TAXILA: “Every year, hundreds of people, including women and children, gather at the ancient Buddhist city of Sirkap in the first week of July to perform baptism ceremony at the remains of chapel attributed to St Thomas,” said Father Dilshad Gill.
Sirkap, the famed Buddhist ancient metropolis, is not only sacred to Buddhists, but also to Christians, as according to the Christian religious belief it is the site of St Thomas the Apostle´s visit.
Mr Gill rejected the notion that Christianity took its roots in subcontinent in 19th century after arrival of the Britishers, saying it happened around 52AD on the arrival of St Thomas the Apostle.
Niamat Masih, a resident of village near Lahore, said that over 300 families were settled in that area and they frequently visited the remains of St Thomas chapel at Sirkap near Taxila to offer rituals especially during July as this place was sacred to Christians.
“We take back along with us mud from remains of the chapel and water from the nearby well which are holy for us and cure many aliments, especially skin diseases,” said Ms Ruth, who belongs to Lahore. She said that she used the mud from the chapel for cure of her one-year-old son who was a patient of some psychological disorder and his disease was cured after using the holy mud and drinking water taken from this site.
Kalwain Masih, another pilgrim who came from Sialkot, said that he was suffering from some allergy and used the holy mud for curing it. He said that his problem was resolved during his journey back home.
Bushra, a pilgrim from Lahore, said that they visited the site barefoot in respect to St Thomas. “We feel happy when we reach the site as there once lived our Apostle,” she said. She thanked the department of archaeology for not charging entry fee from the pilgrims.
Karamat Masih said that hundreds of devotees visited the place on different occasions, but they were never charged for the entry ticket.
Abdul Nasir Khan, curator of Taxila Museum, said that the testimony of the presence of St Thomas in Taxila valley civilisation in the first century provided a discovery of a manuscript titled “The Acts of St Thomas” in Syria during 1822.
According to Dr AG Lone, former curator of Taxila Museum and senior official of the federal department of archaeology and museums, the history of Christianity in the region started around 52AD on the arrival of St Thomas.
The Christian pilgrims have called upon the department of archaeology, ministry of religious affairs and the Punjab government to raise a suitable monument to St Thomas at the site of Sirkap, which would not only promote interfaith harmony, but also the soft image of Pakistan abroad. It will also attract the Christian religious tourists from the world. They also urged the Taxila town administration to name the road to Sirkap as Saint Thomas Path.
Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2019