The Katas Raj pond in Chakwal is a pilgrimage site for Hindus. — Dawn
The Katas Raj pond in Chakwal is a pilgrimage site for Hindus. — Dawn

CHAKWAL: After a break of one year, Hindu pilgrims from different states of India would arrive at Katas Raj, one of their holiest sites on Dec 14.

“Hindu pilgrims will cross Wagah Border on Dec 13 and will reach Katas Raj the next day,” Deputy Secretary Evacuee Property Trust Board (ETPB) Syed Faraz Abbas told Dawn.

He said the government had made arrangements for 200 pilgrims.

Talking to Dawn from Yamna Nagar, a city in the Haryana state of India, Katas Raj Pilgrimage chief organiser Shiv Partab Bajaj said: “We are very excited as we are coming to visit our holiest site after a break of a year.”

He thanked former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar for his efforts to revive the fabled pond which had gone dry a couple of years ago due to excessive water usage by cement plants operating in the vicinity of Katas Raj.

Though currently the pond has 7.8 feet water, its natural springs have not been revived. The authorities are filling water in the pond through tubewells.

Indian pilgrims normally visit Katas Raj twice a year, one in November or December and one in February, when their major festival of Maha Shivratri is celebrated.

Last year, Indian pilgrims had missed Maha Shivratri as tensions were high between Pakistan and India because of the Pulwama incident.

“We were ready to celebrate Shivratri at Katas Raj last year but unfortunately we could not make it and this broke our hearts,” Mr Bajaj said.

The previous government had launched a project of building a 36-room hostel for pilgrims but it is yet to be completed.

Chakwal Deputy Commissioner retired Capt Abdul Sattar Esani chaired a meeting on Tuesday to review arrangements being made for the Indian pilgrims.

He directed officials of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) to ensure uninterrupted electricity at Katas Raj.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2019