MANSEHRA: Hindus in Hazara have demanded the government to reclaim the land of the oldest Hindu temple in Pakistan, the Shiva Temple Chiti Gati in Mansehra.
The Evacuee Trust Board sold part of the land, measuring five kanals (1 kanal is approximately 500 square metres), to a local landlord about 25 years ago in violation of revenue laws. The Hindus approached the landlord who then allowed them to use the temple. A civil law suit, however, remains pending with the Abbottabad bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) since then, said Shiva Temple Society Pakistan President Sham Lal.
“The temple is the largest in the country and pilgrims from across the sub-continent would visit the place of worship and pay homage,” he added.
The temple in Chiti Gati is the oldest in the country and dates back thousands of years, but the exact date of when it was made cannot be verified, said Deputy Attorney General Mohammad Khursheed Khan, who is known for his work on inter-faith harmony.
Though the Hindu community is thankful to the landlord, the insufficient space for the langarkhana (kitchen), Ashnaan (bathing place), lodging and lavatories has been a permanent problem for years, Lal added.
Hundreds of devotees from across the country still visit the temple but the existing 13 marlas (20 marla=1 kanal ) of land causes congestion and the lack of facilities mar the religious festivities.
Muslims in Manshera have been very supportive of us and extend every help in accommodating those from outside their community, Lal said. But we still need to have basic facilities, he added, demanding the government and the judiciary to help them.
The festival of Shivratri was celebrated at the temple from March 9 to 11. Shivratri is a day of giving thanks to the lord for protecting the world from destruction. More than 800 families flocked to the temple in Manshera from Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and the Hazara division.
Women who come to perform the traditional Shivalinga worship, hope for favours from the deity while devotees bathe at sunrise—the purificatory rite, which is an important part of all Hindu festivals.
Worshippers then wear clean sheets of cloth after the holy bath and carry pots of water to the temple to bathe the Shivalinga. They offer prayers to the sun, Vishnu and Shiva.
During festivities, the temple reverberates with the sound of bells and chants of “Shankerji ki Jai” (Hail Shiva)” Worshippers then pour water or sometimes even milk over the Shivalinga.
Local authorities had heightened security around the temple during the festivities.