Hindus celebrate Maha Shivratri in Pakistan

Authorities beefed up security for the festival. However, temple officials faced congestion.

Lahore: Thousands of Pakistani Hindus on Monday
celebrated Maha Shivratri as a group of Indian pilgrims joined
the festivities at the historic Katas Raj temple in Punjab
province after a gap of six years.

A delegation of 50 Indian yatris or pilgrims arrived in
Lahore over the weekend to join the celebrations at the
900-year-old Katas Raj temple at Chakwal, officials said.

The delegation visited the temple amidst tight security.
The Indian delegation was welcomed at the Wagah land
border on Saturday by Asif Hashmi, chairman of the Evacuee
Trust Property Board, which is responsible for maintaining the
shrines of minority communities.

The delegation will return to India on February 23.
The last delegation of Hindu yatris visited Katas Raj in

There were no other visits to the shrine in recent years
due to concerns about terrorism though Indian Hindus and Sikhs
have visited other temples and gurdwaras across Pakistan.

The Chakwal region has several old temples but most of
them are in a state of disrepair.

During 2006-07, Pakistan decided to replace idols of gods
at Katas Raj and reopen the temple to Hindu pilgrims.

Hindu Welfare Council chairman Shiv Pratap Raj told the
Daily Times that Hindu pilgrims were warmly welcomed whenever
they came to Pakistan for festivals like Shivratri or Diwali.

He thanked Asif Hashmi for making arrangements for the
current visit by the pilgrims.

Pakistani Hindus visited Katas Raj a day before the Indian
delegation`s visit due to security reasons.
They also held a vigil at the lake within the Katas Raj

In Mansehra district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, over
1,500 Hindus from across Pakistan thronged the Shiva temple in
Chiti Gati Gandiyan village to celebrate Maha Shivratri, The
Express Tribune reported.

Authorities beefed up security for the festival.
However, temple officials faced congestion, lack of space
for setting up lavatories and for preparation of food.

According to priest Darshan Lal, a case is pending with a
local court over the ownership of a plot of land that was once
part of the temple but was illegally sold by authorities 30
years ago.

He asked the government to help the Hindu community by
providing them enough space to accommodate the pilgrims.


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