Forty-year-old Moti Ram was standing with Pavji at a relief camp in Mirpurkhas where doctors from Karachi had come to give free treatment.
But both men suffered from an affliction that no doctor had a cure for. “Our heart bleeds for our temple. Can somebody save it?” asked Ram. “We need to pray to Shiva in this hour of need. Only he can help us,” says Pavji.
The men were referring to the Shiva temple which is located at village number 330 in Mirpurkhas. Like the nearby Hasanabad village from where the two men come, the place of worship too came under nature’s fury and now stands submerged. It is the only temple in the area dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Kaanji, a 65-year-old hari from the village, had donated the strip of land for the temple four years ago. “I don’t have a son. So when I prayed for one, I saw Shiva in my dream and that’s when I decided to build a temple in his honour,” he said.
Three volunteers, Ram Chand, Prem Kumar and Hari Ram, then formed a committee on Kaanji’s behalf and decided to take his mission forward. “We went door- to-door collecting funds for our noble cause,” recalled Chand. “Some people gave us five rupees, others 10,” added Kumar with a smile. After 17 months of painstaking work, they managed to get Rs135,000 from poor haris (farm workers) like themselves. Although it was far from complete, after just one year’s effort, pilgrims from dozens of villages began converging at the site to honour Bhagwan Shiva’s name.
More importantly, the temple stands as a symbol of Hindu and Muslim unity in the neighbourhood. “Not only Hindus, but also our Muslim brothers contributed to funds for this temple,” said Chand. “Here we all live together as friends. When our Muslim brothers build a mosque, we also give donations,” Kumar added.
On the opposite side of the road, a part of the village still stands. Ali Mohammad was on his way to offer his prayers at a mosque here. He was one such person who gave Rs10 for the cause. “I can understand their pain. I would have felt terrible if our mosque had been destroyed,” he said.
Chairperson Pakistan Hindu Welfare Association Mangla Sharma says the government has never built a new temple for the community since partition. “Actually, under the constitution, the government is not bound to build ‘new temples’ for the community,” she said. The Evacuee Trust, a government body that is supposed to look after the temples, has resources to only look after those that were built before partition.
“All temples made after the partition were built by the community members themselves,” said minority MNA Kishan Chand Parwani, who belongs to Mirpurkhas.
Sharma says there was a time when there were more than a 100 temples in Karachi, but now only four remain functional in the city.
Back at the camp site, Moti Ram and Pavji lamented that not only the elected MNA from Mirpurkhas, Munawar Ali Talpur, had any consideration for their woes, but their minority ‘elder’ Parwani too had disappointed them in his efforts to save the temple. While Talpur remained unreachable, Parwani assured from his Karachi residence that he would be sending his men to the area “the first thing in the morning.”