Dubai: Hundreds of Pakistani Hindui devotees will gather at Shiv Temple in Mansehra city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province to celebrate their major festival ‘Maha Shivaratri'.
Preparations are in full swing to hold the festival at the temple located at Chitti Ghatii (white hamlet) in Manshera. A large number of Hindus espcially from UK are also travelling to Pakistan to attend the religious gathering.
Three-day Maha Shivaratri annual festival will start from February 21. “More than 1500 Hindu devotees are expected to participate in the festival from all over Pakistan,” said Lingham Shiva Temple Chitti Ghatti Mansehra Priest Darshan Lal.
Lal explained that they started holding the annual Maha Shivaratri festival 15 years ago with only 200 devotees but the number of participants have been growing every year. Last year around 800 devotees from KP, Punjab, and Sindh arrived at the temple.
Besides traditional invitation, he said: “We have also invited the Hindus from around the world on the temple’s Facebook page and mentioned that Pakistan is a peaceful country where interfaith harmony is exemplary.”
Giving the details of Hindu devotees who are visiting the temple he said that they are mostly from Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, Kohat, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Islamabad, Hangu and few from the UK also, reported APP, the official news agency of Pakistan.
“I am finalising the arrangements for the Maha Shivaratri festival. As the numbers of devotees are increasing every year we also need extra facilities including washrooms, langar khana (free food) accommodation,” he said. Last year, Deputy Commissioner Mansehra deployed 700 policemen and elite force officials for security arrangements for the three days long Shivaratri festival.
Mansehra Shiv Temple is one of the oldest temples in the country still in existence in Pakistan. It dates back to at least 2000 years. In 1947-48, it was forcibly seized by some local land mafia group who illegally occupied the local property of weaker folk and they also sealed up the temple on this site, covering about an acre or more of land close to Chitti Gatti village.
From 1948 to 2008 the Shiv temple remained sealed, abandoned and out of bounds to local or any other Hindus.
The temple had several very significant and unusual features, including the famous ‘Durga cave’ up on a hill beyond it, where there was a small cave with a freshwater spring bubbling out of the ground, where religious pilgrims to the temple takes bath purify themselves and offer respects to the goddess Durga, before going down to the main Shiv temple and one of the oldest and biggest ‘Shiva Lingam’ idols anywhere in this region, inside a special little sanctum that in fact precedes this old temple by at least 800 year.
What is Maha Shivaratri?
Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva, and in particular, marks the day of the consummation of marriage of Shiva. The fourteenth day of every lunar month or the day before the new moon is known as Shivaratri.
Among all the twelve Shivaratris that occur in a calendar year, Maha Shivaratri, the one that occurs in February-March is of the most spiritual significance. On this night, the northern hemisphere of the planet is positioned in such a way that there is a natural upsurge of energy in a human being. This is a day when nature is pushing one towards one’s spiritual peak. It is to make use of this, that in this tradition, we established a certain festival which is nightlong. To allow this natural upsurge of energies to find their way, one of the fundamentals of this nightlong festival is to ensure that you remain awake with your spine vertical throughout the night.
It is a major festival in Hinduism, and this festival is solemn and marks a remembrance of “overcoming darkness and ignorance” in life and the world. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, non-injury to others, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva. The ardent devotees keep awake all night.
According to Hindusim, Maha Shivaratri is very significant for people who are on the spiritual path. It is also very significant for people who are in family situations, and also for the ambitious in the world. People who live in family situations observe Mahashivratri as Shiva’s wedding anniversary. Those with worldly ambitions see that day as the day Shiva conquered all his enemies.
Hindu population in Pakistan
Though there are no exact official numbers available, the Pakistan Hindu Council says that there are more than 8 million Hindus currently living Pakistan.
They constitute about 4 per cent of the population of 220 million. They live primarily in the urban areas of the province of Sindh in the lower Indus valley and more than half are concentrated in the south-east district of Tharparkar which borders India.
For the most part, Hindus in Pakistan are well educated and active in commerce, trade and the civil service.
According to the Council, approximately 94 per cent of Hindus are living in Sindh Province, and more than 4 per cent are living in Punjab Province of Pakistan, where as a small portion of this population is settled in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Provinces.