Manora mandir being used as toilet: caretaker
By Shahzad Shah Jillani
KARACHI: Despite Pakistan’s rich heritage of historical and archeological sites, very little work has been done for their restoration and preservation. This became more apparent after Daily Times visited a small pyramid-shaped Hindu temple, the ‘Shri Varun Dev Mandir’ in Manora.
The temple looks westwards at the Arabian Sea. Its beautiful architecture and appearance is in decay due to a complete lack of care. Its walls and rooms serve as a toilet for the locals of Manora’s sandy beach. In addition, the humid winds are eating away at whatever is left of the structure. The rich carvings on the walls of the mandir are slowly eroding to vagueness.
The mandir is located in the middle of Manora, and is easily visible from the main road. The structure still appears grand from afar, while the leftover tile work and craftsmanship gives a sense of its glorious past. The walls of the mandir have beautiful carvings in the Dev Nagri script.
The temple is said to be more than 1,000 years old. Legend has it that the temple of ‘Kali Mata’ (the goddess of evil) is located somewhere on an island near Karachi. According to Hindu mythology, Varuna is the god of the oceans.
“In the sixteenth century, a sailor named Bhojomal Nancy Bhatia discovered Manora island. He bought the island from the Khan of Kalat who owned most of the land along the coastline. Bhatia built the temple here with a lot of craft,” said Jivraj, the caretaker of the temple, adding that the last ever ritual here was held some time in the in 1950s.
“When the temple was open for worshippers, a festival of ‘Lal Saien Varun Dev’ was celebrated by the Hindu community in the 1950s. Now the mandir’s rooms and premises are used as a toilet. This is a big insult to the Hindu community. Nobody respects the rights of the minorities,” exclaimed Jivraj.
Daily Times tried contacting the military estate officer (MEO) to inquire about the ownership of the mandir, but he could not be reached despite repeated attempts.
Jivraj said that he wrote a letter to the Manora Cantonment Board (MCB) for records but was told that there was no document or record available. An MCB official told Daily Times that since the temple was in the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Navy, the MCB cannot comment on it.
On the exterior walls of the mandir, there were many slates of offerings donated by worshippers in memory of their beloved. For example, it said, “In loving memory of our father ‘Seth Harchand Mal Dayal Das of Bhriya,’ from their loving sons.”
“I have sincere hopes that the government will take care of these places of worship. If nothing else, at least the structure can be saved from people who steal the rich and historic tiles. Many people visit the mandir as it is the largest and most prominent attraction at Manora beach. A little bit of official or non-official help will go a long way in preserving this heritage,” said Jivraj.
Most Hindus in Pakistan live in Sindh and are settled in almost all parts of it. They constitute a sizable business community, especially in Ghotki, Kashmore, Jacobabad and Khairpur. Most of them are involved in agriculture or are animal traders.
“The religious practices of Hindus are diverse. The lower-caste has their own rituals and practices. The upper-caste worships River Indus (Darya Panthi) along with first Sikh Guru Baba Nanik. Some also worship Shiva and goddess Shakti.
A temple of Kali in Qalat, Balochistan, is one of the most sacred Hindu temples. Three year ago, former Indian foreign minster Jaswant Singh came to visit this temple,” said Ramesh Kumar, a prominent figure in the Hindu community.
One of Pakistan’s most historical Hindu shrines, a century-old Hanuman temple in Gurumandir, is being renovated with the efforts of the community.
“A few years ago, the renovation of the temple’s dome cost the community 1.8 million rupees. The community will have to raise more money for renovations that are expected to start soon,” added Kumar. However, Kumar had little to offer for the Shri Varund Dev Mandir that has lost its fundamental character. He did say that something should be done to preserve the remains.