Sadh Belo temple: An abode of Udasipanth in Sindh


The beautiful marble balconies of Sadh Belo.—All photos by the author

The monks’ cells lie empty with cobwebs and dust, but the white marble of this Udasi shrine glitters still.

Through arch of snowy marble
A throng of people pours
To worship in the temple

With shimmering silver doors

O Man! What pious spot is this?
Sadh Belo…Sadh Belo…

With saints and temples white –
The islet of delight

—Elsa Kazi

Sadh Belo — whenever I heard the name, it felt like an ancient incantation, a wave on water, a ripple caressing the smooth surface of the Indus.

I came across this beautiful temple complex while writing on Udasipanth in Sindh. Whenever I went to an Udasi establishment and interviewed someone there, people would ask, Have you been to Sadh Belo?

And after discovering I haven’t, they would exclaim, But that is exactly why you must visit it, because that is the most important centre of Udasis in Sindh.

So, like magnet pulled by metal, I found myself drawn to it. That’s how my longing to see that famed place with my own eyes grew immensely, but it took me some time before I could materialise that dream.

The dream finally came true one fine morning in late spring 2017. Accompanied by one of my students, I travelled to Khairpur and stayed at Shah Abdul Latif University Khairpur’s guest house.

The very next morning, we went to visit the temple.

A few men were sitting under a makeshift shelter, two or three boats were moored to the platform and right in front stood the majestic white marbled and buff-sandstone building of the Sadh Belo.

The sun was still low and a gentle breeze was setting the waves in motion.

We sat in a boat; the fishermen had oars in hands, their sweat-soaked dresses reminded me of the indigenous inhabitants of the Indus valley.

Sitting there, we could see the Lansdowne Bridge and its graceful arches on one side, and the island shrine of Zinda Pir Khwaja Khizr on the other side.

Sadh Belo is an Udasi tirath (pilgrimage) founded by Baba Bankhandi, an Udasi missionary and who came from Nepal to settle in Sukkur in 1823.

Udasipanth is a religious tradition that was founded by Sri Chand (1494-?), the elder son of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), founder of the Sikh faith.

The Udasis are ascetics, they do not possess any property and spend their life disciplined by yoga, meditation and reciting the prescribed texts.

The island was just a clump of trees when Bankhandi first arrived there, but he liked the place so much that he chose it as a place to set up his dhuni (sacred fire).

Watching the sun setting over Sadh Belo, Iqbal’s verse came to my mind:

Awwal-o-akhir fana, batin-o zahir fana
Naqsh-e kuhan ho kay nau, manzil-e akhir fana

Annihilation is the end of all beginnings; annihilation is the end of all ends
Extinction, the fate of everything, hidden or manifest, old or new

Dawn for more

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