Karachi, Apr 21 : Three-day long Mata Hinglaj celebrations, the biggest pilgrimage of Pakistani Hindus, started in Hungol, Balochistan, last evening, where thousands of Hindus, mainly women, children and the elderly, gathered at the Swami Narain Temple in Karachi to depart in a pilgrim caravan.
The caravan left Karachi late Sunday evening, will spend the night in Lyari (Balochistan) and leave for the Mata Hinglaj temple early Monday (today). The main worship will begin on Monday evening.
"Hindus come from all over Pakistan and even from India for this pilgrimage, usually gathering in Karachi to travel in a caravan," said Krishna Garagwansi, the spiritual leader of lower caste Hindus.
Before the RCD highway was constructed connecting Karachi and Gwadar, most people went walking. This brought about the tradition of traveling in a caravan, which continues today, albeit using buses instead of walking, the Daily Times quoted him as saying.
The pilgrimage temple of Mata Hinglaj is located 300 km from Karachi in the mountainous cave known as Hinglaj, on the banks of River Hingol, at the end of the Kirthar mountain range in Balochistan.
This cave is one of most famous and important ones to all Hindu pilgrims in the subcontinent, said the paper.
People believe that to get out of the birth cycle, each Hindu must perform pilgrimage to the sacred Ganga River in India once in a lifetime. By means of good deeds and this pilgrimage, a Hindu elevates the status of his soul, eventually escaping the birth cycle and reaching Bhagwan (God). "The pilgrimage is not completed by visiting the Ganga alone; the Mata Hinglaj pilgrimage is considered a part of the pilgrimage, so you can imagine the importance of this pilgrimage," said Garagwansi.
Women in colorful clothes, with bindi on their foreheads and a yellow band tied around their heads bearing the words "Jai Mata ki" and the religious sign "Om", were dancing to the tunes of Gujrati, Marathi and Dhatki psalms in the courtyard of the Swami Narain Temple, where thousands of Hindus from all over Pakistan and India started collecting since morning.
The temple was decorated with small buntings, red flags and a welcome banner for pilgrims coming in from outside the city. Some people also set-up makeshift stalls selling rose garlands, coconuts, agarbatti, statues of gods and goddesses, CDs of religious psalms, dry fruits and other food items useful to travellers.
"Hundreds of people left on foot ten days ago, and there are hundreds of people who do so each year in devotion, even though there is now a road connecting Karachi to the Hinglaj temple," said Ratan, another pilgrim.