CHAKWAL: Kamakshi Vairaji, who made her first visit to Katas Raj, the home of Lord Shiva, from Mumbai this year, was awed by the welcome she received from her Pakistani hosts.
“I cannot describe the love and hospitality showered on us by the Pakistani people and government,” a visibly excited Ms Vairaji told Dawn at the Katas Raj Temple Complex.
“Next year, I will come with my husband and kids.”
Ms Vairaji is one of 180 pilgrims from various Indian states on a week-long visit to Pakistan to celebrate Shivaratri, a significant Hindu festival that celebrates Lord Shiva and his wife, the goddess Parvati.
Indian pilgrims praise hospitality, arrangements at Katas Raj
A reception was held at Katas Raj for the pilgrims on Friday evening, which was chaired by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Chairman Mohammad Siddiqul Farooq and attended by the Indian deputy high commissioner, J.P. Singh.
Recitations were made from the Holy Geeta and Holy Quran, and the pilgrims were gifted large, framed prints of the Katas Raj temples, while the pilgrims presented framed photographs of the Kaaba and Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) tomb to their hosts.
In his speech, Mr Farooq assured the pilgrims they would always receive the same love and warm welcome.
“Let us pray that the love we are witnessing today for one another be emanated in the relations of Pakistan and India,” he said.
Regretting the expenditure on weapons by both countries, he said instead of giving huge revenues to those making weapons thousands of miles away, we should spend money on our people.
“Our living style, our attire, our language, our heritage, our culture are all the same – why do we fight,” he asked.
Mr Farooq also emphasised an immediate and peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute, adding: “I wish to witness the day when the people of both countries do not need any documents to travel to each other’s country.”
Mr Singh lauded Mr Farooq’s services for the pilgrims, saying: “Although we had some security concerns, Siddiqul Farooq dispelled all our fears.”
The leader of the pilgrims’ caravan, Shiv Partab Bajaj, who was born in Multan, thanked the ETPB and the Pakistani government for the arrangements made for the pilgrims.
He said the number of pilgrims at Katas Raj has been increasing.
“After partition, the first caravan came to Katas Raj in 1982, which had twenty pilgrims including myself. At that time the situation at Katas Raj was not developed. But now its face has been changed. A lot of development has been carried out and we are very grateful to the Pakistani government for this,” he said.
Satbir Hira from New Delhi, whose parents were from Rawalpindi, recited a song in Punjabi while Prem Sagar moved the audience with a poem.
The pilgrims bathed in the holy pond, and worshipped at night, before leaving Katas Raj on Saturday for Lahore.
Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2017