While the main celebrations for Diwali are set to be held in Gracy Lines Temple near Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Wednesday (today), a number of people celebrated the festival at home amongst friends and family.
Also known as Deepavali, literally meaning “row of lamps”, the day is celebrated for victory of good over evil within an individual. The day also marks the day Lord Rama returned after 14 years of exile.
“It means to light yourself from within and keep away from impurities,” said Bhesham, a 35-year-old shopkeeper at Super Market.
Bhesham runs a handicraft shop with his brother Suresh Kumar and cousin Santosh.
“It is the day of lights and sweets with celebrations at night. We light clay lamps, candles and burst crackers to keep the evil away,” said Bhesham.
The Hindu community in Islamabad is small: almost 20 families, most of them living in F-6, according to Bhesham.
Ritik, Santosh’s son, was also in the shop in school uniform. He said excitedly, “Tomorrow I will [take a day off] and celebrate and burst crackers till late at night.”
Santosh added that on this special night they note down the prices of wheat, rice, cotton and gold. “The purpose is to remember the dearness [of these goods] and do Laxmi puja to the goddess of wealth,” he said.
Lakshmi puja involves people putting small oil lamps outside their homes on Diwali in the hope that Lakshmi will come to bless them.
All three had good things to say about their Muslim friends and neighbours. “They are very cordial and friendly and greet us on Holi and other such occasions with affection,” they said.
All is not well here
While the Hindus in Islamabad, unlike the rest of the country, have had little problems with Muslims, there are still things that they yearn for: such as a temple for worshipping.
“The Muslims have their mosques to worship, Christians have churches but we Hindus [in Islamabad] have no place to gather and celebrate and worship on our holy occasions,” said Suresh, who lives in Islamabad.
He said currently there are two temples in Islamabad, one at Saidpur Village and the other at Rawal Dam.
The Saidpur temple has been turned into a tourist and the Rawal Dam temple is in litigation, with Hindus not allowed access to it, he added. The Rawal Dam temple is also in bad condition, and while a number calls for its maintenance have been made, little has been done.
Paul Bhatti, Advisor to PM on Interfaith Harmony, however denied having received any applications for the temple’s construction or repossession. “We are in contact with some pundits of Islamabad but they haven’t raised such a demand,” Bhatti said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2012.