“Welcome to the most sacred temple built by nature over 200,000 years ago,” said the pujari (the priest) when we entered the holy place nestled in the colorful mineral-caked overhanging cliff of an old river. At the same time, we heard drum-beats & bhajan (devotional song). The sound echoed off the surrounding peaks giving supernatural effects. The pujari recited a mantra:
“Oh Hingula Devi, she who holds nectar in her self and is power incarnate. She who is one with Lord Shiva, to her we pay our respects and make this offering (swaha)”
Later, he explained that Hinglaj is one of the holiest shakti peeth (sites of cosmic power) of Hinduism. To calm down an entranced Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu is believed to have carved Sati’s body into dozens of pieces and spread them across the South Asia. Mythology states that the head landed at Hinglaj. Also, Lord Ram had meditated here.
How to reach Hinglaj
A few hours before, a van had dropped me at Hingol River Bridge. I looked around and found a make-shift structure of bamboo and grass serving as a cafe–cum-tuck shop. There were two persons inside and I asked them about location of the Coast Guard Post. “This is the post and I’m Lance Naik Waheed waiting for you,” said one in a funny mood. It was obvious that my son, a senior officer in the Pak Army, had already arranged for my stay and transport.
I followed Waheed to a small rest house. There were many others, some in uniform and some in national dress, salwar & kameez. All extended me the traditional greetings – a firm handshake and a mild hug. A hot cup of tea with biscuits was placed before me. This proved a tonic for my weary bones. In the meanwhile, Waheed had warmed up his motor-bike and asked me to take the backseat. It was like “out of the frying pan into the fire” after a long ride I had in the van with cramped seats. But I had no choice, the alternative was to hire from Karachi a four-wheeler coughing over Rs.25,000 (US$ 250). I do not want to blow away that much money for a day tour in my own country. I am not a bank robber or a gun-runner or counterfeiter. I have modest means and want to see as much of the world as I can before age and health betray me..
Among the mud volcanoes
We took a side road flanked by craggy sandstone peaks. Waheed told me that this was part of Hingol National Park and drew my attention to signposts indicating presence of crocodiles, leopard and ibex etc. Waheed had a lot of experience of carrying passengers on his motorcycle and constantly advised me to sit astride directly behind him using the foot-pegs all the time. He warned me well in time to hold his waist or shoulders before approaching a curve or a bump. Even then, it was a very uncomfortable.The bike jumped many a times due to uneven patches on the road & I had to balance myself after surviving the jolt.
None-the-less, the surrounding scenery was mesmerizing. There were beautiful cone-formations along the way besides a giant monolith looking like a flat wall. A ride amidst towering rocks with magnificent patterns was most fascinating. These rocks or mud mountains were eroded by wind and water forming a unique appearance with layers of strata. At one place, I asked Waheed to stop for a while. I wanted to breathe fresh air and enjoy the tranquil surroundings except for chirping of birds and an occasional call of a partridge. Turtles, lizard and chameleon were in abundance. Besides, one can easily spot pelican, eagles, vultures and finches.
After about six kilometers, we crossed the dried up river and continued on the other side in same the same direction. There were signboards and arrows directing towards the temple. Moreover, there were hardly any crisscrossing roads or paths and one cannot get lost even if someone was desperate enough to try it.
Initial sight of the temple
Parking our bike, we set on foot on a narrow & slippery mountain path. We were walking deep into the hills with towering mountains looming over the track. A river ambled its way in the bottom of the gorge And quite suddenly, along a steep cliff, the temple was in view. The beige tones of the park turned into flashes of colours: orange, yellow and ember. These were strips of cloth fluttering in the breeze. These were tied by the pilgrims who visit the site in large number to pay homage to the Devi.
Just before the main mandir itself, an explosion of coloured flags reveal a smaller temple adorned with statues of Hindu gods. I stopped for a moment to enjoy the awe and wonder created by the delightful setting. Walls of the gorge were rising to several hundred feet. Below was a river with a trickle of water. The area was lush green with shrubs & trees. I spotted a white-cheeked bulbul singing in praise of God. Overhead, a lone eagle was hovering with its broad wings. Since it was getting late, Waheed asked me to move on and I came out of the reverie. A few steps ahead was the shrine, marked in red colors with sun and the moon. It is believed that Lord Ram created this mark with the strike of his arrow after his penance ended.
In a moment, we entered the shrine covered by castle like walls. At first site, it was disappointing. There no were imposing sculpture, no idol to speak of. But it was a great theatre, sculpted by nature with wind and water in a narrow canyon. It contained the holy relics covered by red clothes and vermilion. The name Hinglaj itself means Reddish, the colour of sindur or blood.
A Hindu family was visiting the temple at the same time. The women were in colorful clothes, with bindi on their foreheads and a yellow band tied around their heads. They were mediating with their hands raised and eyes closed. Some more devotees were praying in silence with folded hands and bare feet, reading hymns and religious scripts.
The pujari entertained us with tea & sweetmeats and handed over a coconut to each of us as a parting gift. We were moved by his prayer for our safety and peace in the country.
Where there is a will, there is a way
The temple is about 250 km from Karachi. One can travel to Aghor River Bridge, on the Makran Coastal Highway, by own car or by public transport (air-conditioned buses or van). Necessary information can be obtained from Mr. Veera Mal Dewani (0092-21-2624485), House No.100 Swami Narain temple estate, M.A Jinnah Road, Karachi, Pakistan.
On the roadside, just before the Aghor Bridge, there is a café operated by a friendly owner, Jeeva. Talk for a while to him to obtain latest information and the best way to go there depending whether you are solo or with a party.
The temple is about 15 km away connected by a metaled road. One can go by walking or hitch-hiking. The area is perfectly safe for a lone traveler. One can find some means of transport like motor bike from a nearby village, Aghor . But if someone starts on the road to Hinglaj, one can find some help in the village along the road.
To reach Aghor, buses are available at Inter-City Bus Terminal, Yusuf Goth, Baldia Town, Karachi (9221-5413837-8, 0322-2319855, 0313-2266992). The fare is Rs.400 one way. One can go by van with the same fare. It leaves from Kalari, Shah Abdul Latif Bhati Road, Juma Mosque, Karachi, Pakistan.