By Dr. Saeed Ahmad Ali
LAHORE, Nov 28 (APP):The steeply, windswept hills, stretched deserts and plains of Pakistan have witnessed rise and fall of various dynasties, empires and subsequent regimes.
The history discovers cultural heritage out of the existence of contemporary-narrative of the ancient events or activities of a specific group, particular period or an era having a wide range of inherited traditions including buildings, monuments, religious sites, sculptures, objects and archaeological places.
In another meaning of cultural heritage, likewise, it means preservation, excavation or displaying of a collection of old things, including items, objects, social and cultural behaviours.
The Shri Katas Raj Temples popularly known as Katas Fort (Qila Katas) or ‘Satghar’ had been dedicated to Lord Shiva, and this detail is mentioned in Hindu legend book Mahabharta as well.
This holy complex consists of several Hindu temples connected to one another through fascinating walkways. This complex is surrounded by a pond named ‘Katas’ which is regarded as the most sacred Hindus’ religious place in the subcontinent.
The legendary complex is located in the Potohar Plateau region of Pakistan’s Punjab province, near the town of Choa Saidanshah, near the main Lahore-Islamabad motorway (M2). On the other side this legendary complex is situated in Katas village some 40 kilometers from the Chakwal district of Punjab.
The ancient temples’ complex can be termed as a cradle of ancient civilizations and crossroads of Hindu, Greek, Buddhist and Muslim cultures.
This holy place (Katas Raj) is attributed to the Hindu Shahis (kings), eras, dating back from about 615-950 Common Era (CE). According to a Brahmanical legend, the goddess Sati, against her father’s wishes, married Lord Shiva, who is god of destruction.
The father, while expressing his dismay and to punish his betrayed daughter, refused to invite Shiva to a sacred ritual ceremony.
Feeling disgraced, and insulted, Sati threw herself into the ritual pyre and finished her life.
Shiva carried her dead body until his grief threatened to destroy the whole world, the tale reads. Seeing this other gods dismembered her body to halt the death dance of Shiva.
According to this legend, the gods dismembered her body into fifty-one pieces, which got scattered and fell on various parts of Earth.
The tale reveals that the areas on which her body parts fell included modern day Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka , Nepal, and Bangladesh.
The Brahmanical tale further tells that lord Shiva, after the death of his wife Sati (Goddess), was so inconsolable and gloomy that the tears literally which rained from his eyes, had ultimately turned into a holy water pool (pond of tears), which is located outside the Katas Raj Temple.
The ‘pond of tears’ is a great attraction for spirituality to the Hindu pilgrims, as they take a holy bath, swim in it and bless each other for visiting the place. Lord Shiva and Sati spent some of their memorable marital life at this place. There are also some more legends which are associated with these temples, it tells.
Malik Maqsood, Director at the Archaeological Department told APP that there were traces of archeological sites of hundreds of buildings in Punjab, of which the most important sites had been preserved and renovated.
To a query Malik said the architectural style of Katas was a beautiful complexion of synthesis of Indian and Gandharan traditions.
Fortunately, Pakistan has a treasure-trove of ruins, among many are being built over, which were from time to time pilfered by the art thieves and local villagers or succumbing to the elements pertaining to various ancient or modern events.
A document of the Punjab Directorate of Archaeology explains that presently a number of archaeological sites dating from the lower Paleolithic period to Mughal Empire are located in Pakistan, describing how, once the prestige of ancient civilizations was living and how the cultural heritage symbols were reflecting their past glory.
According to the Punjab Growth Strategy-2023 report the Punjab government can generate around US $ two billion profit income in the tourism sector annually, observing the domestic tourism has a potential around $ one billion per year which will help generate more than 250,000 jobs for the youth.
Similarly Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) sources told APP that that improved security situation during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its tourism policies has boosted annual tourist arrivals in Pakistan by more than 300 per cent to around 1.86 million in 2018, adding, the domestic travelers increased 42 per cent to 38 million.
As part of PTI government’s soft diplomacy to promote Shiri Katas Raj Temple, a group of 139 Indian Hindu pilgrims arrived in Pakistan to perform their religious rituals at Chakwal district during December 9-15, 2018.The arrival of the group was witnessed days after Islamabad issued 220 visas for the Shadani Darbar temple in Sukkur where a
century-old Hindu festival was held.
Meanwhile, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) spokesman told APP that the Pakistan-India Protocol, formulated during 1974, on pilgrimage and visits to Religious Shrines governs the reciprocal visits by Indian and Pakistani pilgrims to designated
shrines for the both countries’ citizens.
To a query he said a large number of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims (Yatrees) from India visit Pakistan to observe various religious festivals and rituals every year.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Supreme Court of Pakistan in November 2018, while taking a suo motu notice of the drop in sub-ground level water around Katas Raj temple complex and drying up of ‘Pond’ had ordered a local cement company to deposit Rs 100 million in the apex court-formed dam fund.
While following a report, the cement companies were held responsible, for drilling boreholes and utilization of the ground water, which eventually caused a drop in
sub-ground water level and drying up of the pond.