Hinduism Hinduism in Pakistan
by
Jürgen Schaflechner
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0220

Introduction

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country in western South Asia. In addition to Hindus, other non-Muslim groups in Pakistan include Christians, Baha’is, Sikhs, Parsis, and Buddhists. The Ahmadiyya community, an Islamic sect originating in the 19th century around Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is also considered a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan. Hindus comprise around 1.6–2.9 percent of Pakistan’s overall population, and 90 percent of them live in the province of Sindh. The study of Hinduism in Pakistan, therefore, needs to take the sociopolitical and economic particularities of Sindh into account. Both in Sindh and Pakistan, Hinduism is as complex as in other parts of the world. Hindus, especially in rural areas, follow local Sufi pīrs (Urdu, “spiritual guides”) and adhere to the 14th-century saint Ramdevji, whose main temple is in the Sindhi city of Thando Allah Yar. Many urban Hindu youths in Pakistan participate in the Westernized ISKCON society. Some Hindus worship Mother Goddesses as clan or family patrons, whom, at times, they appease with animal blood sacrifices. Others (e.g., Nanakpanthis) follow the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib or the holy book of the Sikhs. This diversity challenges the taxonomies that separate Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam as distinct religions. It also complicates the relationship between Hinduism in Pakistan and the Islamic Republic’s nationalism. This relationship has its roots in the two-nation theory (Urdu, do qaumī naz̤ariyah), which claims that Muslims and Hindus are two distinct nations that can only thrive through geopolitical separation—an idea that arguably led to Partition in 1947. Pakistani historiography often represents the two-nation theory as a necessary Muslim reaction to Hindu suppression and dominance during the period of British rule. After Pakistan’s creation in 1947 (and especially after wars with India in 1965 and 1971), Hindus became increasingly perceived and portrayed as a national threat. While frequently free to practice their faith, the historical predicament of the two-nation theory impacts the everyday lives of Hindus in Pakistan on many different levels.

General Overviews

There is little academic attention directed toward Hinduism in Pakistan, and no comprehensive overview. Aside from general introductions into Pakistan’s religious minorities, such as Ispahani 2015, there are also a variety of publications that touch upon the issue. These works fall into five categories: Hindu culture and traditions, Hindus and the Pakistani nation-state, history of pre-Partition Sindh, vernacular literature on Sindh, and Hindu rituals at Hinglaj Devi. These categories are not hard and fast, but instead aim to structure the available research heuristically. The bibliographies that accompany these categories mainly consist of printed works, but in cases without published materials, manuscripts are cited.

  • Ispahani, Farahnaz. Purifying the Land of the Pure. New Delhi: HarperCollins, 2015.

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    This book is a historical analysis of Pakistan’s minorities. While it does not provide a separate chapter on the country’s Hindus, it nevertheless offers essential information for understanding the community’s legal, political, and cultural challenges today.

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