Shiva In Umerkot

An ancient Shiv temple has the pride of place in Umerkot, birthplace of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, in Thar desert, Pakistan (Continued from the previous issue)

10/3/2017 6:39:49 PM
written By : Reema Abbasi Print

Silence returns to homes and streets for siesta hours. As Thar’s remarkable warmth and hospitality will not permit a guest to wander out alone, it’s an appropriate time to explore many jewels among the dunes.

The most prominent of these is the Shiv Mandir. It presides over the desert with a deluge of colour. 

Kirtan Peel carved on a rock directs travellers to it from the rough main road. 

In Rajasthani curvilinear design with a glittering mirror-worked matki as its khalasha, Shiv Mandir stands on a mound in saffron and red. The temple grounds are laid out on 88 acres and a crimson staircase leads to the top sanctum. The central sanctum sanctorum is large, decorated in intricately patterned stone terrazzo. Burgundy and dark saffron additions on the floor are relatively new and far from garish. 

On one side, in wild vegetation, lie two graves of ancient priests, which have seen centuries pass. 

More than a decade ago, the shrine’s foyer and the Shivling alcove were renovated in shiny ceramic beige and white tiles with blinding trails of mirror-work on walls and ceilings.The stone Shivling, which priests and locals attest was present when Emperor Humayun visited, sits on a lime-green platform; a brass snake is wrapped around it alongside a trishul and a Nandi (cow). Bequests of incense, milk, rose, white and lavender flowers from Golden Apple shrubs never run out. 

Locals vow that the lingam is self-created; that it grew on its own and village elders recorded its growth to thwart optical illusions.

A small Durga alcove resides by the gate, under a pepal canopy. The inside is saffron embellished with mosaic. A door with ‘Jiye Gurudev’ opens into a plot of samadhis in red and white on marble plinths; grander ones with saffron stupas belong to revered sadhus. 

One of the more decorated vaults is Bhagat Vinraj’s – Thar’s celebrated priest who resided here with three disciples who were murdered in 1979 on the third night of Navratri. 

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