I am one of those people, who are extremely thankful to God, for the revival of the tourism industry in Pakistan. I had been listening to all the stories of the province of Baluchistan from my parents, who actually started their marital life from Quetta city. I hadn’t been there because it was ‘UNSAFE’. The stories and the photographs mesmerized me and I was not willing to believe that there could be places in my own country which were unsafe for me. I always thought it was just a fear, and we only feared the fear itself. I had been dreaming about visiting Baluchistan for a long period of time, and the day I did, it completely took me by surprise.
I have been there twice now, and oh I am in love with it. The ruggedness of the mountains, the beautiful coastal highway, the untouched nature, everything is in such perfect harmony. It’s rough but it’s gorgeous. On my first visit, one experience had left an everlasting mark on my existence, and that was the visit to the temple of Hinglaj Mata or commonly known as ‘Nani Mandir’. On the second visit, I was told that Muslims are not allowed in the premises anymore, because of some Muslim brothers who made fun of the Gods and it broke my heart. Thus I am writing this blog, as I recall my first visit and also because I stand for religious tolerance.
In the Muslim majority country such as Pakistan, people have limited interactions with the minority worship places, and with the terrorism and security issues, we are actually not allowed in each other’s sacred venues. It was a mutual decision taken years back which I don’t even recall. But to make tourism better, Nani Mandir was opened to all so that people can enjoy the beauty of the place.
As an architect I have been fortunate enough to visit quite a few churches in Karachi, and once I accidentally entered a temple too, and yes my very dear friend Priyanka Pahuja has been trying to get us around. But this in particular was my first heart to heart interaction with a hindu temple. I have been watching Bollywood movies and reading books, so conceptually I was pretty clear and that gave me more time to feel the space.
Nani Mandir or Hinglaj Mata is a Hindu temple located at the Hingol National Park of Baluchistan which lies along the Makran Coastal Area in the Lasbela district. It is almost 245 KM away from Karachi, and takes about 4 hours to reach. The ride to the Mandir is beautiful with a stretch of rugged mountains on one side, and the beautiful Arabian Sea on the other.
There is nothing fancy about the mandir. It doesn’t have a lavishly designed structure, but actually a very basic one. The best thing about it is the location. It is positioned between the mountains. One has to walk through the pathway all the way to the little mandir. It actually elevates the excitement of what you are about to see. Also, at that particular moment, there were two things which were enhancing my experience and making it even more worthwhile. The first one was the time and the second was the direction of the wind. It was dusk and the wind was very cool. The collective effect of these two was soothing, and I didn’t want to leave.
Here is a little story that I found on the Wonders of Pakistan, written by Gopinath Kumar which will give you an overall historical perspective of the mandir.
“Legend has it that when goddess Sati, the consort of god Shiva burnt herself in response to her father’s anger at her for not inviting Shiva to a ceremony, Shiva became furious and started to create disasters, problems, violence, and sufferings in the world. In order to calm his anger, god Vishnu took the body of Sati and began to cut it into 51 pieces where they all fell at different parts of the earth. Hindus believe that the head of Sati fell in the area of Hinglaj Mata in Balochistan, Pakistan.”
I walked inside the mandir and met the priest. I was not really sure how to strike a conversation so i smiled at him. This is the best thing you could do to make someone comfortable. He asked me how i was and i did the same. But something very sad happened at that particular moment, and it spinned around the friendly moment. I didn’t actually witness it. All I know is that a group of people laughed really loud because someone tripped over something. And this is how the conversation went:
He: “Child, Where are you from?”
Me: “From Karachi.”
He: “Are you from an educational Institute?”
Me: “Yes. We are from a University.”
He: “Can i say something?”
Me: “Yes. Please do.”
He: “You seem to me like a very intelligent and learned person. Don’t mind what i am about to say. Can you please tell your friends, that this is an important place for us. Don’t laugh here. This is Our God. Most people come here and do this, although they might not have wrong in their hearts, I am sure they don’t, but still, i love my God. It doesn’t feel so good. The same way you won’t like it if someone giggles in a mosque or laughs loudly. God deserves respect, no matter if it’s mine or yours.”
After this I apologized to him because i felt really really bad. I made him understand how they didn’t mean to disrespect. To which he smiled and said of-course he understands it. We talked further about other things. And as i was about to leave, he handed me a bag of candies and said:
“Give these to everyone, as a token of love. Good spreads good Amna.”
*Heavy Breathing and a long Pause* His words still ring in my ears. It changed me. I felt touched. I felt happy to know that i established this human relationship with someone who i might never meet again.
Here is something that I highly stress on. If you visit a place which has immense importance to someone, Please be very careful with your behavior. We normally don’t really mean bad, but sometimes we do something which leaves an everlasting impact on a particular person. Leave a good impact, leave them happy. Respect every place, in the respect of human believes and humanity.
As I end this blog post, I’d like to add the fact that i am really sad to know Nani Mandir has been shut off for visitors. It was one of the best experiences that I had. We, the people who crave experiences and travel, have all been restricted from a beautiful place and a Pakistani asset. This is the kind of impact one person can make. The second time when i went to Baluchistan, a lot of my fellow travelers wanted to see the mesmerizing place, but they couldn’t. Although it feels like i am ranting, but i am actually preaching ‘religious tolerance’. I learned things when i visited Nani Mandir. I felt good. The landscape was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Just because they don’t believe in what you do, does not mean you can not learn things from each other.
I hope it opens up soon, and everyone who is reading, gets to visit it. Thats the only way you will relate to every word i wrote here.
Don’t forget to smile and talk to everyone you meet on your journey.
Learn a new thing everyday.
Until Next time!