RAWALPINDI: The century-old Krishna temple located in a non-descript old house in Saddar Bazaar is not noticeable to passersby on an ordinary night. But on Friday night, dressed in strings of yellow bulbs with Hindu religious songs pouring out, the temple was alive with festivity.

The occasion is Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, celebrated in autumn each year.

The three-day festival celebrates the return of the god Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman from exile of 14 years, as told in the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana and the beginning of a new year in the Hindu calendar.

The festival started on Wednesday and the main congregation and prayer were held on Friday.

Inside the Krishna temple, which is the main temple for the few Hindu inhabitants of the twin cities, was a riot of colour. Shiny streamers in pink, red and blue hung from the walls, and garlands of red roses and orange and yellow marigold decorated the altar. While oil lamps and candles set entire rooms agleam.

A woman performs rituals during Diwali celebrations at Krishna Mandir in Rawalpindi on Friday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
A woman performs rituals during Diwali celebrations at Krishna Mandir in Rawalpindi on Friday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

The night’s activities began with the singing of the ‘Gaytree Mantra’ which is a highly revered hymn in the Vedic tradition.

Verses from the Ramayana were recited and collective prayer was offered for the people of Pakistan and for Pakistan’s future. Priest Jai Ram narrated the story of Ram from the Hindu scripture Ramayana.

All Pakistan Hindu Sikh Social Welfare Association President Jagmohan Kumar Arora explained that the Hindus start celebrations at home and the main prayer (Pooja) is held on the final day at the temple.

He said Diwali symbolised the victory of good over evil, and lamps signify hope.

Sardar Heera, a worshipper at the temple, noted that the festival had deep cultural roots. “People wake up early to wear new clothes, offer prayers and touch the feet of their elders who give them Diwali gifts,” he said, smiling.

He added that on this day he prayed for the world to be filled with love.

Meanwhile, the small Hindu community appeared to be divided with two separate mass prayers organised at two temples. In the past the entire community used to gather at Krishna temple.

Krishna temple in Saddar as usual made arrangements for the mass prayer in the evening but on the same day and time, All Pakistan Hindu Panchayiat arranged a function at a Lalkurti temple for the Balmeeki caste.

In the Lalkurti temple, separate function was arranged. Pandit Channa Lal led the prayers.

“It is not a temple but a Pooja Ghar (prayer room) in the house of Om Parkash,” said Jagmohan Arora

Another function will be held at Balmeeki Temple in Gracy Lines near Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Saturday.

Published in Dawn, October 25th , 2014

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