160 Hindu pilgrims arrive
By Shahnawaz Khan
LAHORE: About 160 Indian Hindu pilgrims arrived here on Wednesday through Wagah to celebrate the three-day Maha Shivaratri festival at the Katas Raj Mandir in Chakwal.
The pilgrims, led by Surindar Kumar Billa and Professor Krishan Chand, were welcomed at Wagah by Izhar-ul-Hassan, additional secretary to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), and Faraz Hassan, ETPB deputy administrator.
The pilgrims left for Chakwal soon after arriving. ETPB Chairman Naeem Akbar Khan has directed security officials to make sure they have a safe trip.
Maha Shivaratri means the ‘night of Shiva’, one of the Hindu trinity consisting of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver and Shiva, the destroyer and reproducer of life. Many Hindus see Shiva as a personal god given to compassion for his worshippers and the dispenser of both spiritual and material blessings.
There are three reasons Shivaratri is celebrated. First, it is the night that, according to Hindu legend, the absolute formless God, Sadashiv, appeared exactly at midnight. Second, it is the night that Shiva married Parvati, and is a symbol of the meeting of human souls with the Almighty. Third, it is believed that on this night, Shiva swallowed a deadly poison that could have destroyed the world had even a drop of it reached his belly, which represents the universe. The god kept the poison in his neck, and Shivaratri is a night of thanksgiving to the god for protecting the world.
The day of Shivaratri is marked by a strict fast, some devotees not even drinking water and keeping a vigil all night. Shiva is worshipped throughout the night with chants of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. According to legend, he who utters the names of Shiva during Shivratri with perfect devotion and concentration is freed from all sins.
All Pakistan Minorities Association President Dr Heera Lal Lohano told Daily Times that Maha Shivratri is a big event in interior Sindh where most Pakistani Hindus live. In Sindh, the festival began on Monday in Shiv Mandir at Clifton, Karachi, and ends Wednesday night.
All Pakistan Balmik Association General Secretary Dr Munawar Chand was happy to see Hindu pilgrims come to Pakistan. “We welcome our Indian brothers with wide arms to our country. I am hopeful that the exchange of such delegations will have a fruitful result,” Mr Chand said.