Inside Narayanpura – Pakistan’s Biggest Minorities Compound
“Karachi, it is said, is a city which cradles it’s citizens like a mother carrying
her children – loving all equally, sans discrimination.”
In the neighborhood of Karachi's Ranchore Lines, there lies a small sub continent of diverse people, colors and faiths, Narayanpura, a place with a very distinct feel and mesmerizing culture to it which sets it apart as an example for the world in religious harmony and strong community bonds.
Narayanpura, although being a "low-income settlement", is considered to be the biggest minority compound of Pakistan consisting of 15,000 people from different religions living in harmony despite their differences.
Situated streets away from each other, are three Hindu temples, two Christian churches and a Sikh gurdwara in this area, providing a beautiful diverse sight rarely seen in the otherwise Muslim-majority country.
Narayanpura has been
home to Sikhs, Christians
and Hindus since around
Narayanpura was established in 1824 by a Hindu activist named Narayandas. Today, it houses hundreds of thousands of workers of Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) employed in janitorial services – a job that seems to be unofficially reserved for the "poor" minorities of the country. The nature of these jobs has ended up giving the unfortunate name "Bhangi Para" to the area by many locals.
Hindus, Christians and Sikhs have been living next to each other for centuries, celebrating each other’s festival as their own. During Christmas, Holi and Besakhi, everyone participates in the celebrations regardless of their faith.
EPITOME OF RELIGIOUS HARMONY
In Pakistan, due to dominant religious pressure groups the masses are mostly conservative. But here, you have complete freedom to practice your customs and celebrate your events no matter from which belief system you are.
Children of Hindus, Christians & Sikhs are brought up together, they play together in the same streets. No hatred is implanted on the basis of their beliefs. They all respect each other's beliefs.
STORIES OF LOVE AND FAITH
"TILL DEATH DO US PART"
The entire neighborhood of Narayanpura lives like a strongly knit family. They are with each other in times of health, wealth, sickness and happiness.
I saw the spirit of their lively events at one of the weddings I attended during my time in Narayanpura.
It was not an event of just one family; it was an event all the neighbors fully participated. Since the houses are too small to accommodate all the guests, the events are set up in tents on the streets with bright colors popping up from every corner.
The men of the locality help in setting up all the arrangements, while the ladies gather days prior to the event to sing songs and enjoy the festivities.
Everyone is invited – whether Hindu, Christian, Sikh or Muslim.
WHERE STREETS ARE HOMES
Being in and around Narayanpura becomes an interesting experience because of the distinct vibes its streets emanate. Here, the streets are more than just streets; they are a part of peoples’ lives.
You’ll see people sleeping on the streets, women cooking food and washing dishes, children playing and the elderly gossiping on their charpoys.
The streets are lined with coloured pieces of clothing all hung out to dry.