As many as 200 Hindu pilgrims, most of them from India, were overwhelmed with emotions as they prayed at the 100-year-old renovated Maharaja Paramhans Ji temple in Pakistan on Sunday amidst tight security, a year after the temple was demolished by a mob belonging to a radical Islamist party.
The delegation of Hindus -- nearly 200 from India, 15 from Dubai and the rest from the US and other Gulf states -- performed religious rituals at a sacred shrine of the temple in the restive northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The temple and samadhi of Paramhans Ji in Karak district's Teri village of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa underwent extensive repair last year after it was demolished by an angry mob in 2020, an incident that was condemned globally.
The Indian pilgrims crossed over through the Wagah Border near Lahore, and were escorted to the temple by armed personnel.
The pilgrims were overwhelmed with emotions as they praised the security as well as other arrangements, the report said.
"We felt as if we had entered paradise when we reached the temple," said Varona Malohtra, a pilgrim from New Delhi.
She said that she was fortunate enough to visit this samadhi and she felt so much spiritual peace at such a holy place.
The visibly emotional pilgrim hoped that in future, pilgrims from both India and Pakistan would be visiting holy sites situated in both the countries.
"Because of the hospitality extended to us in Pakistan and specially in this province, we felt ourselves at home," Malohtra said.
Another pilgrim, Aishwar Das, said around 200 of the pilgrims had come from India of which 15 were from New Delhi.
He said that they arrived at the temple on Saturday and spent the night there. He hoped that such visits between the two countries would continue in future.
The state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported that the Karak police had made tight security arrangements on the occasion.
The visit of the Indian pilgrims to Pakistan came amid strain in ties between the two countries over the Kashmir issue as well as cross-border terrorism.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmaker and patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani said the government of Pakistan was providing full support to promoting religious tourism in the country.
He said that the arrival of Hindu pilgrims from India at Teri Samadhi would help in building confidence between the two countries.
He said that the pilgrims expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements.
The Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj is considered sacred by the Hindu community in different parts of the country as well as abroad. He died at Teri village in 1919.
Some members of the radical Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl had vandalised the samadhi on December 30, 2020. The temple had also been demolished in 1997.
The provincial government renovated it after Rs 3.3 crore was recovered from the JUI-F mob.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed last year visited the shrine on the occasion of Diwali and attended the ceremonies.