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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Pakistan temple that sheltered flood-stricken

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Tucked in the Kachhi district of Balochistan in the tiny village of Jalal Khan, the local Hindu community opened the doors of the Baba Madhodas Mandir to the flood-hit people and their livestock.

Jalal Khan is still reeling from the flooding that destroyed houses and left mass destruction in its wake. The village was cut off from the rest of the province due to inundation in the Nari, Bolan, and Lehri rivers, leaving the residents of the remote area to fend for themselves, a Dawn report said.

According to locals, Baba Madhodas was a pre-partition Hindu dervish (saint) equally cherished by Muslims and Hindus of the area. “He used to travel on camel,” says Iltaf Buzdar, a frequent visitor to the village from Bhag Nari tehsil.

The worship place — frequented by Hindu worshippers from across Balochistan — is made of concrete and covers a large area. Since it is located on high ground, it remained relatively safe from the floodwaters and could serve as a sanctuary to the flood-hit people in their bleakest hour.

Most members of the Hindu community in Jalal Khan have migrated to other cities of Kachhi for employment and other opportunities, but a couple of families remain on the temple premises to look after it.

Buzdar says as per the stories narrated by his parents, the saint transcended religious boundaries. “He would think of people through the prism of humanity instead of their caste and creed,” he quotes his parents.

Rattan Kumar, 55, a shopkeeper in the Bhag Nari tehsil, in charge of the temple, told the newspaper: “There are over one hundred rooms in the temple as a large number of people from all over Balochistan and Sindh come here for pilgrimage every year.”

It’s not like the temple did not bear the brunt of abnormal rains. Sawan Kumar, Rattan’s son, told Dawn a few rooms were damaged, but overall the structure remained safe. At least 200-300 people, mostly Muslims, and their livestock were given refuge on the premises and looked after by Hindu families.

Initially, the area was completely cut off from the rest of the district. The displaced said they were provided rations via helicopter sorties, but after their moved to the temple, they were being fed by the Hindu community.

Israr Mugheri a doctor in Jalal Khan, said: “There were announcements on the loudspeaker by the local Hindus, calling upon Muslims to rush to the temple to take refuge,” he adds.

Those who took refuge there say they are indebted to the local community for coming to their aid and providing them food and shelter during this difficult hour.

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