Indian Hindu pilgrims in Pakistan for annual pilgrimage

LAHORE:Over 80 Hindu pilgrims from India have arrived here to take part in annual Katas Raj pilgrimage in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Katas Raj is a complex of several Hindu temples connected to one another by walkways. It is situated in Chakwal district, 90 km south-east of Islamabad.

“Eighty-two Hindu pilgrims arrived here via Wagah Border Lahore on Friday and they left for Katas Raj in high security on Saturday,” Aamir Hashmi, spokesperson of Evacuee Property Trust Board (ETPB) told PTI.

The pilgrims were received by the ETPB officials and Pakistan Hindu Council leaders at the Wagah Border.

“The Hindu pilgrims will attend the main rituals on Sunday. On Monday they will return to Lahore and visit a Hindu Samadhi. They will also visit Krishna Mandir in Lahore and leave for their home on December 19,” Hashmi said.

The chief organiser of the pilgrimage from India Shiv Pratab Bajaj thanked the Pakistani government for the upkeep of the holy sites.

According to the ETPB, the Hindu pilgrims have arrived here after a break of one year.

The Katas Raj’s fabled pond which had gone dry a couple of years ago due to excessive water usage by cement plants operating in the vicinity has been restored.

Though currently the pond has 7.8 feet deep water, its natural springs have not been revived.

The authorities are filling water in the pond through tubewells.

The Supreme Court had imposed fine on cement plant owners for exploiting underground water that affected the pond and also ordered authorities to replenish the water body.

Indian pilgrims normally visit Katas Raj twice a year, once in February during the festival of Maha Shivratri and again in November/December.

They missed the last pilgrimage in February due to the tensions between India and Pakistan over the Pulwama terror attack on February 14.

The Katas Raj temple is one of the holiest sites in Hindu mythology.

The name ‘Katas’ is derived from Kataksha, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘tearful eyes’. According to legend, the pond was formed after Lord Shiva wept upon the death of his wife Satti.

Around this pond, temples were built dedicated to the Hindu deities Shiva, Rama and Hanuman. (AGENCIES)