Jagmohan Kumar Arora held his phone in his hand. It was pointless tucking it in his pocket since it was was constantly ringing. Giving assurance to other members of the Hindu community in Rawalpindi, Arora, caretaker of Krishna Hindu Temple, kept saying, “Yes we are going ahead with the celebrations”.
The scheduled time for the prayer was 6:00pm. The clock was ticking. Close to a hundred people were expected to turn up at the temple for Holi celebrations. An otherwise festive occasion, the Hindu community residing in Rawalpindi is keeping their festivities within the walls of the temple.
The Hindu temple does not make obvious statement about its presence. While being directed towards it, several locals were not even aware of its existence. The two-storey block is nestled in the busy Saddar Bazaar. In a narrow street, fairy lights garnished on a tree giving shade to the building signaled that something was happening. Security check posts were set up on both sides of the street, hawking movements of people entering and leaving.
While people were pouring in the temple for prayer, 12-year-old Rohit Kashap was playing tag with his friend Vikram Kumar. Grabbing Kumar by the corner of his T-shirt, Kashap asked, “Have you seen the police outside? Do you know what happened?”
Kumar, with a concerned expression replied, “Yes, my father told me what happened to the Larkana temple.”
The Hindu Dharamshala in Larkana was set on fire a night before. Security was beefed up for the Holi event at the Krishna Temple in Rawalpindi. Police official Jawad Anwar, the security in charge of the area, told The Express Tribune that a total of 25 policemen had been deployed around the temple. The shutters of shops neighboring the temple were pulled down ahead of time and Special Forces were also deployed on the rooftop for extra security.
While the situation outside was intense, the bright lights reflecting against the polished marble floor were dazzling a different mood. Multicolour fairy lights, flags, and flashy streamers stretched across the roof and walls, adding their own character. Anyone walking in went straight ahead to gently tap the bell hanging from the ceiling before they preceded a few steps closer for prayer. Raanjhan from Sindh was busy fixing a steel container that was adorned with coconut, waiting to be set on fire.
Draped in embellished saris with their bindis intact, women were ready for prayer and celebrations. As soon as the sound check was working, a microphone was placed in the middle of women that sat in a circle in the corner of the room. One woman confidently played the dhol while others recited hymns in chorus.
Jai Ram has been the caretaker of the Krishna temple for the past five years. Ram respectfully greeted the women, and then returned to sit with the men and reassure them that they were secure in the temple. Ram said that over recent years, more Hindus have migrated to this part of the country. He said that while they are celebrating the festival, they are also maintaining a low profile. “We are supported by the people who live in this area,” he said.
“People personal grudges should not take out their anger on holy places,” said Kavita Arora, a housewife who had come to celebrate. After the prayers, in a conservative manner, many just dabbed moderate amount of coloured powder on each other’s cheeks to welcome spring.
Jagmohan Kumar Arora, caretaker of Krishna Hindu temple and a committee member of the Pakistan Hindu Sikh Social Welfare Council, said that the event was being kept low key due to security concerns.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2014.