Pakistani visas for Indian pilgrims to visit Shadani Darbar: What is this 18th-Century shrine?

As many as 100 pilgrims from India arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday (22 November) to attend the 314th birth anniversary celebrations of Hindu saint Shiv Avtari Satguru Sant Shadaram Sahib, in Sindh province.

A day earlier, Pakistan had announced it has issued 100 visas to Indian pilgrims seeking to visit Shadani Darbar in Hayat Pitafi.

The pilgrims, who are in Pakistan from 22 November to 3 December, will also visit other holy places in Sukkur, Dherki and Nankana Sahib.

Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) spokesperson Amir Hashmi confirmed the arrival of Indian pilgrims to PTI. “Amid high security they left for Shadani Darbar, Hayat Patafi, Mirpur Khas of Sindh province for yatra,” he said.

The main celebrations will be held on 23 and 24 November, Hashmi added.

Under the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, pilgrims from both nations are granted visas to travel to certain shrines across the border every year.

What is the Shadani Darbar in Pakistan and what is its significance? Which shrines can be visited under Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974? Let’s take a closer look.

What is the Shadani Darbar?

More than 300 years old, Shadani Darbar is arguably the biggest Hindu temple in Pakistan’s Sindh province.

Located in Hayat Pitafi, a small town in the Ghotki district, it was founded in 1786 by Sant Shadaram Sahib.

Pakistani visas for Indian pilgrims to visit Shadani Darbar What is this 18thCentury shrine

Shadani Darbar was founded in 1786 by Sant Shadaram Sahib. Wikimedia Commons

Born in 1708 in Lahore, Shadaram Sahib was a Hindu saint. He is believed to be the descendant of Lord Ram’s son, Lav. The saint is also considered an avatar of Lord Shiva, says the Shadani Darbar’s website.

History and significance of Shadani Darbar

Shadani Darbar is a sacred shrine for Hindu devotees across the globe.

Shadaram Sahib, who was “deeply involved in the spiritual welfare of people”, had travelled to holy places in India including Haridwar, Yamunotri, Gangotri, Amarnath, Prayag, Ayodhya, Kashi, and Nepal’s Pashupatinath Temple at the age of 20, says the website.

Shadaram Sahib reached Mathelo, the capital of Sindh during the reign of Raja Nand, in 1768, where he built a Shiv temple and “enlightened the sacred holy fire (Dhuni Sahib),” the website further states.

Pakistani visas for Indian pilgrims to visit Shadani Darbar What is this 18thCentury shrine

Satguru Sant Shadaram Sahib founded Shadani Darbar in 1786. -Image Courtesy: Shadani Darbars

Sometime later he left his temple in Mathelo village along with his devotees and “settled nearest another holy village in Hayat Pitafi and laid the foundation of Shadani Darbar,” the website adds.

A sacred well was dug there and the ‘holy fire’ Dhuni Sahib enlightened, it says.

It is also believed that anyone who takes the blessings of this Dhuni Sahib and drinks the sacred water of the well gets relieved of their “sufferings and misfortunes”.

To this date, agni pooja (worshipping the fire) is organised during the yearly celebrations at Shadani Darbar. Mass weddings are also held where well-off devotees provide gifts to financially vulnerable couples, as per Indian Express.

The recitation of Bhagavad Gita and Guru Granth Sahib will also take place during the celebrations this year, reports PTI.

Kaka Kailash Jot, part of the Shadani Darbar team who welcomed the Indian pilgrims, told Indian Express that his family has been the disciples of Shadani Darbar for four generations.
“I was born in Hayat Pitafi. My father has written several books about Darbar’s history. This temple has always attracted a large number of devotees, including Muslims. Sindh has a 1,000-year-old history of religions flourishing and being respected here,” he informed.

Who are Gaddisars?

After Sant Shadaram, the darbar has had eight more ‘gaddisars’, or heads. As per the temple’s website, Dr Yudhister Lal is the ninth peethdeeshwar (present gaddisar).

Indian Express reported that Lal primarily lives in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur.

Among the nine gaddisars, only the fifth was a woman named Mata Sahib Hassi Devi, who became the head in 1852.

The second head to take over the ‘gaddi’ after Sant Shadaram was Sant Tulsidas Sahib. He left the post to his son, Sant Takhatlal Sahib, who became the third gaddisar.

Sant Tansukhram Sahib was the fourth gaddisar, Sant Manglaram Sahib was the sixth, Sant Rajaram Sahib the seventh and Sant Gobindram sahib was the eighth to take over the post.

1974 Pakistan-India Protocol

Under the protocol, pilgrims from both sides are allowed to travel to the other country to visit religious shrines without having to undergo the required immigration process, reports Indian Express.

These devotees, who are given visitor visas, can only travel in groups and the number of these groups is fixed annually.

In India, five shrines including Ajmer’s Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Hazrat Amir Khusro in Delhi, Hazrat Mujaddid Alf Sani in Sirhind Sharif, Punjab and Hazrat Khwaja Alauddin Ali Ahmed Sabir in Kaliyar Sharif are covered under the protocol.

The 15 shrines in Pakistan that come under the protocols are Gurudwara Shri Nankana Sahib and Gurudwara Shri Panja Sahib in Rawalpindi; Samadhi of Maharaj Ranjit Singh, Shrine of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh, Gurudwara Shri Dera Sahib, Gurudwara Janam Asthan, Gurudwara Deewan Khana, Gurudwara Shaheed Ganj, Singhanian, Gurudwara Bhai Tara Singh, Gurudwara of Sixth Guru, Mozang, Birthplace of Shri Guru Ram Das, Gurudwara Cheveen Padshahi, Mozang and Shrine at Sree Katasraj in Lahore; Shadani Darbar in Sindh’s Hyat Pitafi as well as Sadhu Bela in Khanpur and Mirpur Mathelo (Sindh).

In January this year, the Indian government had proposed opening more religious shrines for pilgrims from both sides. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said India has a “positive approach on this matter and is willing to engage the Pakistani side”, Times of India reported.

With inputs from agencies

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