LAHORE: A few dozen people gathered at Krishna Mandir on Thursday to celebrate dussehra, an important Hindu festival. A reading from the Ramayana and arthi of goddess Durga were part of the festivity.
“We celebrate Navaratri before this where we pray to Mata (the Durga goddess) for nine nights,” says Manohar Chand, the Pakistan Hindu Welfare Council chairman.
Krishna Mandir is the only temple in Lahore that regularly celebrates Hindu festivals. The temple was reclaimed in 1972. The dussehra is celebrated on the 10th night marking Ram’s victory over Ravana.
Chand says the number 9 is of great significance. “Mata has nine avatars, a mother carries a child in her womb for nine months and nine chunris are laid onto Mata during this time.” It was with the Durga’s blessing that Ram was able to defeat the Ravana, says Chand.
According to Chand, Lahore is home to 200 Hindu families all of which come to the temple for various celebrations. The dussehra is celebrated by staging performances on the battle at Lanka. A Ravana’s effigy is burned to conclude the ceremony. In Lahore, however, effigies have not been burned for over a decade.
Chand says the number of people coming for the dussehra celebrations was less than those who had been visiting the temple for the nine nights. “Nearly 20 years ago we used to burn a Ravana effigy on the bank of River Ravi. People would gather in huge numbers over the bridge to see this,” says Chand. He says there was a time when they would take the Ravana from the mandir to the river on a palki. “People would dress up as Ram, Hanuman, Sita and Lakshman. They would follow the procession.”
Chand says they do not burn the effigy any longer due to the security situation and because there are fewer community members in Lahore. “This year we are celebrating it simply due to Muharram.”
Kashi Ram, the pundit at the mandir, read out a small passage from the Ramayana. He portrayed a scene depicting the battle between Ram and Ravana as the rest of the armies stood and watched it.
“Worship is an important aspect of the event,” said Arthi, the pundit’s wife. “The Hindu community in Lahore is very small. That is why the festival is not celebrated with much fervour,” she said. She said she had once celebrated the dussehra in India.
“It was quite a sight,” she said smiling. “Celebrating such an event among a larger community is a different experience.”
“They celebrate it here with great simplicity. I miss the way our community celebrates it back home,” said Paras Kumar from Kashmore, Sindh. “We would burn the Ravana effigy and celebrations would continue until 12 in the morning,” he said. The small group of people at the mandir included some Muslims.
Sameera, a 28-year-old devotee of the goddess Durga, was one of them. She said she lived in the area and visited the temple three to four times a month.
“I feel at ease here. I find the place very spiritual,” she said. “It is about where you find solace and can pray.”