City Faith – Shri Lakshmi Narayan Temple

The temple under the Native Jetty Bridge, the temple adjacent to Port Grand. The temple predates both of them. However it appears to be a misfit now. Awkward. A teardrop on area’s burgeoning real estate. It has survived years of greed and neglect but commercialization of the area has robbed it of its yesteryear grandeur.

Lakshmi Narayan is the only temple in Karachi that is situated on a creek. It makes it valuable to scheduled caste Hindus in Karachi who can’t afford to travel to Ganges in India or to the banks of Indus. Thus it is one temple where you could experience all the rituals involving immersions, from Navaratri to last rites of deceased. The temple was desecrated in 1993 as a response to Babri Masjid’s demolition. Temple’s layout hints that it has gone through many renovation each changing its original design. There are worn-out plaques which perhaps are the only surviving items from pre-partition era. One of them states that the foundation stone was laid by the President of The Hindu Charitable Bathing Ghat Association of Karachi on 8th October 1943. The Maharaj of the temple tells me that the temple has existed for more than 200 years. I am not aware of any mention of the temple in the memoirs of Karachi’s residents from 18th century but considering the number of affluent Hindu traders associated with the trading activities at the port it is highly likely that the temple must have existed in one shape or another. The temple is built after Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth.

The latest makeover has given it a gaudy look. There are tiles on the walls and there are tiles on the floor. There is a room on the left of the entrance where deities of Lakshmi and Vishnu are kept in the center. The room is dim lit and smells of incense. It has statues of Hanuman, Ram and Sita on one side. The central courtyard is where most of the rituals take place. I see a congregation of people getting ready for Karni – the last rites of deceased. I walk past them to another tiny room which has shivling in the center and a huge statue of Hanuman. There are other smaller statues including that of Mahadev, Ginesh and Kali. I walk out and head to the water front. China creek’s water is perhaps the most polluted in Karachi. Plastic bags have accumulated on the shore and the devotees have to find their way through garbage before they can take a dip in water. As I scan the scene, few people climb down carrying a small wooden temple which Hindus setup in their houses. They negotiate with a kid who has made a makeshift boat – a swimming pool float actually- which he is maneuvering with plastic plates. They negotiate and after some haggling, the kid carries the wooden temple into deeper water and sets it away. Meanwhile mourners come down to the pier and circle the gentlemen draped in white mourning clothes. He is holding on to the ashes as others negotiate for a larger boat. Apparently he is brother of the deceased.

I walk past to the entrance. People from the neighborhood have setup tent under an old peepal tree where almost five hundred people will gather for lunch shortly.

We can invest million in creating new public spaces in this city but can we spare some of it for ones which are already doing this job?





Categories: City Faith, City Landmarks

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