Hindu Temples in Foreign Lands : Shri Varun Dev Mandir – Karachi, Pakistan

 In Hinduism

Hindu Temples in Foreign Lands : Shri Varun Dev Mandir – Karachi, Pakistan

Starting again this week Religion World will take you on the global religious and spiritual trip that introduces to different hindu temples that are outside India. From Pashupathinath in Nepal to Sri Venkateswara in Pittsburg, USA; this feature will have them all week after week.

Indian spirituality is not just restricted to our borders, it has spread its wings across the globe and the evidence for these is the mere construction of temples at different places. From Australia to America, we find different Indian temples. Mind you, Indian temples don’t mean just Hindu temples we also have Sikh Gurudwaras that will also find a place in this weekly Feature of Religion. So let’s get on to spiritual globetrotting.

 This week Religion World is taking you to the tour of the 1000-year-old Varun Dev Temple in Pakistan which was once a very celebrated entity and is now lying in a dilapidated state due to the negligence of the government. The structure still appears grand from afar, while the leftover tile work and craftsmanship gives a sense of its glorious past.

Varun Dev Temple, Karachi

Hindu temples near rivers or the sea have a special religious significance attached to them. So does the Varun Dev temple at Manora, which is said to look out for the safety of fishermen at sea. After seeing almost complete ruin, it is being restored now, thanks to some timely funding.

Set at the shores of Arabian sea, in gratitude to Varuna, the Ocean god, it is one of its kind in the region. There are hardly any temples built specifically for worshipping Varuna. Manora, the narrow strip of land cutting into Arabian Sea is a fitting place to please the Ocean God.

Besides the temple, there are also two gurdwaras for the Sikh community and a church for Christians nearby. Manora was a multicultural island, with much ethnicity. The gurdwaras and church are still standing and open for prayers but the temple has been unlucky in this regard.

Legend

According to the legend, a temple was built in Manora in 16th century when it was still under the rule of Khan of Kalat. A wealthy hindu businessman purchased the land here and built a temple. The new temple is supposedly built at the same location in 1917, according to Pakistan Hindu Council. A British era picture dated somewhere around 1920 shows the new temple in excellent condition.

A memorial tablet installed at one of the outer wall describe in Sindhi that the temple was constructed by grieving sons of Seth Harchand Mal Dayal Das of Bhriya in the sacred memory of their father.

History

At present, this temple belongs to the Pakistan Hindu Council. Evacuee Trust Property Board has done nothing to protect or preserve this ancient heritage.

The temple’s decayed appearance reflects a lack of care, and its walls and rooms serve as a toilet for visitors to Manoras sandy beach. Humid winds are eating into the structure and the rich carvings on the walls of the mandir are slowly eroding.

In 2008, Temple caretaker Jivraj said that he had written to the Manora Cantonment Board (MCB) for the records of ownership, but was told no such document existed. An MCB official said that since the temple area was in the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Navy, the MCB could not do much.

The steps and front door letting one inside the temple courtyard is missing. In its place, the person guarding the place has piled up some construction material. The temple shikhara has also tilted to one side. There used to be a well in the courtyard that’s caved in. The stone work has corroded, the stucco work destroyed. The plinths also are in bad condition. A new structure, not a part of the original one, is blocking the temple view from one side.

This temple was sealed in 1992, after few people broke into it and destroyed the structure, following the Babri Masjid incident in Ayodhya, India. The last Pooja ritual held at this place was in the 1950s.

The temple, which also houses two smaller temples, the Jhoolay Laal and Shiv temples, has seen plenty of repairs since the 1970s but these have contributed more towards damaging the building than preserving it. Unskilled people had fixed tiles using concrete, which resulted in damaging the surface of the structure.

Temple renovated with funding from USA Ambassador

After many years, Varun Dev Mandir’s repair work has started and money for restoring it is being provided by the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.

Shri Varun Dev Mandir is the second US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) grant in Sindh and the 19th AFCP project in Pakistan. The Varun Dev temple is believed to be the only temple dedicated to the Lord of the Seas in Pakistan. Humid winds had damaged the temple’s structure and eroded intricate carvings that affected the integrity of the temple and its grounds. Under the $250,000 AFCP grant, SEAS completed the preservation work to international standards in record time.

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