Peshawar: Hindu pilgrims from India, the US and the Gulf region prayed at the 100-year-old renovated Maharaja Paramhans Ji temple in northwest Pakistan on Saturday amidst tight security, one year after the temple was demolished by a mob belonging to a radical Islamist party.
The delegation of Hindus consisted of nearly 200 devotees from India, 15 from Dubai, the rest from the US and other Gulf states.
The mandir and ‘samadhi‘ of Paramhans Ji in Teri village, Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa underwent extensive repair last year after it was demolished by an angry mob in 2020, an incident that was condemned globally.
The Indian pilgrims crossed over through the Wagah Border near Lahore, and were escorted to the temple by armed personnel, officials said.
The programme has been organised by the Pakistani Hindu Council in collaboration with the national carrier Pakistan International Airlines.
On the day, the funerary monument and Teri village at large was fortified with 600 men from the Rangers, Intelligence and Airport Security Force keeping guard, led by a Superintendent of Police rank officer.
The rituals will go on through the night till afternoon of Sunday, Hindu Council officials said.
Hujras’ or open air reception rooms were converted into shelters for the pilgrims.
The markets near the temple were seen buzzing with tourists and the children from the Hindu contingent were photographed playing cricket with the local kids.
In-charge, Legal Affairs, Hindu Community Rohit Kumar commended the Pakistan government for the arrangements and the repair works.
“Today’s prayers at the mandir by yatris from India is a positive message for India, for promoting peace and religious harmony in the region,” he said.
The Pakistan Hindu Council has promoted the initiative under the aegis of “faith tourism”.
Maharaaj Paramhans Ji died at Teri village in 1919.
Some members of the radical Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) had vandalised the ‘samadhi’ on December 30, 2020. The temple had also been demolished in 1997.
The provincial government renovated it after Rs 3.3 crore was recovered from the JUI-F mob.