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Hindu Temple in Punjab Province of Pakistan
Pakistan is the obverse of India and both nations have roots that are common. The partition of 1947 created the state of Pakistan with Islam as the state religion.Before partition, a sizable population of Hindus lived in Pakistan. Census figures bring out at that time the population of Hindus in Pakistan was 30%. However systematic persecution after the partition of India led to mass emigration out of Pakistan and now the population of Hindus is just about 2%.
Hindus having lived for centuries in Pakistan have had a rich cultural heritage of temples and holy places. However many of the great Hindu temples went into decay and many were razed to earth by the Muslim government.
The Temple at Katasraj
A constitution was framed by ZA Bhutto in 1972. In this the minorities were afforded protection. Unfortunately, Bhutto was hanged by Zia ul Haq, but the constitution survived. In a way, the protection afforded to minorities in Pakistan was the brainchild of Jinnah, who had stated that though would be a Muslim state, yet all minorities would have equal rights.
One of the famous temples that survived the ravages of partition is the Katasraj Temple in Chakwal district of Punjab. This temple was renovated in 2005 by the Pakistan government at a cost of 51.06 million rupees. This temple dates back to the Mahabharata era and is close to 4000 years old.
Legends and the Temple Now
The temple traces its ancestry to ancient times. Some research has been done and there is a chance that it may be 4000 years old.The temple has a sacred pond that is supposed to have been created when the supreme Hindu God Shiva’s wife Sati died, he cried profusely. Tears from his eyes fell on earth and two ponds were formed. One of the ponds was formed at Chakwal and the second at Pushkar in Rajasthan. Legend also relates that the Pandavas spent 4 years of their exile of 14 years at this place. Yudhishtra the eldest brother of the Pandavas also fought the Yakshas at this pond, the temple and pond are thus very Holy for Hindus and the Pakistan government decided to renovate the temple complex.
The pond by itself is a beauty and its water is considered sacred by Hindus. Pilgrims take a dip in the pond to cleanse them of their ills and misdeeds.
The Katasraj temples are a set of 7 temples. Most of them are of recent construction but excavations have revealed swords and axes that are similar to the Harappa civilization and this point to the origin of the temples around 4000-5000 BC. These are some of the oldest Hindu temples in the world. After1947, the temples went into a dilapidated condition for lack of repairs.
The temples for a long period after 1947 were not repaired. In 2005, the Pakistan government woke up to its potential as a tourist site and repair of the temples was sanctioned. There was also a demand from Hindus to repair the temple complex.
The wheels for repair were set in motion and some portions of the temples have been restored, but a lot more remains to be done.There is a possibility, that the temple could be declared a world heritage site, but many die-hard Islamic followers oppose this.
Problems and Temple
As already mentioned the beauty of this Shiva temple is the pond. This a clean and clear oasis. The pond draws its water from the ground and is a god given gift. But in 2012 the Hindu Council of Pakistan observed that the level in the pool has gone down. A study revealed that this was due to some cement factories that have come up in this area. These factories have been using the groundwater and as such the level in the pond is going down. The matter has been referred to the Pakistan Government. who have yet to decide on the issue. The Hindu Council has filed a case in court and the matter is pending.
This temple complex is maintained by the Pakistan government, a Muslim state. This is in sharp contrast to some other Muslim countries who do not allow temples and churches to exist and usually raze then to the ground. The repair of the temple which was also visited by LK Advani the Indian deputy Prime Minister is a positive step. It shows that unlike other extremists Muslim organization, Pakistan does give a glimmer of hope.