PESHAWAR: In a remarkable display of communal harmony, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s residents stood shoulder to shoulder with their Hindu compatriots as the three-day Maha Shivaratri celebrations opened at the Hindu Dargah in the heart of Peshawar’s old city on Friday night.
The gesture – whose precedent was set earlier by the province’s inhabitants as part of tradition – was all the more meaningful this year in the wake of a recent wave of terrorist attacks across the country.
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The K-P police have maintained strict security and set up a special control room for the festival. Closed-circuit television cameras and scanning machines have been installed at the shrine.
The shrine – located inside the old city at Jhanda Bazaar – has been illuminated with decorative lights, welcoming hundreds of devotees from the city as well as from other parts of the province.
Ghulam Mustafa – nazim of the Union Council Karim Pura – who was sitting outside the shrine told The Express Tribune that they had arranged this festival even in the most difficult security situation. “This festival has never been cancelled even during the time, when Babri Majid was attacked and destroyed by fanatics in 1992,” Mustafa added.
Mustafa pointed out that Hindu and Muslims have been living together for centuries and they have held on to the centuries- old traditions of standing by each other without any difference of caste or religion. “It has become our religious and social responsibility to ensure their security and protection,” he said.
Shivaratri festival is celebrated by Hindus around the world as it is believed the day when Lord Shiva and Parvati got married. “Maha Shivaratri which also means ‘The Great Night of Shiva’ is celebrated in the beginning of the spring season,” Shiv Nath Sharma, the guardian of shrine, told The Express Tribune.
He said devotees worship and offer sacrifices as part of their prayers and the celebration continues for three days. “On the first day, we fast for half a day and then sing hymns, praising our God till late night. On the second day, we change the covering cloth of the shrine, and on the third day, we offer communal sacrifices,” he said.
Sharma said the sacrifice is not limited to an individual; rather, it is everyone’s sacrifice. “The devotees have brought with themselves over a hundred goats to offer them as sacrifices at the shrine,” he added.
Balwant Raam, an 80-year-old Hindu elder, said the celebration become possible due to the support of locals and the police. “It is not the first time that we have gathered to perform our religious rituals. We have always observed our celebrations without any fear,” he added.
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Talking about the history of the Hindu site, he said the Astaana has been here for centuries. The temple building was constructed in the 15th century, but, he added, he was not sure about the actual date of its construction.
The custodian of the shrine expressed his satisfaction over the love and respect given by the people of the city, who have made the festival possible even during the time, when the security forces asked them not to allow any gathering. “This year, like the past, Hindu women and men from across the province and the Federally Administered Tribal areas are celebrating their religious festival at the Dargah,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2017.