February 18, 2011 10:24:20 pm
Pilgrimage to Ganges came about after a 40-yr wait; delegates from neighbouring country seek easier visa norms
It took 40 long years for the 135 pots full of ashes,belonging to Hindus from Pakistan,to be immersed in the Ganges at Haridwar,as per the last wishes of the departed souls. A 12-member special Hindu jatha today returned to Pakistan by Samjhauta Express after performing the ritual and they said more such ashes were waiting for the last rites to be performed,in the neighbouring country.
The jatha members,mostly from Karachi in Pakistan,said that like in India,in Pakistan also the community members most desired wish was to get their ashes immersed in Ganges for salvation. There is no place in Pakistan where ashes can be immersed. Though some immerse ashes in Indus or some other running water,the Ganges is considered the most sacred river for the last ritual to be performed, said Ram Nath Mishra,Mahant of Panch-Mukhi Hanuman Mandir in Karachi,who was heading the jatha.
He,however,said the stringent visas terms come in the way. We had silently come to India two months back through this train and reached Haridwar to perform the ritual. We took the holy dip in the Ganga and felt most blessed, said Mishra,adding that there were over 100 more pots of ashes,some of them belonging to the unclaimed dead in Pakistan,waiting for immersion.
We want those to be brought here for the last rites but getting the visas is a major hassle. Some of the ashes are waiting for the immersion for the last over 20 years. In this pilgrimage we brought the ashes which were lying in Pakistan for the last 40 years, said Mishra,adding that ashes in Pakistan were lying in the safe custody of family members,relatives or with Hindu temples,in various parts of Pakistan.
There are about 20 lakh Hindus in Pakistan,that is about two per cent of the total population of this Islamic republic. Though they have the permission for performing last rites through cremation,the beliefs are that a Hindu gets salvation if ashes are immersed in the Ganges in India. This is our community members most cherished last wish and many take a promise from their children to do so. But there is a problem of getting visas and we want relaxation to be made in visa norms,taking into account the religious beliefs and faith, said Karam Chand,another member of the jatha.
Sometimes,relatives or family members bring the ashes to India individually through the rail or land route but it is for the first time that a large number of ash bearing pots were brought for the immersion to India. The jatha members said they would soon return with more ashes in the next few months if the visa applications lying with Indian consulate in Karachi were cleared. Our only request to both Indian and Pakistan governments is that the visas must be relaxed for pilgrims, said Kamla Devi,yet another member.
The jatha members,who were religious workers at Hanuman and other temples were clad in saffron clothes,considered auspicious to perform such a rite. After getting the visas we did not face any problem of transportation,as the officials were cooperative. All were immersed as per Hindu traditions on the banks of the Ganges, she said.
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