The Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj, the most sacred place for the Advait Mat movement, was destroyed by supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.
by Massimo Introvigne
Advait Mat, or Paramhans Advait Mat, is an important Hindu religious movement functioning as a network of more than 300 ashrams, both in India and internationally. Its most sacred shrine is the Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj in the village of Teri, in what was once called the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan and now is known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There, the founder of the tradition, Sri Paramhans Swami Advaitanand Ji Maraji (1846–1919), died on July 9, 1919. He was not cremated, but buried in Teri.
A shrine was erected around his grave, and became a popular pilgrimage site, which was partially demolished after Partition and finally dismantled in 1997. Later, the area was occupied by a local influential Muslim cleric called Mufti Iftikharuddin.
Long legal battles followed, and finally the Supreme Court of Pakistan decided in 2014 that the land belongs to the Hindu community, and the shrine should be rebuilt. The provincial government only erected boundary walls to delimit the area, and carried out some simple additional work to facilitate the access of pilgrims. In 2015, the Supreme Court stated that this was not the reconstruction it had called for, and ordered that a famous architect, Kamil Khan, should be hired for reconstructing the temple.
Thanks to Khan’s efforts, a beautiful temple was inaugurated in 2017, but radical Muslims protested that it came to occupy a larger area than the original 1919 construction.
On December 30, a mob of some 1,500 radical Muslims, allegedly members of the radical religious party Jamiat Ulema-e Islam, attacked the temple and set in on fire. 350 of them were identified by the police, and 30 were arrested on December 31.
The attack was condemned by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, who announced an investigation, and several top Muslim politicians. On January 1, after a formal protest by India, the provincial government stated it will fund the reconstruction of the temple. The leaders of the Hindu minority are, however, skeptical, quoting several precedents, that those responsible for violence against the Hindus will be really brought to justice.