Guest post by SHIRAZ HASSAN
In the early 19th century, the British made Rawalpindi the central seat of military power as they aimed towards Afghanistan. This was in line with their strategic approach towards the Russian Empire in order to enjoy and retain complete control over central Asia. Known as the Great Game, the conflict continues today in another form.
After the Partition in 1947, Rawalpindi continued to be the General Headquarters of the Army. But Pindi has a lot more to tell than just martial tales. The city has been known for its heritage and culture. Its multi-religious character changed when almost all of its Hindu and Sikh inhabitants left for India. Sixty five years after the Partition, I went looking for their temples and Gurudwaras.
Walking around the old city, in areas like Krishanpura, Akaal Garh, Mohanpura, Amarpura, Kartarpura, Bagh Sardaraan, Angatpura, you can see Pindi’s heritage. There are about ten temples and Gurudwaras which are no longer functional and are in a very bad shape. One temple located at Kohati Bazaar is in good condition. Its premises are used as a government school for disabled children. Another beautiful Gurdwara known as Bagh Sardaraan is used by the Punjab Police as their main office.
The temple located at Govt. Asghar Mall College is used as a scrapyard. A Shiva temple at Gunjmandi now houses storerooms or shops. There are some more abandoned temples scattered around College Road, Bohar Bazaar, Purana Qilla, Bagh Sardaraan and then some outskirts of Rawalpindi which are on the verge of collapse.
In the old area of Lunda Bazaar, there used to be three temples, a Gurdwara, a Khalsa School and many Havelis of Hindus and Sikhs. Of the three temples, two have survived. The third, of goddess Kali in the main bazaar, no longer exists. It has been converted into living quarters and extensions have been made, thus changing the original structure entirely. In Lunda bazaar there is a tall structure of a temple known as Mohan Mandir. This temple is believed to have been built by two Hindu Hakims in 1930, Hakim Asa Anand and Hakim Moti Ram.
It is sad that even though there are so many abandoned temples in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, there is not a single place for the Hindus living in the twin cities to celebrate their festivals like Diwali, Shivratri or Holi. There are more than 25,000 Hindus living in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Some of them have migrated from other parts of Pakistan, mainly the Sindh province.
Recently, following a request from Ramesh Lal, a Hindu parliamentarian of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, Prime Minister Raja Pervez issued a directive to the chairman of the Capital Development Authority to build a new temple for the Hindu community. That is no doubt a good gesture but the government must also urgently restore and preserve the old heritage of the city.
(Shiraz Hassan is a journalist based in Rawalpindi. He runs the blog Kahani Khazana which translates Hindi short stories from India into Urdu and Urdu short stories from Pakistan into Hindi. An earlier version of this post first appeared in The World Talks Here.)
Related posts from Kafila archives:
- Navratri in Karachi
- Maheep Singh: A visa for Mahiwaal
- Shivam Vij: A meeting with Deepak Perwani
- Shabbir Imam: A temple in Peshawar
- Jyoti Rahman: On the tribulations of Bangladeshi Hindus
- Shivam Vij: Your Dera Ghazi Khan and mine
- Shivam Vij: Of Nationalism and Love in South Asia
- Shabnam Virmani: Had-Anhad – Journeys with Ram and Kabir (documentary film)
- Jamal Kidwai: Family chronicles
- Saad Sarfaraz Sheikh: Visit to a Valmiki temple in Lahore
Previously by Shiraz Hassan in Kafila: