Email

Thar: The surreal magic of Kasbo and Churiyo

Updated Nov 17, 2014 11:57am

Farooq Soomro, the man behind 'The Karachi Walla' and 'Overheard in Karachi' explores the mysteries and wonders of places in Pakistan which fall off the beaten path.

By Farooq Soomro

Visiting Thar can be therapeutic for the nomad within. Despite having a number of sizable towns, Thar still retains its country look with its picturesque landscapes and unassuming originality. Lack of road networks and other infrastructure may have hampered economic activity but on the other hand has helped local people preserve their authentic lifestyle.

While it remains our collective responsibility to help Tharis in their hard times, much care is needed not to interfere with the social fabric of the society which is vibrant, diverse and colourful.

 -Photo by Farooq Soomro
-Photo by Farooq Soomro

Kasbo, a hamlet close to Indian border is epitome of Thar’s overwhelming charm. It is where music and peacocks bring life to a calm setting of parched landscape dotted with Neem and Acacia. While we drive hundreds of miles to seek solace in its surreal magic, the residents of Kasbo live it every day.

It took us around forty minutes to reach Kasbo from Nangarparkar. It is a small village where most of the huts are made out of mud with a roof of straw. The lanes are narrow and only one vehicle could pass at a time. We saw a peacock standing still in one of the streets. These wild peacocks are inhabitants of grassy patches around Kasbo and have become part of the vivid landscape here.

We made our first stop at Saldar temple which has a relatively smaller compound.

This temple is famous in particular for its flock of wild peacocks which gather here to drinking water and and feed on the seeds put as offering, the caretaker told us us. The temple was adorned with statuettes, flowers, flags and offerings by devotees. The building otherwise was a humble one. The caretaker did not know much about the history of the temple but insisted that it had existed for hundreds of years. There was a thirty-feet deep well next to the temple. Later, I found out that such wells were dug all across water-deprived Thar. Many of them had dried up due to recent lack of rainfall.

We wandered around the compound aimlessly. The peacocks ran away from us; a few even went flying up into the trees. Their occasional cries of ‘pfau, pfau’ were the only sound to be heard in the peaceful shrine.

A group of musicians had gathered near the entrance of the temple by then. Muhammad Yousuf, a blind musician from Kasbo was singing Shah’s wai. He was assisted by a companion on harmonium and another on dhol. He was blind but his fingers knew all the keys on the harmonium and seemed to strike every chord correctly. It was a surreal setting, on a drowsy afternoon, a celebration of Thar’s magic. The wrinkles on Yousuf’s face had an uncanny resemblance to those on the trunks of the acacia. They looked like they belonged to a different era. He sang a poem by Kabir next, whose appeal still draws common people and laity alike on both sides of the border.

 -Photo by Farooq
-Photo by Farooq
 -Photo by Farooq Soomro
-Photo by Farooq Soomro

We walked to Ram Dev temple next, which is another major attraction in Kasbo. We walked through lemon orchards and saw a dried up well where a pair of Thari cows with majestic curvy horns were relaxing.

 -Photo by Farooq Soomro
-Photo by Farooq Soomro

Ram Dev temple had a huge compound and stood on a cemented platform. It was built in the honor of a famous 19th century Hindu saint and the current building was constructed in 1985. The cool, gusty breeze swirled through neem trees and made a strange noise.

 -Photo by Farooq Soomro
-Photo by Farooq Soomro

A group of locals were sitting on the platform chatting leisurely. One of them showed us an aphrodisiac plant and gave us a demo on how to use it. We walked back to our cars after a stroll across the temple’s compound.

 -Photo by Farooq Soomro
-Photo by Farooq Soomro

Our next destination was Churiyo, which was probably the closest settlement to the Indian border. It is a major destination due to Kali’s temple on top of a granite rock.

 -Photo by Farooq Soomro
-Photo by Farooq Soomro

The temple is a natural wonder as well. It is setup inside a boulder which stands unsupported except for a tiny foundation in the middle. A miracle of Kali!

 -Photo by Farooq Soomro
-Photo by Farooq Soomro

The climb to the top is easy as a newly built staircase takes you all the way to the temple. A viewing platform outside the temple is a perfect place to get a glimpse of the fenced Indian border. We stepped inside the cave where we were greeted by the temple's holy man. He did not know much about the history of the temple but claimed that it had been there forever. There was a cement statue of Durga sitting on a tiger surrounded by offerings and images of other deities.

We stepped outside and continued climbing to the top. We could see the border fence and beyond, into the empty vastness of Rann of Kutch. The people there told us that lights on the fence would go up as soon as the sun sets.

 -Photo by Farooq Soomro
-Photo by Farooq Soomro

We could see the Churiyo village from the other side of the rock. We settled at the top, sitting there in silence, looking at the sun setting in the west. The view would have been the same from both sides of the border, we wondered. Nature is more generous than humans. It puts on display innumerable wonders everyday for its creation but we, in our limited wisdom, decide to ration it according to our own liking.

We drove back to Nangarparkar after the sunset with the hope that we would come back to Kasbo and Churiyo soon.