Between Rawalpindi Railway Station and Kabari Bazaar in Saddar, an old building standing beside a sacred fig (peepal) tree serves as the only place of worship for Hindus in the twin cities.
Even though there are many temples in the garrison city, Krishna Temple is the only functional one for Rawalpindi and Islamabad residents while the rest are closed and their surrounding premises leased for other purposes.
The temple was built in 1897 by Kanji Mal and Ujagar Mal Ram Rachpal to serve as a street temple for people from its surrounding areas. After partition, the temple became the main place of worship for Rawalpindi Hindus who chose to remain in Pakistan.
Krishna Temple was closed from 1947 to 1948 to avoid religious violence, but in 1949 the local Hindu panchayat asked the Rawalpindi commissioner to open the temple for prayer. It was operated by the local Hindu community until the government handed it over to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) in 1970.
The temple is spread over less than five marlas of land. Although it is large enough to accommodate worshippers for daily puja, the lack of space is felt during festivals and other religious occasions.
The building consists of a main room that holdsidols as well as a courtyard and veranda to accommodate worshippers.
“Two prayers are held every day, in the morning and in the evening. Only a few devotees attend these prayers. Holi, Diwali and other events are also held at the temple. There are more than 50 Hindu families living in the garrison city, and Hindus from Sindh who work in Islamabad also visit the temple for worship,” the temple priest, Jai Ram, told Dawn.
He added that proper arrangements should be made at the temple to accommodate visitors.
“Members of the Hindu community in Islamabad will construct a separate temple soon and they have received a four kanal plot in H-9 adjacent to a plot belonging to Raja Tridev Roy, a former chief of the Chakma tribe in Bangladesh and lifetime federal minister of Pakistan,” he said.
ETPB Administrator Mohammad Tanveer said that the government had provided funding to reconstruct Krishna Temple.
“More work will begin to make the outer walls and the main door of the temple according to Hindu traditions and engineers have made a plan in this regard,” he told Dawn.
Once the work is complete, the temple will be able to accommodate more people, he said, adding that it would be large enough for Hindu residents of Rawalpindi, Islamabad and adjoining areas.Kabari Bazaar shopkeepers said that Hindus visit the area without fear and there was no threat to them, as they were Pakistanis and were free to offer their religious rites in their places of worship.
Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2020