Pakistan hosts number of religious places especially the shrines of Suffis and saints along with rich historical heritage and diverse cultures. The mosques built in Mughal Era stand out for their architectural beauty along with serving as a symbol of our cultural heritage. The Wazir Khan mosque in Lahore, the Shahi mosque in Chiniot is among the symbols of rich culture. Pakistan has been very important as land in the past for being the host land of the great civilization which rose from the Indus Valley.
Pakistan is not rich in Islamic heritage but also had hosted other religions’ heritage prominent among them is Mahayana Buddhism which developed on this land. Guru Nanak also established Sikh religion which initiated from this land in the past. Afterwards Pakistan was acquired with the purpose to serve as homeland of the Muslims of the south Asia. The time following the advent of Islam rich culture of the south Asian region along with the culture of other regions which the people coming to Mughal Dynasty brought with themselves from Arabia, Turkey and other regions made its impact on the development of the infrastructure on this land. Other religious groups include the Kalash settled in Chitral near the Afghan border who in essence are animist. Kalash culture is quiet old they are settled in the region from hundreds of years. Their Festivals are quiet famous for their colors, singing and dancing in the whole world according to experts their festivals are more connected to the early European cultures and the community is believed to have Albanian roots.
Spiritual tourism has been active in this region for Islamic religion along with Sikhism, Buddhism and Hinduism which have their emotional and deep rooted connection with this Land regarding their own Faith. Let us have a look at religious tourists’ places and their importance in their Faith.
Islam is the religion of majority of population of Pakistan. Islam has an important and significant role in Pakistanis’ lives. The society and culture of Pakistan itself is deeply rooted into the Islamic teachings and divine rulings which guarantee chastity of the society as a whole. The call to worship five times a day is one of the important factors establishing complete submission to ALLAH, people leave their work their shops and everything and leave for mosques on the call and women pray while staying at homes. Special attention is paid on the veil of Women in the society and women are respected as a result of following the Islamic code of conduct. Women when leave home are completely covered in the Islamic veil prescribed for them, observing the veil by women is believed to be the solution to the moral problems a society may face. Women are regarded as honor of the whole family in the Pakistani society. Most of the aspects of the culture of Pakistani society portrays their devotion and passion towards their Faith. Pakistanis are believed to have string emotional bonding with their Faith. Pakistan is also known as the land of saints. Saints are actually those Holly people who specify their purpose of their lives to attain nearness to ALLAH by focusing on constant mediations and prayers. Saints are believed to have pure hearts and souls. It is believed that in early times the saints actually came to South Asian region from Persia and Arabia with the aim to preach love, brotherhood and peace amongst mankind.
The shrine of the saints who spent their lives and passed away while living on this land are counted among big landmarks and have importance for the locals as the shrines are regarded with honor and respect. On the occasions of birth and death anniversary of the saints their shrines host special gatherings along with fairs which range from trade to sports competition. The Mystical folk songs also known as ‘Qawwali’ is also known originally to be brought into the region by these saints who also wrote the music for folk songs which in essence preached Love of ALLAH.
It is believed that Guru Nanak who is the founder of Sikh religion was born in a village near Lahore. He founded Sikhism by combining some elements of Islam and Hinduism to shape the new ideas of his which ultimately resulted in a new religion that is Sikhism. In the past they used to control the whole Punjab (India’s’ part and Pakistan’s part too) from their temporal Capital which Lahore was designated originally. Whereas they marked Amritsar (Which is in India now) as their religious capital. After the partition of the subcontinent the Majority moved to India with only a small group left behind in Pakistan. The majority in India now demands separate state of their own. Gurdwara Panja Sahib which located in Hasan Abdal near Rawalpindi is known to be the pilgrimage center for the Sikh Community.
The Sikh gather at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in the month of April every year from around the world for the annual ‘Baisakhi ‘festival. The Gurdwara itself shows the Sikh architecture along with their cultural heritage. Government of Pakistan not only allows Sikh community to commemorate their events but also fully support them as a minority and makes sure that the rights of the minorities are not violated. Thousands of Pilgrims come every year from India and Government of Pakistan helps them in every regard and treat them with respect and honor. The shrines which are sacred places for the Sikh Community are also maintained by the Government of Pakistan.
Buddhism interacted with the Hellenistic Greece when Alexander The Great conquered The south in the year 326 BC, the areas conquered included that of Indus River along Jhelum river up to the River Beas hence making a connection of Greece with India which is known to be the origin of Buddhism. At that time Alexander laid the foundation of many cities along with the route which connected the Central Asia with the South Asia. Locations at the Khyber pass, Gandhara along with Punjab were part of the area which served as the host to the settlements and the cities. For centuries the Greek kept on interacting with Buddhists in the South till the 5th Century when the interaction came to an end consequently as the area got invaded by the ‘White Hans’ as the time passed by Islam also became famous in the region. Pakistan is known as the ground where people from different nationalities and cultures meet as a result cultural values are exchanged. The Valley near Peshawar named as Gandhara Valley is one the valleys that have hosted the Buddhist faith. Many architectural sites are reserved and maintained by different departments of The Government.
Pakistan has been important host for Hindus too as before partition the Hindus used to live in a large numbers. In 1947 at the time of partition about 4.4 million people migrated to India which includes the number of Sikh Community too. According to the censes majority of the Hindu inhabitants are living in Sindh. The areas which were under the influence of Hindus later on came under the Muslims so the Hindus left the area in large numbers at that time too.