Thursday, March 24, 2011
Akhund Joot (a flame) has been leaping from an oil lamp in front of Baba Srichand’s portrait in a separate structure on the premises of a 500-year-old temple. The lamp is believed to have been burning in the honour of the Darya (the River Indus) since long. There is an age-old popular myth that the mighty River Indus never hurts the temple of Baba Srichand Saheb located in Faqir Jo Goth, Thatta district, which still attracts a large number of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims, who often travel from all over Pakistan to visit the place. During last year’s floods, a breach in the embankment of the river near Faqir Jo Goth, inundated a wide area, including Faqir Jo Goth instantly. Srichand’s holy abode however remained safe with the floodwater just four feet away from the temple wall, said the temple caretaker.
Notan Das, 65, a caretaker of the Baba Srichand Temple and Gurdwara, says that 450 years ago, the Indus, flowing close to this Asthan (place), once flooded the area. According to the legend, he says, hundreds of years ago Srichand was meditating at a spot on which the temple currently stands, when floods inundated the wide area, causing displacement. In the Hindu mythology, the saints called the River Indus as Lal Saeen, linking it to Odero Lal — the symbol of the river.
Amid the flooding, Baba Srichand approached the Darya (river) to control the waters. The Darya replied that it would only do so if Srichand agreed to light a lamp in honour of his name at the temple. It has been more than 500 years now and Akhund Joot continues to burn in the temple, while the river changed its direction, streaming five kilometers away from the Srichand temple. But despite being a historical place it has yet to get the status of the heritage building.
There is a unique Murti of Baba Srichand Saheb, the elder son of Baba Guru Nanak, which Sikhs and Hindus come to see frequently. About this cultural and religious diversity, Chander Keswani, a Sindhi-language poet and the follower of Guru Nanak, said there is no difference between Hindus and Sikhs and people from both religions enjoy their worship separately on the same premises. A similar practice can be witnessed in other temples, located in Sindh and Punjab, he added.
The temple has a wide shelter for Yatris (pilgrims), who stay there for some days. Jaipal Das, a university student hailing from Chundko, Khairpur district, said his family visit the temple three to four times a year. There are free meals and accommodation arrangements for all devotees, mostly coming from different parts of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.
Notan Das claims that it is the first place of Baba Srichand, where he spent his entire life. However, he said there are three other Baba Srichand temples — one in Kabul, Afghanistan, another in Peshawar and the third one in Kashmir. The devotees there too have placed Murtis, but the images designed here have a unique look. About the flag, he said, the tall wooden stick was brought from India 100 years ago through the river stream, because there was no alternative source of its transportation to bring it safely by road or rail.
The statue of Bhagat Kanwar Ram, the legendary Sindhi folk and Bhajan singer, has been set up at the back of the Baba Srichand Murti. A place where Samadhis of legendary saints are kept safe has its separate history.