Faith of Hindu tribes that walk miles to Hinglaj temple

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As Hindu believers count days left in Navrati—their holy tradition which includes nine days of fasting and seeking blessings with mannat— the pilgrims of Hinglaj shrine make the most out of their faith in ‘good being above evil’.

Among the legions of pilgrims who travel from remote areas of Balochistan to be a part of the faith-healing festival are a tribe of eight women and 90 men, including children from Badin, Sindh, who have been covering the distance of about 466 kilometres on foot to visit the Hinglaj temple—  a spiritual landmark in Hingol.

It is one of the most significant shrines of the Hindu goddess Sati, located in a town on the Makran coast in the Lasbela district of Balochistan.

“We used to travel through buses,” Bhora, a member of the Hindu tribe spoke of their journey, “Now, the same distance takes us about 16 nights on foot.”

The tribe takes on strengthening their faith from the moment they set on their journey to Hinglaj during the spring.

“When we embark on our journey, we don’t carry much. People, both Muslims and Hindus, have been providing us with food and water on the route since the time we decided to walk three years ago,” the tribal member shared.

After every 30 to 35 kilometres, they stop to eat and rest to continue walking. “Never did we have to worry about food. There’s also a group that stays connected over the phone and distributes goods to us at the place of our stop.”

“We have more people coming from Badin in a rental vehicle and most of us will go back in the same vehicle once we’re finished here,” he added.

The entrance to the Hinglaj Mandir opens to a wide street, with small plots along the sides for the accommodation of the pilgrims. Stairs to one of the plots take to an open verandah with a dozen toilets that were not in good condition. However, for the tribe of those hundred farmers and women come from thirsty fields of Badin; getting water and three meals a day felt like a luxury to them.

“We are very content with the arrangement, we’re not aware if it is the government or a private body facilitating us here, but we are happy,” Bhora added.

Hinglaj has three main temples, one of which is dedicated to the goddess Maildri Maata. Among the temple caretakers, an old woman expressed profound love for Pakistan.

“I cannot think of moving to India,” the lady caretaker shares how living in Pakistan hasn’t been any less secure for her. “We are waiting for Navraati as people from far-off districts gather here and make it livelier.”

Prior to the nine days of fasting, and worshipping, the pilgrims engage in lively celebrations– from performing folk dances like Dhaandiya to engaging in Garbah, one can have both a lively ambience and the serene view of the mountains.

Two more temples located in a mountain cavern on the banks of the Hingol River are the epitome of serenity– with pieces of orange cloth tied to twigs along the alley as part of their sacred promises at the temple to seek blessings from God.

The federal government has decided to restore 400 temples in the country and return them to the Hindu communities to mend ties with India.

The temples were left abandoned during the partition were made into stores, grocery shops and restaurants, while some were turned into madrasas for Islamic preaching.

Those Hindus who decided not to migrate at the time of partition, haven’t been able to visit their temples due to encroachment.

The Imran Khan-led government looks forward to restoring two temples per year, which may take up to 200 years to put all the temples back in shape and hand them over to the Hindus.

A few months back, Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to open the Kartarpur Sahib corridor to help facilitate Sikhs from the Indian side to visit Guru Nanak’s birthplace.