PESHAWAR, Oct 30: The Hindu community celebrated Diwali with religious fervour in a temple at the historical Gor Khutthri in the provincial metropolis.

Women and children kept coming in droves to the temple, which was reopened for worship after ten years, but absence of the officials of religious and minority ministry was felt on the occasion.

However, Kamla Rani, granddaughter of a cleric of the temple, was grateful to the government for reopening it for the worshippers.

“I am very happy that my mother, though very old, fought legal battle to reopen this temple for Hindu worshippers,” she said.

She is daughter of Phool Wati, who filed an application with the Peshawar High Court to reopen the temple for worship. She was celebrating the religious festival at the temple with her family.

Ms Rani said that she had good relations with the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims in the neighbourhood. “I don't feel that I am different form others living in Peshawar city,” she added.

She said that the temple was reopened for worship owing to joint efforts of the Hindu community. “You can't imagine how happy we feel today,” she said.

Ms Rani said that Diwali was celebrated in memory of the homecoming of Hindo god Ram after 14 years of exile.

Prof S.M. Jaffar writes in his book “Peshawar: Past and Present” that this temple was identified as place of Hindu pilgrimages where they performed the Sardukahr ritual (shaving off heads).

Pervez Iqbal, attorney of Phool Wati, said that in 1996 the temple was taken from the Hindu community and when they got control of it in 2001, it was occupied again and they were not allowed to hold religious activities there for about 10 years.

“We have been given the keys of the temple today only for holding this religious event. No we have to return the keys. We are hurt to hear this,” he added.

It is pertinent to mention here that Peshawar High Court ordered reopening of temple for worship only and the archaeology department holds control of this archaeological monument.

Laajwanti, a former councillor from Nowshera, was also happy to once again pray and celebrate Diwali in the temple. She said that there was a small temple in Nowshera. “There is shortage of places of our worship,” she added.

The buildings that were left by the Hindus at the time of partition were taken by the Auqaaf department and were given on lease. “We should be given back our buildings. We should be given shelter and religious freedom,” she said.

Carefree children and youth wearing colourful clothes seemed to be enjoying the gathering. Children played with crackers and youth sang Bhajans and danced to musical beats.

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