In March, Hindu pilgrims from Pakistan visiting Haridwar refused to leave Uttarakhand.
They said they did not want to go back to the country where they face ruthless persecution, where their relatives are killed and where their daughters are snatched away from them.
The pilgrims said that they want Indian authorities to extend their visa limit of one month. They wanted India to extend them citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.
Officials in the Uttarakhand government said that the government will be in a position to do anything only if an application is filed. Locals, it was reported, pitched in money, food and clothes to the pilgrims.
Haridwar is the prime destination for Hindu devotees from Pakistan visiting India.
This author met pilgrims returning to Pakistan, in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, a couple of years ago. They gave passionate accounts of the first sight of the Ganga, Har ki Paudi, of the Ganga in Rishikesh, the Ram and Lakshman jhoolas, and other sights they collect in memory.
To many, the sight of the Manasa Devi temple from the Ganga, in Haridwar, provides quick connection to home, to the memory and devotion to Ma Hinglaj, the devi, whose abode is in Balochistan.
Similar accounts can be heard from Hindus from Pakistan living in Rajasthan, who have visited Haridwar — the destination which means India to most. The women among them collect puja samagri, bindis, bangles, and loads of sindoor.
If devotees were able to dedicate a temple to Ma Hinglaj in Haridwar, not only would pilgrims from Pakistan find a new meaning to their home coming, but, they would also be able to share the devotion space with devotees from across India, who visit Haridwar.
Uttarakhand may witness this new cultural movement becoming a reality.
In February, with the support of writer and social worker Tarun Vijay (he visited Ma Hinglaj Shaktipeeth in Balochistan in 2006), devotees of Ma Hinglaj from Rajasthan met Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat. The meeting was held in Dehradun.
The team that met Rawat was led by Jagadish Khatri, a devotee from Rajasthan. It included folks from the Khatri and Rajput communities living in Rajasthan. In 2019, they completed the task of dedicating a grand temple to Devi Hinglaj in Barmer, Rajasthan.
A grand celebration was held to mark the praan pratishtha rituals. The temple has been built completely out of pooling resources and funds from the communities.
Many Khatris and Rajputs, just as others who live in Rajasthan, have roots in Pakistan and relatives still staying in Pakistan.
Building the temple in Barmer dedicated to Ma Hinglaj is their way of establishing a connection with ancestors, their families living in Pakistan, and of keeping the flame of faith burning in the younger generations.
Now, members of the community have also teamed up to establish a temple dedicated to Devi Hinglaj in Haridwar.
According to Vijay, Mata Hinglaj temple and a dharmashala at the cost of Rs four crores is being built in Haridwar, where Rajasthani devotees of the Devi will find shelter in a bhawan, which will be built as part of the temple complex.
In Dehradun, the brief discussion between Rawat and devotees from Rajasthan opened a channel between two scared destinations for Hindus living in India and Pakistan.
The grim Covid-19 situation gripping India may have flung the work and thoughts in bringing Balochistan and Uttarakhand away, as for now, but the seeds for a cultural movement dedicated to connecting the devotees of the Shaktipeeth of Ma Hinglanj in Hingol, Balochistan, and the devotees of the forms of Shakti, in Uttarakhand, have been sown.
According to Vijay, a sacred flame (jyoti), meticulously brought from Ma Hinglaj Temple in Balochistan will be placed at the Haridwar temple by CM Trivendra Singh Rawat (the programme was scheduled for mid April in the pre Covid-19 scenario).
The flame from Ma Hinglaj Temple in Balochistan will burn round the clock. “Devotees of Ma Hinglaj who have not been able to go to the Shaktipeeth in Balochistan will be able to have a glimpse of the akhand jyoti,” Vijay adds.
It would be a moment of cultural and spiritual triumph for Uttarakhand. The state, besides being the birth cradle to Ganga, is a natural home for the bhaktas of the Devi — the divine feminine. The people of Uttarakhand, which is known as Dev Bhoomi, find their spiritual, religious and cultural completeness and fulfillment in the worship of the Devi.
Vijay has plans to demand a pilgrimage corridor from India to Balochistan for the yatra that connects the two sacred destinations.
Vijay believed that just as him, the “moment of lifetime bliss” — that of having witnessed the burning flame at the abode of Ma Hinglaj in Balochistan, must be shared with the devotees visiting Haridwar.
He says, “We want Hindu Dharma to flourish. The Devi is the single biggest uniting force for us Hindus and India. Hindu dharma is the biggest and the greatest cultural thread to keep India united and to protect the Indianness of this great land of the devas. We also want to build a connection between Ma Hinglaj Temple in Balochistan and Mata Nanda Devi temple in Nauti village, Chamoli district, Uttarakhand.”
Bringing the flame from the abode of Ma Hinglaj to India was a feat packed in risks. Vijay tells Swarajya that “the diya (oil lamp) was brought with great effort, planning, secretly hidden in a lantern, by brave devotees from Balochistan.” The akhand jyoti will burn in the same oil lamp.
The cultural movement has been spearheaded by the Kshatriyas. According to Vijay, Hindu worshipping others ishtas and streams of beliefs, consider Devi Hinglaj “as the supreme avatar of Durga.”
The collaboration between Rawat, Vijay and other devotees of the Devi just might work.
Rawat himself is an ardent devotee of Devi. He has shown keen interest in their project to build the temple and a centre to help pilgrims. Last year, Rawat announced that a Sita Circuit will be developed Phalswari village in Pauri district. People believe that it is here that Sita took her bhoo-samadhi. Rawat wants to develop it as a pilgrimage site.
According to Vijay, Rawat also sought their help to have a Grand Shaktipeeth Darshan centre in Haridwar that will showcase all the replicas of 52 Shakti Peethas described in the Devi Puran.
According to Vijay, our ancestors have been “risking their lives to undertake the pilgrimage” to Ma Hinglaj’s abode. In the building of a pilgrimage and cultural connection between Balochistan and Uttarakhand, the temple dedicated to Ma Hinglaj in Haridwar will play a deeply emotional and civilisational role.