Discovering a vibrant India in Pakistan - via a book
Colourful photographs of people celebrating Holi; women wearing vermillion, saris and bindis as they wait for the moon rise so they can break their Karva Chauth fast; firecrackers creating a kaleidoscopic canvas in the sky during Diwali - all this seems normal till one spies a Pakistani flag fluttering in the background.
And that is when one realises these multi-coloured images aren't from different pockets of India but of the minority Hindus in Pakistan who celebrate all Indian festivals with equal fervour and belief on the other side of the border.
Two Pakistani women - Reema Abbasi and Madiha Aijaz - have documented all this in their book "Historic Temples in Pakistan: A Call to Conscience" (Niyogi Books), for which they travelled far and wide to places like Balochistan, Thar, Nagarparkar, Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab and Sindh.
"We hope this is the first step for starting a discourse through a secular prism. The perception of Pakistan in the outside the world and the Pakistani people within it are two different worlds," Abbasi, the book's author, said at the launch Wednesday.
"The book provides an insight into the little known world of Hindus living in Pakistan and their places of religious importance," she added.
Lending the photographic element to the book is Aijaz, who said the journey to distant lands and into unknown territory gave her a "wonderful perspective".
"I had studied Hindu mythology during school but Reema had thorough knowledge of the subject. In a way we complemented each other," she said.
The 296-page book might evoke nostalgia for those who were familiar with these sites before Partition, but for many it would be a pleasant discovery to see how Pakistani Hindus celebrate festivals like Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Janamashtami and Holi, among others. The photographic element of historic temples is proof that faith is indestructible and religious harmony prevails.
"The book seeks a journey towards pluralism, preservation of some of the most ancient places in history, tolerance and participation and empowerment of a community that is facing a major onslaught of hardliners towards the north," Abbasi told IANS.
"We are highlighting aspects that often go unreported such as harmony among the people, and it is hoped that it will be a window to the people in India," she added.
The book also chronicles various pilgrimage sites like Hinglaj, the abode of goddess Durga in Balochistan; the Katas Raj temple in Punjab, one of the holiest in Hinduism and known for providing refuge to the Pandavas; the Kalka cave temple in Sindh; the Panchmukhi Hanuman Mandir in Karachi, among others.
(Posted on 24-07-2014)