As soon as I came out of Karachi airport and settled in the car, the phone rang and driver gave me the phone, Ms. Diana John, secretary of Mr. Mahmood [my would be host in Pakistan], was calling me at 2 AM to see whether I had reached safely or not and she had instructed the driver to give me a phone to be used during my stay in Pakistan with ISD (international dialing) activated and she said that Mr. Mahmood had insisted that I call my dear and near (meaning my wife) to let her know that I had reached safely! I have come to India about 17 times in last 42 years and no one has offered me a cell phone with ISD activated right at the airport! This is just the first instance of the hospitality that Pujya Annaji had arranged for me. [Image above is the Symbol of Hindu faith painted on a rock in the Hinglaj Mata cave temple].
by Jay Shah
Om Annaya Namah, Om Akkaya Namah.
A note from Offroad Club of Karachi: A few years ago, longer than I’d like to think about now, we met Jay Shah, who had come to Pakistan to visit Mata Hinglaj. Our club took him to Hingol, and it was the start of a wonderful journey. Jay wrote a wonderful writeup too on his visit to Pakistan and his travels with the offroad club and his pilgrimage to Hinglaj, as well as a video of his trip.
I prostate to and offer my salutation to my Guru and Gurumata Pujya Annasaheb (Annaji) and Pujya Prashanti (Akkaji) SirDeshpande of Bijapur, Karnataka, India.
Param Pujya Shri Annaji – My Guru
Pujya Annaji was a Raj yogi meaning he lived in the world as a Sansari (married life) and enjoyed the life with all the comforts, splendor and the wealth but was totally detached from all of it. A rare individual. He was the reincarnation of the Gahininath (one of the famous nine Nathas including Gorakhnath – Gorakshanath). All Navnathas are Chrinjive (forever living i.e. wiyhout death) and are Gupta (not seen). Only Gahininath comes to the Earth in the human form to give total Salvation (Nirvana, Moksha). There are Gurus and Sadgurus (Satguru) but Pujya Annaji was Param Brahm Guru – the one that can give you total salvation and make you one with God. That means, in Hindu Sanatan Dharma, no reincarnation on the Earth ever – Moksha, Nirvana.
Param Pujya Shri Akkaji – My Gurumata
This article is not about my Guru and Gurumata but suffice to say that without their blessings and guidance my yatra (pilgrimage) to Shri Hinglaj Mata (Hingula Devi) in Balochistan, Pakistan would not even have been on my radar screen.
I migrated to USA in 1968. My father passed away in 1976 and mom in 1993. My first yatra to Pujya Annaji’s place was in 1997 after safely performing the Char Dham yatra in a private bus with some 35 people with my family members in Ahmedabad and Kanyas from Pujya Upasanibaba’s Ashram in Sakuri, Rahata, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. This was possible with Pujya Annaji’s full blessings and under the powerful protection of his Vibhuti (holy Ash left after Yagna – Oblation in sacred fire to the God).
After the Char Dham yatra I came to Bijapur and Pujya Annaji asked me to stay in Bijapur for more than a month and told me that now Pujya Annaji is my father, Pujya Akkaji is my mother and I have to come to Bijapur home every year which I have been doing every year since then.
DO HINGLAJ MATA’S DARSHAN
Pujya Annaji took Samadhi (left this world) in November 1998 and Gurumata Pujya Akkaji has been guiding me on the spiritual path in my bonus years (after 60 years of age). In 2006, she asked me to do the yatra of Shri Hinglaj Mata (Hingula Devi) in Pakistan. She specifically rejected my plan of coming to India first and then to go to Pakistan – after inquiring where in Pakistan is the shrine of Shri Hinglaj Mata and instead asked me to go straight there from New York, USA and so began my most memorable yatra.
The people that I knew including Pujya Akkaji did not know where the Shrine is in Pakistan. Pujya Annaji & Akkaji had gone in early 80s to Pakistan to see a cricket match and his attempt to do the yatra was not supported by the Pakistan Government due to the security consideration in Balochistan in the south Western part of the country.
I took the route of Google to search for the location of the Shrine and how to go there. At first I was excited to come across several websites about Hinglaj Mata but these were all hosted in India and were basically by Khastriya (warrior clan), Bhavsar and other clans “singing” praise of the Devi who is their Kuldevi (Goddess of the clan). All said that the Shrine is in Pakistan but have no information on location of the Shrine as well as how to reach there. I did learn that there was no regular priest (Pujari) and that the place is desolate. There was a mention that some ‘Sangh” (people going to the pilgrimage as a group) arranged twice a year by the Swaminarayan Temple in Karachi. I contacted the Swaminarayan Temple by email and phone call but did not get response.
