OPINION

Mata: Meem, Alif, Tay, Alif

March 04, 2008
temporal
Hum muwah'hid haiN hamara kaish hay tark e rasoom,
MillataiN jub mitt ga'een ajzaa e eemaaN ho ga'een
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib
Believers in one God, rituals we renounce,
Creeds, when dissolved, merge into one Faith.
Trans: K.C. Kanda



I travel a lot and one of the places I always make an effort to visit in the new city is the oldest place of worship, be it a church, synagogue, temple, mosque or shrine. I cherish the serenity and a certain peace I find in such places. Earlier I have written on:What Kind of Muslim Are You and What Kind of Hindu Are You?

Hundreds and thousands of years of worshiping, prayers and incantations imbues a sang-froid aura - a serenity that breathes in the walls and the surroundings.

In places I have discovered churches in mosques - Damascus; mosques in churches - Istanbul; a church where you have to take off your shoes - Goa; a mandir with pews - Trinidad.

Recently I read in the ToI about a visit to Pakistan by Manu Joseph. Describing his visit to the Clifton Mandir, he writes:


Sanjoy Ghosh
Kali idols in Karachi's posh Clifton area


Outside one such temple in the posh Clifton neighbourhood, on a distant Monday four years ago, stood a man in pathan suit. His name was Jayanti Ratna. He was wielding a stick and surveying the large crowds that were trying to enter the temple. "Jai Shiv Shankar," he kept screaming. Occasionally, he stopped some people by placing his stick horizontally around their chests. "Muslims are not allowed," he said to them. He stopped me too. "Are you a Hindu," he said, "Muslims are not allowed inside." That was the first time during the two month tour of Pakistan that my religion was asked. And it was outside a Hindu temple. He was shown the passport. His eyes softened. "Christians, too, are not allowed. But then you are an Indian." Outside a Hindu Temple in Pakistan - Manu Joseph

I last visited Karachi in 2007 and in my conversations with Karachites, young and old, was dismayed at how little they knew about Karachi's history. Except the odd well informed Karachite, who knew about the Talpur fort on Manora Island, and the temples, churches or the lone synagogue, most had no interest nor an inkling about Karachi's past. The synagogue has been sold off to developers and part of Karachi's history has been lost for ever.

Karachi has lots of mandirs. And there are a few functioning ones too that I visited. There is one in Clifton, one across from the KMC building on M A Jinnah Road, one near the old Native Jetty Bridge, two in Soldier Bazaar and one in Amil Colony # 2 near the Islamia College. And there is a crumbling one on the beach in Manora that ravages of time has turned into a crumbling structure.

Last year, late one night we were at Clifton. I asked my friends and an assortment of nieces and nephews if they would like to visit the Mandir. They agreed and I approached the keeper, who was also in shalwar kameez. He asked me if I was a Hindu. I smiled without answering and he waved us through.

For the Karachi friends and relatives it was an experience, and I hope a learning one.

The Lakshmi Narayan Mandir across from KMC building on M. A. Jinnah road is in a compound. When we visited it one afternoon, the mandir was closed and some boys were playing cricket nearby. One twelve year old asked us if we were Hindus. M smiled and said she is an insaan. The kid nodded wisely.

Another day we visited one in Soldier Bazaar. One thing is imprinted on my mind from that visit. Inside the sanctum sanctorium on the far wall Mata was spelled in glittering Urdu lettering, about two feet high - meem-alif-tay-alif. Mata was written in multicolored glitter ribbons, the kind used in garlands and for decorating the bridal car.

(Above photo is the view of the mandir facing Arabian Sea by Owais Mughal)

I had visited this mandir in 2004 and it was in appalling state. Plaster was peeling off and bricks were coming loose. On Blogger Pakistan Sridhar had commented on the mandir's architectural style:




Hindu Temple Manora, Karachi - Johnny Stores Post Cards Karachi No. 26, ~ 1930

The architectural style is the Nagara style - seen in temples all over North India. Ancient surviving examples of that style includes the complex of temples in Khajuraho, dating from the 10th century. Most medieval temples in north India also followed this architectural style (or sometimes the Orissa style). It is characterized by a narrow tapered tower (called the ’shikhar’) with a square base, overlaid with sections of smaller reproductions of itself. The ’shikhar’ often has a circular structure on the top, called the ‘amalaka’. This particular temple in Manora is quite simple and not large or ostentatious, but typical examples of this style also include several layers of embellishments carved into the ’shikhar’. sridhar

The narrow street that led to the beach and this mandir reminded me of the street that led to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. It was lined with small shops selling trinkets, charms, sweets, posters and food with the air smelling sea.

The mandir in Manora was crumbling and in a dilapidated shape. The small chapel that we found on the naval base nearby was sealed off and appeared to be in a better shape. Perhaps the tourism department or another relevant government body should look in to this.

Tu Hindu banayga na Musalmaan banayga
Insaan ki aulad hay insaan banayga

Neither a Hindu nor Muslim will you be
A human you are, a human you shall be

love people who are in awe of words. words are the sole arbiter and the final survivor. desicritic editor, slave and slave-driver.
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#1
PH
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March 4, 2008
04:41 PM

temp,

What cud be better than a post that begins at Ghaalib and ends on Saahir:)

Just curious: is this "non-Hindu"s not allowed due to a fear of desecration on the orthodox Hindus'part or more a preservation of identity politics thing? Is it a formal law?

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