) in the month of Maagha of the Hindu calendar. He added that Hindus dedicate one night to the leading Hindu god Shiva, also known as Neelkanth (blue-throated).
Most Hindus celebrate Shivratri by fasting for the entire day; in the evening, they make offerings of milk, water, fruits, joss sticks and bel patra (bel tree leaves); and at night, prasad (edible gift) is distributed among the worshippers.
Hindu mythology states that three gods control the universe - Brahma created it, Vishnu preserves and protects it, and Shiva would ultimately destroy it; however, in addition to being the destroyer, Shiva is also the protector. A pundit of the Shiva temple said that more than 200,000 people - not only from the city, but from other parts of the province as well - visit the temple on Shivratri and offer special prayers to Lord Shiva.
“You can observe long queues from evening to dawn inside the cave, waiting for their turn to perform pooja, while some bathe Shiva’s statue with water and milk, offering bel patra and sweets,” he added. The Hindu community is the largest religious minority in Pakistan, as according to the official 1998 census, there are around 2.7 million Hindus in the country, most of whom live in Sindh and celebrate their religious festivals on a massive scale.
Some Hindu leaders believe that the Hindu population in Pakistan has grown to around 7.8 million since the last national census. They said that there were more than 450 Hindu temples in Karachi before the partition of the Indian subcontinent, but now only 60 temples remain, as most of them have been illegally occupied or demolished.