PUJIYA ANNAJI HAD DIFFERENT PLAN FOR ME
As I continued my Google search I came across a site which had some pictures of the Hingol River and the area near Hinglaj. The website was of 4×4 Offroaders club of Jeep/SUV owners (www.offroadpakistan.com) in Karachi, Pakistan who explore various natural resources of the Mother Nature in Pakistan. On a lark I sent an email to the website admin asking whether they had been to Hinglaj and would they be kind enough to tell me how to go there.
(Note: You may have to cut and paste or type the URLS in this article in your browser if the clicking on them does not work)
I was totally surprised to get a response from Mr. Salman Ali stating, “Aray, Shah Saab aap a jao, hum apko Hinglaj ki yatra karayange (Mr. Shah come on over we will help you make your pilgrimage of Hinglaj”). With such a warm response I decided to go to Karachi. I also came across Mr. Khalid Mahmood – Managing Director of a Pakistani firm Getz Pharma part of an American company indirectly owned by Mr. Warren Buffet – world’s 2nd or 3rd richest person – through Mr. Bhupen Dalal, Chairman of Mullard & Phipps also indirectly owned by Warren Buffet.
Without any reference checking or any in depth understanding of who was Mr. Salman Khan or Mr. Mahmood I decided to be a “Na Jaan na Pahechaan, Mai tera Mehman (without any introduction or references I decided to be their guest). I had not seen their pictures nor did I have any phone conversation!
I talked to the Pakistan Consulate General in New York and he assured me that I would get a visa to go to Pakistan without any problem. So I booked a return ticket to Bombay with Karachi halt for few days on the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA – sometimes jokingly called Pray to Allah airline). I went to the Consulate and sure enough I was given the visa with a halt in Karachi without much of a hassle and with decent courtesy (most of the experiences of the Indian consulate had been rather disappointing in this area however, I must share that the services at the Indian Consulate in New York has improved significantly in last 2 years).
FLIGHT TO KARACHI
With the ticket and visa in hand, with one email of inviting me to come and a promise of taking me to the pilgrimage and most importantly – My Guru and Gurumata’s blessings I left for Karachi. As it is said in India, “Ma ka Bulava Aaya” – Mother’s invitation to visit had come. This would not have been easy if my dear wife Anu did not have faith in Guru and had not supported me. She never objected or showed concern even once except requesting me at the NY airport not to take camera and roam in the bazaars of Karachi without an escort and foolishly take pictures of women – a real taboo. She did say that I was crazy enough to do just that!
On the other extreme I had a phone call, two hrs before I was to leave for airport, from the management team of the company where I used to work, unanimously requesting me NOT to go. The reason was valid – I was an American citizen with Indian heritage and the USA Consulate in Karachi was bombed by some fundamentalist only 2 days prior to my departure. However my faith in my Guru and Gurumata was far stronger than to worry about such events. My answer was to thank them for their good intention and concern but I would rather die doing this yatra than lose faith in my Guru and Gurumata. I pointed out that my Gurumata told to do this pilgrimage and hence she would protect me and I had nothing to fear.
On March 22nd 2006, I left for Karachi on PIA. I had a very good flight – older plane but clean with good food and very good service by the staff. My fellow seatmate (I forgot the name) had an interesting life. If I recall, he was an architect in USA and had travelled all over the country in his quest for the question – what is this life all about. I don’t know whether he found the answer or not but his story was interesting – it showed that fundamentally everyone has this question sooner or later in one’s life, some may eventually find the answer with their Guru’s blessings (Guru krupa). I am still searching for my answer. Even if I do not find the answer I will die peacefully knowing that my Guru took care of me. There is a saying, “Guru, Gobind dono khade, kisko lagu paye. Bina Guru Balihari, Gobind na milo maye (Guru and God are both standing in front of me, who do I prostate to first? Without the blessings of Guru I could not have reached God)”. Meaning Guru comes first before God!
A fellow passenger from Manchester, UK, Harish Kumar in a seat behind me heard me talk about the purpose of my visit as to do the pilgrimage to Hinglaj Mata. He introduced himself and said that I must visit Lord Shiva’s temple (Ratneshawar Mahadev) on Clifton Beach in Karachi. It was discovered in British rule days (in a “cave” under the ocean). He shared the folklore that there is a direct tunnel from the temple to Hinglaj shrine (I did see the entrance to the closed tunnel at the temple) by which Lord Shiva visits the Sati (Hinglaj Mata). I am glad that he shared the info (as if my Guru was telling me to go to Lord Shiva first before going to Hinglaj Mata).
