Pilgrim at Hinglaj Mandir / by Dimitra Taslim

Legend has it that Lord Vishnu slashed the body of Sati into 52 pieces to appease Lord Shiva. Sati’s head is believed to have fallen at Hinglaj - making it a crucial site for Hindu pilgrims, and the most important of the 52 Shakti Peethas.

Tucked away in the Pakistani equivalent of the Grand Canyon, Hinglaj Mandir is located in Balochistan, 250 km north-west of Karachi. Much to the dismay of locals, Balochistan has evolved into a hotbed for religious extremists. But Hinglaj endures within this nucleus of dogmatism. A shining beacon of racial tolerance, it stands as proof of the Baloch Muslims’ religious secularity towards Hindu pilgrims. The Muslims help to clean the praying areas, leaving flowers behind and ushering lost pilgrims.

The region has been fighting for separation from Pakistan since the division of Hindustan, with alleged help from India. Besides the Baloch insurgency, the region also houses the Afghan Taliban and countless Indian spooks - yet Hinglaj, although small, preserves its sanity.