It always was a puzzle the name of Lahore’s Temple Road. The theories were manifold, all of them unsatisfactory to say the least. What all of us were missing was the obvious. To test a theory one has to walk to the place, check the record and recheck the source.
So it was with Temple Road. The story that emerged was fascinating, and needs to be told. My search began while reading about the sixth Sikh guru Hargobind, known among Sikhs as ‘Chatti Badshahi’ -- the Sixth King.
The man who gave the Sikhs their militant stance, he was a great friend of the Sufi sage Mian Mir. He went on to build the Akhal Takht at Amritsar.
I have always been fascinated by the fifth guru Arjun, who died, or was killed, in Lahore during the reign of Shah Jehan who had imprisoned him. The story is well known as to how Arjun before dying dived into the River Ravi never to return. They claim he will return one day. The place where he dived is a well now in the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh opposite the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque.
But the story of Mata Kaulan comes in here. I was reading a description of Lahore by an East India Company clerk dated 1849, who mentioned the dirt road ‘goods train route’ from Mochi Gate through Gowalmandi that ran through towards Mozang Chungi and then on to Ichhra. Surely this was the road that later was to become Hall Road and across The Mall it was to become Temple Road.
The letter mentions a “magnificent temple of the Chatti Badshahi” on this dirt road which was built by Maharajah Ranjit Singh, where exists the tree where Guru Hargobind tied his horse. I found further mention of this temple and the tree and Hargobind in the excellent work of Max Arthur MacAnliff, for he mentions this as “the temple road”.
First the story of Mata Kaulan of Temple Road. Mind you in Amritsar there is a Gurdwara Mata Kaulan and then there is the all-important Sarovar Kaulsar, which provides sacred water to all Sikhs in the Harminder Sahib.
It is claimed that a gent by the name of Qazi Rustam Khan kidnapped, or purchased a Hindu girl and converted her to Islam. Her name was Kaulan, the fearless.
She was sent to Sain Mian Mir for religious instruction, who after a few sessions informed Rustam Khan that Kaulan was a very special and pure girl, and that she had a special affection for the Almighty that is above any religious sect or order.
I would not be surprised that Rustam Khan thought that the girl needed to be locked up. Sikh sources claim she was tortured and misused. But she professed openly that she was a disciple of Guru Hargobind, and sent him her story of torture and mistreatment, who legend has it first consulted Hazrat Mian Mir.
The guru came to the house on Temple Road and tied his horse to a nearby tree. That tree still exists and has a special place in Sikh history. His sole condition to assist her, as was that of Mian Mir, was that the Guru would not rescue her from inside the house of Rustam Khan, but that she must come to him herself.
So Kaulan overcame that by escaping from the vent window of the house of Rustam Khan and came to the guru, who removed her to Amritsar. The guru consulted Hazrat Mian Mir twice, who agreed that she was a special and pious person.
At Amritsar she lived, prayed, and established a name in Sikh history. When she was about to die, she called Guru Hargobind and informed him of the coming event of her departure. The guru agreed that she had just 24 hours left, and that she must keep on seeking the Almighty’s blessing. On that special note she met her end.
The role of Mata Kaulan is very special in Sikh history. Maharajah Ranjit Singh built an excellent huge temple at the place where the escape took place, and the tree where the guru tied his horse still exists.
The gurdwara is known as Gurdwara Chatti Badshahi. On Friday I went to visit the place and was amazed that I must have passed this huge temple hundreds of times over the last 50 years or so and never noticed it. It is a simple structure and needs special attention to recreate the magnificence that once was.
Located just 200 yards from the Mozang police station, it attracts Sikh pilgrims all the year round. But most of all the free spirit of Kaulan needs to be celebrated. That Hargobind and Mian Mir recognised her inner spirit says a lot about both these magnificent men from our past.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2014