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Video: Karachi before the British, its mandirs and mazaars

City has many ancient stories to tell

SAMAA | - Posted: Jul 17, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 week ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Jul 17, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 week ago
Mandirs and mazaars, a history of Karachi before the British by Arif Hasan. Image: SAMAA Digital

Have you ever wondered what Karachi was like long before the British? Sometimes it feels as if Karachi’s history started with them because so many of the buildings from that time still stand. But in fact, the city has many more ancient stories to tell. For if you consider the history of its mazaars and mandirs, you will be taken back through the centuries.

Mahadev ka Mandir in Clifton

In Clifton, at Bagh Ibn-e-Qasim is a mandir called Mahadev ka Mandir in the caves below Jehangir Kothari Parade, now obscured by the Bahria underpass. In Hindu tradition, this mandir is mentioned in the Mahabharata, and if this is indeed correct, then that dates this temple to 800 years before Christ (BC).

There are many legends associated with this mandir. One story is that after Lord Shiv created the world, he was very tired and he came to these caves to rest. And now, every year [on Shivratri, the day of his marriage with goddess Parvati], he comes in the form of a snake, roams around the mandir, and checks to see if all is in order. Visitors have claimed that they have seen such a snake, a “rather large” one, moving between the altars.
This mandir is right next to the sea, in a deep cave and at one point in time seawater used to reach it during high tide. And so, according to tradition, this mandir and Shiv’s presence protects Karachi from cyclones, storms and destruction.

There is a sweet water spring inside the mandir as well but till today we have not been able to find its source and why the water never runs out.
This mandir is geographically and traditionally closely related to Ghazi Abdullah Shah’s mazaar which is located right next door on a hill near the mandir. The mandir is in a cave and the mazaar on a hill.

Even the mazaar has a spring and this is the very same spring that ends at the Mahadev mandir. And the traditions are exactly the same: it is believed that Ghazi Abdullah Shah protects Karachi from storms and destruction.

Ram Bagh and Mahadev mandir

There is also a relationship between the Mahadev mandir and the area known as Ram Bagh (now called Arambagh).

Arambagh was, according to ancient legend, that garden where Ram and Sita spent a night. They were on their way to Hinglaj on yatra and rested for a night. This legend also says that this is why Hindu pilgrims headed to Hinglaj in Balochistan would arrive by boat from India’s coastal areas of Dwarka, Surat, Maharashtra and Gujrat, and disembark at Gizri Bundar in Karachi. From Gizri Bundar the pilgrims would walk to the temple of Mahadev, from there to Ram Bagh, where some of them would spend a night, and then they would make the onwards journey by foot to Hinglaj. The Gizri harbour is where there was a Carlton Hotel and yacht club. 

Ram Bagh became Aram Bagh over time and a mosque was built there but a small mandir still stands there today.

Manghopir

Hazrat Haji Shaikh Sultan Mangho Pir’s original name was Kamaluddin. He migrated to Sindh in the 13th century and settled in the beautiful valley now known as Manghopir. Whoever came to Karachi would always go to Manghopir for its sulphur springs were legendary for their healing properties. Legend has it that Pir Mangho came there and struck the ground with his cane from which the springs sprang forth. It is also believed that these springs were miraculously created by Shahbaz Qalandar who visited the site when he paid a visit to Kamaluddin.

Yusuf Shah

Another important shrine is that of Hazrat Yusuf Shah Ghazi. He was the brother of Ghazi Abdullah Shah, who is now the de facto patron saint of Karachi. Yusuf Shah is buried in Manora and for reasons that are not clear, he is held in great veneration by the fisherfolk of Sindh who visit his tomb in large numbers, by land and sea, during his urs which takes place from 16th-18th Rabiul Awwal. 

Every year thousands of boats come there for his urs in a grand mela.

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