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Synthesis in Pakistan: Neela Gumbad Valmiki Temple

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Synthesis in Pakistan: Neela Gumbad Valmiki Temple Empty Synthesis in Pakistan: Neela Gumbad Valmiki Temple

Post by Guest Fri Dec 23, 2016 9:52 am

It’s almost impossible to find in this hubbub, but this market is home to one of only two Hindu functional temples in the city. The Neela Gumbad Valmiki Mandir is located in a small alley next to a big tyre shop. Its small metal door is like that of any other house in the area. The small saffron flag hoisted at the entrance is the only thing that marks it out.

The inside of the temple as well is like that of a house, with a vast courtyard, at one end of which are two rooms, one dedicated to Lord Valmiki and the second to other Hindu deities. In the verandah outside the temple is a large mural of Lord Valmiki, with his disciples Lava and Kush, a snapshot of the mythological origins of Lahore. It is believed that Lava, the son of Lord Rama and the disciple of Valmiki, who is believed to have written the Ramayana, founded Lahore while Kush founded the twin city of Kasur.

A cross on the opposite wall reflects the relatively recent syncretic nature of this temple, one it it had to unwittingly adopt after Partition. Many followers of Lord Valmiki converted to Christianity following Partition to avoid the discrimination that Hindus were subjected to in the newly created country. Most of them, however, retained retained their Valmiki identity along with a new Christian identity, adopting two names – one Hindu and the other Christian. They also started celebrating Christian festivals, along with traditional Hindu festivals.

In October end, as the Hindu festival of Diwali went nearly unnoticed in Pakistan, a few 100 devotees gathered at the courtyard of this temple to light lamps and sing bhajans celebrating the return of Lord Ram and Sita to their Kingdom of Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. In a few days from now, this courtyard will be lit up once again, this time celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas. A cradle will be placed in the verandah and female devotees will dote over on baby Jesus, in a tradition reminiscent of Krishna Janmashtami, or the birth of Lord Krishna, which too is celebrated at this temple. Incidentally, the same cradle is used for both celebrations.

Even as Pakistan continues its sprint towards religious fundamentalism, this small temple at the heart of conservative Lahore continues to serve as an example of religious tolerance. All year round, dozens of religious festivals are celebrated at this temple, some events going on into the night.


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