Pakistan has many places of worship important to Hindus and Sikhs and we covered on such place, Sharada Thirtha, a while back. Now Pakistan is nominating the Katasraj temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, for World Heritage Site status.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the sprawling Katasraj shrine located in Chakwal district is constructed on a site believed to have been visited by the Pandava brothers of Mahabharata epic fame. Apart from the temples, there is a sacred pool having mythical association with Lord Shiva.
One of the key driving forces behind the efforts to restore the shrine is Chaudhury Shujaat Hussain, President of the country’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Q). His brother Chaudhury Pervez Illahi is the Chief Minister of the Punjab province where the shrine is located.[Pak. may nominate Katasraj for World Heritage Site status]
During their exile the Pandavas reached a lake and when they were about to quench their thirst, a Yaksha, the protector of the lake appeared and said that only people who answer his questions right would be allowed to drink water. The four Pandavas failed and were made lifeless by the Yaksha. Finally Yudhishtira answered all his questions and the brothers were revived. According to one legend, this dialogue happened at the Katasraj Mandir pond.
A look at this temple and you can see how much renovation and restoration needs to be done here.
The very entrance to Katasraj Mandir is a pathetic one. There’s nothing that can be termed as Mandir except the ruins. In fact, the presence of an old board only indicated that the site is that of the famous Katasraj Mandir where a guard is also placed. There is a plaque by the Archaeological Survey of Pakistan that quotes the history of this temple. “Katas: Kohistan Mountains, Central Chakwal — according to the legend of the Mahabharata, when Lord Shiva lost his wife Parvati, he felt so upset that the ponds at the eastern and western ends of the temple got filled by his tears. In Sanskrit it is also known as ‘Katak Sheel’ which means flow of tears. Later on the name got twisted to ‘Katas’. The place is of great significance for the Brahmins.”
Even Al-Bairuni wrote an interesting history of the temple in his ‘Kitab-ul-Hind’ where he depicts that he learnt Sanskrit and science at Katas. Not only this, quite interestingly, he even learnt many Vedic traditions. Renowned historian Panikkar states that ‘Kitab-ul-Hind’ brings a very honest and first-hand account of history at that time. It is also mentioned in Bairuni’s book that Katas happened to be the most revered Mandir after Punjab’s Jwalamukhi Mandir. This fact is also confirmed by Liaqat Ali Khan Niyazi, the Deputy Commissioner of Chakwal. Al-Bairuni also mentioned about other Pakistani temples like Panch Mukhi ka Hanuman Mandir, Nagnath Baba Mandir and Darya Lal Mandir. [Temples Dying in Pakistan]
Now Pakistan is going to spend $25 million for the restoration of this temple and hopefully after that it should have the grandeur it once had.