Locals planning to demolish temple to construct residential quarters | Department concerned must intervene
Haroon Khalid’s excellent story
LAHORE: An old Hindu temple of historical significance situated in the east of Thokar Niaz Beg, called the Bhadhar Kali Mandar, is facing decay and destruction.
The exact date of the construction of this mandar has not been deciphered but according to the founder of Punjabi research institute, Khojgarh, Mr Iqbal Kaisar it has to be around 2000 years old. The temple has one central building, with a huge pool in the center of the main complex. The walls of the mandar had beautiful frescoes, some of which have managed to survive over the years. The stone pool was fed by 12 wells through an indigenous drainage system.
People visiting the temple to pay homage to Kali Mata, used to bathe in the pool to avoid heat. There were four fountains in each corner of the pool which supplied fresh water to it.
The building of the temple was three storied and there was a wall around the central building. There were rooms inside the temple for the priests and visitors. Inside and outside the temple there were elaborate constructions “Samadhein” for “Sadhus”, which also had frescoes. Five of these Samadhein are still partially intact. Samadhein are basically dome shaped constructions, where the cremated ashes of holy persons were kept.
The frescoes on all of these buildings use local colors, primarily orange, green and blue. The motifs are geometrical, floral and also represent birds.
This temple used to host the biggest Hindu festival in Lahore. Writers like Kanhiya Lal Hindi, Justice Abdul Latif have mentioned about this festival in detail in their researches. This festival used to take place in the month of June and attracted Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Hindus alike. It is situated approximately 20 km from the walled city. People living between Thokar Niaz Beg and Lahore used to set up water stalls for the travelers on the way, to provide them some relief from the intense heat. Besides food stalls and people organized cultural activities like dramas, music and songs. There were also arrangements for “Bhang” and “Sharab”. These festivals were financed by different clans of Thokar Niaz Beg of which Khokar, Bhatti and Marasi were conspicuous. This temple rose to political importance during the tenure of Ranjit Singh, who built a very large temple on the eastern side of this temple. This temple was meant to be the new resting place of Kali Mata. There is also a “Baradari” constructed next to the new temple. However, the Sadhus of that time refused to commensurate the new temple because they claimed that Kali Mata had come in their dream and she had refused to go to the new temple. This temple is visible from the Multan Road. The plinth of this temple was 6 feet high from the ground and the temple rises to approximately 20-25 feet. At that time there was empty ground around the two temples. There were also three “Bolian” (wells) around the temple. Unfortunately the inhabitants of the area have completed covered this remarkable feat of engineering with rubbish.
After the partition, people from the Mewak region in India came and settled in this empty land around the temple. Their culture was totally different from the local inhabitants of Niaz Beg and they like to keep it that way even these days. These people have also now inhabited the rooms inside the old and the new temple.
The old temple was not looked after by anyone. Because of the neglect of the government and the new inhabitants of the temple, the walls of the Bhadhar Kali Mandar have become fragile. In order to ensure the safety of the people living in those rooms, the locals have decided to demolish the current ancient temple and construct quarters there, and that too without authority’s permission.
Top floor of the building has already been demolished and its ruins have been placed in the pool, which is no longer visible. The archaeological department of Pakistan needs to take action against this illegal act of the locals before it is too late.
We are so sensitive about our own places of worship but we must learn to respect places of worship of other religions also. The Hindu temples in Pakistan are part of our cultural heritage and it is our responsibility to take care of these temples to keep ourselves in touch with our history.
When archeology department office situated in the Lahore Fort was contacted, the person in the office said he was ignorant about it and told to contact the Auqaf department. Auqaf department said it was not their jurisdiction and it was a vacuum property.