Two-states, two-paths

It is imperative to scrutinise the implications of growing religious extremism across the border

Two-states, two-paths


he partition of the South Asian subcontinent in the summer of 1947 gave birth to two independent states i.e. India and Pakistan. During their early years, the two countries followed two different trajectories for state formation and nation building; Pakistan chose the majority religion for its ideological orientation whereas India sought to lay a secular foundation. However, both these countries attempted to reconstruct their pasts by adopting Hegel’s philosophical approach to recording and presenting history to reinforce national narratives and ideologies. They both changed the names of roads, cities and monuments or historic sites; and allowed extremist mobs to desecrate and vandalise religious places of minority religions. The practice caused great harm to the societies and a huge loss to history and archaeology.

For the past decade, Narendra Modi-led government in India has been trying to transform India into a Hindutva state, incorporating an extremist approach to Indian society and social order. The erosion of secular values is evident from the discriminatory laws and policies that disproportionately affect non-Hindu communities. The vandalising of Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and the construction of Ram Mandir on the site and its inauguration with great pomp and show are manifestations of the imposition of Hindutva and eradication of non-Hindu history, sites and communities. This is obvious from Prime Minister Modi’s statement on the eve of the inauguration of Ram Mandir. He said, “Now, we have to lay a [new] foundation for India for the next 1,000 years.” He added, “People used to say the construction of Ram temple would set the nation on fire. Instead of creating any negativity, the Ram temple is leading to positive energy.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan, once riddled with religious extremism, is not only trying to ensure religious freedoms but also making efforts to protect the religious sites and places of worship for its minoritu communities. The Kartarpur Corridor, a visa-free border crossing for religious tourism, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019 to connect the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to Gurudwara Dera Baba Nanak in India. None other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi at that time had compared the project with the fall of Berline Wall.

This corridor allows Sikh devotees from India to visit the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib without securing Pakistani visa. However, Pakistani Sikhs cannot access Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side without first obtaining an Indian visa.

The Katas Raj Temples, Hindu temples in Chakwal district, have also been restored and renovated twice (2006 and 2017) by the Punjab government. Likewise, the Balochistan government has allocated Rs 300 million for the reconstruction and beautification of the ancient Hindu Temple dedicated to Hinglaj Mata.

The Hinglaj Mata Mandir is over 5,000-year-old. It is located in Hingol National Park in Lasbela district on the Makran coast, approximately 190 kilometres west of Karachi. A famous Hindu religious place, it is situated in a mountain cave on the bank of the Hingol River. According to Ramayana, Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman also visited the sacred site during their exile. Sikh saints, such as Guru Gorakh Nath and Guru Nanak Sahib, also undertook pilgrimages to Hinglaj Mata Mandir. Zikris of Balochistan, also pray here and call it the Nani Mandir.

Pakistan, once riddled with religious extremism, is not only trying to ensure religious freedoms but also making efforts to protect the religious sites and places of minority communities in the country. .

Hinglaj Mata temple, one of the holiest sites for the Hindu community, is one of the five most ancient Hindu temples across the globe. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu cut up the body of the Hindu goddess Sati into 108 pieces. Fifty-one of those pieces fell on earth. Her head, it is said, fell at Hinglaj. The place has since been the site of revered pilgrimage.

Another popular account holds that Hinglaj Mata, a deity, came to fight against the oppressive monarch of Hingol. She fought and defeated the brutal tyrant and continued to live in the area.

Hinglaj Mata Mandir is considered very powerful and auspicious, as it is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. The goddess is believed to grant boons and blessings to her devotees who visit her with faith and devotion. The temple is also significant for other reasons. It is one of the few Hindu temples to have survived in Pakistan despite centuries of invasions and persecution. It is a symbol of religious harmony and tolerance, as it is respected by Muslims as well as Hindus.

Throughout the year, more than one million Hindu pilgrims visit this site. The place comes alive every year in the month of April during the four-day Hinglaj Mata festival known as Hinglaj Mata Teerath Yatra and Shri Hinlaj Seva Mandli, arguably Pakistan’s largest Hindu festival, which attracts over 100,000 devotees from all parts of the country. Hundreds of Hindus also come from abroad, including India.

Once the pilgrims arrive in Hinglaj, they undertake a series of rituals, including climbing the Chandragup and Khandewari mud volcanoes. They also throw coconuts into the craters in the Chandragup mud volcano to make wishes. Some scatter rose petals; others paint their bodies and face with clay. Then they take a ritual bath in the sacred Hingol River before finally approaching the shrine marking the goddess’s resting place. The major ceremony in the pilgrimage occurs on the third day, when the priests of the shrine recite mantras to invoke the gods to accept the offerings brought by the pilgrims and bless them.

Zikris and some Sufi Muslims also revere Hinglaj Mata. Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, the greatest Sufi poet of Sindh, visited the Hinglaj Mata temple and has mentioned it in his poetry. He also composed the sur (tune) for Ramkali in reverence to the Hinglaj Mata and the jogis (hermits) on the pilgrimage. According to a popular legend associated with Bhittai and Hinglaj Mata, once Bhittai reached the temple and offered milk to the deity. Hinglaj Mata was so pleased with this offering, as he was from another faith, that she appeared in front of him and blessed him.

Measures like the allocation of funds for the renovation of the minorities’ religious sites and the opening of a visa-free corridor to facilitate religious tourism speak of a commitment to interfaith harmony and protection of minority rights in Pakistan. The growing influence of Hindu nationalism in India raises urgent concerns for the safety, dignity and rights of religious minorities. As the socio-political landscape evolves, it is imperative to scrutinise the implications of this phenomenon for India’s democratic fabric and the stability of the region at large.

Dr Mazhar Abbas is a lecturer at GCU, Faisalabad, and a research fellow at PIDE, Islamabad. He can be contacted at He tweets at @MazharGondal87

Muhammad Yasin Shafique is an MPhil student in history at GCU, Faisalabad.

Two-states, two-paths