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LAHORE, Sept 9: The Naag temple, a Sikh era relic situated inside the Lahore Fort has been closed to visitors for decades, partly because of staff shortage and partly for the apprehension that it might suffer harm at the hands of public that mostly 'lacks manners to visit historic places', officials told Dawn.

The temple, located near Shish Mahal (Mirror Palace), was built in Ranjeet Singh's period by Maharani Chand Kaur, the wife of Mahraja Kharak Singh.

Square in plan and placed on a raised platform, the temple's interior and exterior walls have been adorned with fresco paintings. It has a cube shape crowned with a ribbed watermelon-shaped dome.

For being closed for a long time and lack of upkeep, the temple wears a worn-out and faded look. Its wooden door is on a significant height and cannot be reached without stairs which are not there. The Fort staff uses a rotten iron staircase to access the door. The temple's lock has got jammed and can't be opened without oiling. Dawn

“Under the prevalent circumstances, when there are security risks we just cannot open the temple for the public,” an official told wishing anonymity. About staff shortage, he said though 40 watchmen had been hired in addition to a team of 30, the Fort still needed more of them. The official said a proposal for hiring more staff was lying with the department but Punjab government's 'austerity drive' might prove a stumbling block.

He said the department was also reluctant to open the temple because most visitors were in the habit of writing graffiti or etching their names on walls which could spoil the historic structure.

He said the visitors generally lacked awareness as how to visit a historical place, suggesting print and electronic media advertisement campaigns to educate the public in this regard.

Maharani Chand Kaur (1802-1842) was the wife of Maharaja Kharak Singh, the eldest son of and successor to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. She was married to Prince Kharak Singh in February 1812 at the age of 10. After the death in most tragic circumstances of her husband, the then Maharaja of the Punjab, as well as of her other son Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh in November 1840, she withdrew her claim to the throne of Lahore.