KARACHI: Shri Panchmukhi Hanuman Mandir in Soldier Bazaar was the new choice for many Hindu families to celebrate Holi, the festival of colours on the first full moon of March, which fell on Monday. Earlier, the most popular place to celebrate used to be the big yard behind the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir but this changed somewhat following the unearthing of several idols and other artefacts at the Hanuman Mandir last year.
The temple holds special significance for Hindus, many of whom believe that the Shri Panchmukhi Hanuman Mandir is the only shrine in the world with a naturally-created statue of the part-human and part-monkey Hindu deity Hanuman. The legend associated with the place is that the Hindu Lord Ram had visited the temple while in exile. And sometime later a blue-and-white, eight-foot-tall statue of Hanuman was excavated from here. Later, a temple was built at the very spot by devotees, who also believe that walking 11 or 21 times around the idol made wishes come true.
And so there were hundreds of devotees at the temple with packets of colour, disposable cold drink bottles full of colour, which they were pouring into their water pistols and cannons. But they were not splashing colour on one another. On being asked why not, all gestured to the little hill made from dried cow dung and sawdust, and decorated with marigolds with dried coconuts lying around its base and incense sticks sticking out at the top. It was Holi Mata, which was to be set ablaze after pooja. And only after it had completely burnt down were they going to celebrate Holi and splash colour on one another.
‘All the faiths in Pakistan are like colourful flowers in a beautiful bouquet’
During pooja temple pujari and trustee Shri Ram Nath Maharaj prayed for harmony among all faiths. “All the faiths in Pakistan are like colourful flowers in a beautiful bouquet,” he said. “May they all live in harmony,” he said.
“The festival of Holi is also a reminder of the triumph of good over evil, and a time for us to also thank nature for its numerous bounties and the season of spring when flowers bloom and our fields are ready for harvest,” he added.
There were women in their pretty wedding saris sitting around the Holi Mata. Some also had newborn babies in their laps. “Some are brides, who only got married recently and this is their first Holi after their wedding so they need the blessings of the Holi Mata. Others are new mothers whose babies are here for their first Holi,” explained Sundari.
“Then after the Holi Mata is set ablaze some will circle it four times while others will carry out the same ritual seven times,” said Shanti.
Meanwhile, Puja explained that just like there are different sects in different faiths, Hinduism also has people with slightly varied forms of prayers or rituals. “Some will go around Mata four times and some seven,” she said.
While the pooja was being conducted, many children were getting very restless. They were asking their parents how long was it before they could drench everyone in colour. And the time to do so finally arrived a little after 9pm. That’s when clothes, cheeks and foreheads turned purple, yellow, pink, green and blue as all joyfully screamed “Holi hai!”
Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2020