BEGINNING OF PAKISTANI HOSPITALITY
When I landed at Karachi it was almost 1:00 AM in the morning. The airport is beautiful, a fully air conditioned and an expansive building with courteous customs and immigration staff. I whisked through the formalities and came out of the airport in a hot and muggy night. There was a person with a placard with my name. Even though I could have had a car from the Intercontinental Hotel to pick me up from the airport, Mr. Khalid Mahmood insisted that he would send his car to drive me to the hotel.
As soon as I settled in the car the phone rang and driver gave me the phone, Ms. Diana John, secretary of Mr. Mahmood, was calling me at 2 AM to see whether I had reached safely or not and she had instructed the driver to give me a phone to be used during my stay in Pakistan with ISD (international dialing) activated and she said that Mr. Mahmood had insisted that I call my dear and near (meaning my wife) to let her know that I had reached safely! I have come to India about 17 times in last 42 years and no one has offered me a cell phone with ISD activated right at the airport! This is just the first instance of the hospitality that Pujya Annaji had arranged for me.
The road to the hotel was a wide and well lit boulevard, lined with trees in the center lane, with no signs of slums anywhere! I reached the hotel and to my surprise I had an upgraded room waiting for me, a larger and better room with the Internet access without my asking for it! I used Skype to call my wife and told her about my welcome so far and she was very happy to hear that.
Right: Ratneswar Mahadev Temple room with the Tunnel inside
Next morning Ms. Diana John came to the hotel, we had a lunch and she took me to the Ratneswar Mahadev on the Clifton Beach. The legend is that once a son of British officer was walking on the beach with his dog. He threw a ball for the dog to fetch. The dog ran to get it but came back without the ball and was very frightened. The British officer asked his Hindu servant to go see why the dog was frightened. The servant saw a giant person with huge braided hair on his back. He immediately recognized that the Lord Shiva was sitting there.
He came back and told what he had seen. An excavation followed and found the temple “cave” under the ocean. The temple was created and is still preserved. They also found an idol of baby Lord Ganesh (Bal Gajanan) sleeping and it is now kept there in a child’s cradle in the temple. You can see the pictures of the temple (and of the entire pilgrimage movie) at https://picasaweb.google.com/offroadpakistan/MataHinglaj06WithJayShah#
A Parsee business person, an Iranian sect worshipper of Lord Agni (Fire) that left of Persia and settled in India, has converted a part of the beach area in a beautiful garden. I was told by the priest that temple has been preserved and protected by the Government of Pakistan and co-exists peacefully in the community.
There are other Hindu/Sikh temples in Pakistan (apart from the two Shakti Peethas of the Sati) and one of Shiva’s temple Katas Raj (of Mahabharata time) is being preserved and renovated by the Government of Pakistan as an historic monument at the cost of twenty million rupees.
You can see more pictures of the temple at http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1260661
After the Darshan of Lord Ratneshwar Mahadev we went to the Empress market (somewhat like Crawford market in Mumbai) in the central market area called Bohri Bazar. Some people complained about the traffic and I had to laugh because it was nothing compared to the traffic at the Shastri Market in Bijapur! I was told by Pujya Akkaji to get 10 Kg. of dry fruit as Prasad (offering) along with Bangles, Chundadi (special cloth) and Sindur – Kumkum (Cinnabar).
We bought the dry fruit and twelve coconuts and then went to buy Sindur. The shopkeeper asked me how many grams did I need and started laughing (thinking that I was crazy) when I answered 2.5 Kg. He again verified as to why I needed so much Sindur. I explained that I was going to Hinglaj Mata and everyone in the shop became quite and sober. One customer walked over to verify that I really meant Hinglaj. When I affirmed the destination he told me in a very sober tone, “I have one request, please be very careful, the area is prone to violence.”
I thanked him for his concern but I knew that I was totally protected by my Almighty Guru – Pujya Annaji and Gurumata – Pujya Akkaji.
[As always, click on individual image to see full size].
Next: On my way to Hinglaj
1. Hinglaj, the Hindu holy shrine in Hingol, Balochistan 2. Traveling through Pakistan – The Katas Raj Temple 3. KATAS – A Paradise Lost and a Paradise Regained!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.
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