Their windscreens decked out with prayers such as ‘Allah nigehbaan’ and ‘Mashallah’, the buses travel for hours along highways, curving along mountains and crawling over narrow bridges under the scorching sun. The destination is Sri Maata Hinglaj, also known as Nani Mandir.
Colourful saris and other clothing dry on rocks as several devotees take a dip in the muddy river a couple of kilometres short of the temple. “It is clean for them,” smiles Ali Sher, the driver of one of the buses overloaded with Hindu pilgrims. “We started our bus journey from Tando Mohammad Khan. On the way we stopped at all the temples that fell on our way through Keenjhar, Karachi and the mud volcano a few kilometres away from here. This is like Haj for Hindus and stopping at the different temples along the way is like Umrah for them,” he says.
About the Islamic inscriptions on the buses, bus conductor Abdul Raheen says, “We have our writings here, they have their red and orange triangular flags. We don’t mind that. They don’t mind this.”
“All the pilgrims are requested to take full care of the sanctity of Maata Mandir. Please abstain from creating nuisance on the premises. Eating any kind of meat and fish is prohibited. Maata Mandir is open only for the purpose of paying homage to Maata. Don’t come here for picnicking. Please don’t litter, take special care to keep this place clean. Please cover your head when entering Maata Mandir,” reads an inscription on the yellow board next to the mustard and light blue gates left open at this time of year. There are four temples inside, the biggest of which is Nani Mandir.