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Pre-partition temple losing original architecture due to encroachments

July 28, 2018

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The temple which is being encroached on in Taxila. The other picture shows a wall constructed at the entrance of the temple. — Photos by the writer
The temple which is being encroached on in Taxila. The other picture shows a wall constructed at the entrance of the temple. — Photos by the writer

TAXILA: A pre-partition Hindu Shiva temple is losing its original architecture as locals have encroached on the temple building and are constructing walls and a first floor.

The 20th century temple is located in the heart of the ancient city of Taxila and is a unique reminder of the city’s Hindu heritage. According to an inscription on the doorframe of the garbha girha or the inner sanctum, which has survived, the temple was constructed by one Ram Rakhi in the memory of her late husband, Bhagat Lal Chand on Dec 15, 1933. It was abandoned after 1947 as there were no Hindus in the area.

The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) later allotted the temple to a migrant family from Kashmir who converted the temple for residential use.

Influential locals have constructed a wall in the temple’s entrance and a first floor

The temple within the compound is now being encroached on by influential residents, who have conducted construction work on the left side of the temple’s entrance.

“The architecture of the temple is quite unique from other temples across Potohar region,” said Abdul Ghafoor Lone, a scholar at the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisation.

However, he said, similar murals and shikhars-a pinnacle atop its sacred shrine- are also found in other temples in the Rawalpindi and Attock districts.

Tampering with the construction of the temple is damaging heritage as well as hurting the sentiments of the Hindu community, Mr Lone said. He urged the need for saving the temple from the land grabbing mafia and restoring its original shape.

Locals of the area told Dawn that till 1990, the main compound of the temple was not tampered with and could be seen from miles. However, the place of worship has now been severely damaged by encroachments and illegal construction in and around its premises.

The temple which is being encroached on in Taxila. The other picture shows a wall constructed at the entrance of the temple. — Photos by the writer
The temple which is being encroached on in Taxila. The other picture shows a wall constructed at the entrance of the temple. — Photos by the writer

“Many historic monuments in the Taxila valley and surviving from the Mughal era and from the Hindu rule such as the Sarai Karwan, and the temple in the main bazaar as well as that in Usman Khattar Village, are falling to pieces,” said Malik Tahir Suleman, a historian and writer.

He said there is dire need for the preservation and protection of such valuable historical sites, which are part of the region’s culture.

An ETPB officer said mandirs and gurdwaras cannot be rented out as they are places of worship, according to an agreement between India and Pakistan.

When asked, ETPB Deputy Administrator Asif Ali Khan said the temple was being encroached on and that locals are constructing on the premises. He said locals do not have approval or sanction to build on ETPB property.

He said the board does not have an armed force to deal with such situations and has written many times to the local police for taking legal action against the encroachers but no action has been taken as yet.

When asked, Sub Divisional Police officer, ASP Ammara Sherazi said the matter is not concerned with the police but with the revenue department and that the former should be asked about necessary action.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2018