Rawal lake temple: A forgotten past

A number of ancient sites still exist in Islamabad, which need to be conserved before they are lost.

Zulfiqar Kalhoro January 13, 2011
Rawal lake temple: A forgotten past

ISLAMABAD: Those who believe Islamabad has no past should do some travelling in the city’s outskirts. They will not only find numerous historical buildings in the half-century old city, which testify to its antiquity, but also discover various artifacts such as fossils in Bagh Jogian village and ancient tools used by the early man in Rawat.

In fact, one does not necessarily have to traverse the outskirts. There are also a number of historical buildings in the main city of which the Rawal Lake temple is a prominent example.

The temple, although on its last legs, exudes presence. It is a rectangular building with two arched openings on its southern side.  There are five flights of steps leading to the garbhagriha, a small unlit shrine where only priests may enter.

The first cusped archway leads to a room which was apparently used as a dharmshala. The dharmshala has one window and one blind arch. The second cusped archway leads to the garbhagriha which is square-shaped. The pyramid shaped shikhara surmounts the garbhagriha. The base of the shikhara is decorated with an inverted lotus, making it seem as if the shikhara were arising out of the lotus bud.

The garbhagriha is embellished with three blind arches. The passageway around the sanctum has two arches, one each on the northern and southern walls. There are also windows with carvings. One can easily imagine the regal culture that must have flourished here in times far gone.

Rawal village is an ancient settlement as can be seen from the painted as well as undecorated potsherds lying at many places. A rock shelter, which is located at the temple’s north, also pays testimony to the fact that prehistoric human beings used it.

A similar shelter can be seen at the back of the National Institute of Health (NIH). Another impressive shelter is situated in G-13, which has unfortunately become a victim of development work. A portion of it has been badly damaged as the developers are unaware of its significance and the city authorities are least concerned about the preservation of such ancient sites.

Before Independence, Hindus predominately inhabited the Rawal village. There were nearly a hundred households in the village, of which only 40 belonged to Muslims. At that time, Ishar Singh was the numbardar (head) of the Rawal village. Some Muslim castes, namely Rajas, also known as Ghakkars or Kiyanis, Syeds, Bafanda, Thakyal Rajputs and Malhar lived in the village.

There were two other temples in Rawal village, one on the opposite side of the existing temple. It had two rooms and eight archways that allowed one to enter the building. After partition, Kashmiri families occupied it. The building was damaged by occupants following the construction of Rawal Dam. It was actually located where the cabins of two persons (Arshad and Sardar) now stand. Until 1980, the eight dats (arches of the temple) were intact.

The other temple, known as the Gurukal temple, was submerged in the Dam water. It was probably a Krishnite temple as those who worship Krishna are called Gokul, of which Gurukul is a phonetic variation. According to Baba Juri of Rawal town who is an old inhabitant of Rawal village, it was a larger building with three rooms comprising the dharmshala. The main chamber of the temple was also more spacious.

These temples now only exist in the memory of old inhabitants.  Before partition, a Samadhi belonging to a Hindu ascetic of the Nath Jogi order was located near the present Rawal Chowk . It was a small, domed structure where Hindu ascetics practised rituals.

There are many other sacred places of Nath jogis, probably used for meditation, in and around Islamabad. Among these, the sacred spaces at Bagh Joghian, which incidentally means ‘orchard of jogis’, are quite prominent. Another place associated with jogis is located just two kilometres west of Bari Imam. Jogis travelling to Taxila and other places stopped there. There is also a Hindu shrine south of the Bari Imam shrine which the late Ahmad Hasan Dani believed could have been another Nath Jogi spiritual site. The area is now deserted.

According to Shah Mehboob of Rawal town, the Samadhi of the Hindu ascetic was painted from inside. Ritual baths were taken in a pond, which does not exist any more.

According to Manzoor alias Baba Juri, Hindu temples also existed in the villages of Chira, Kirpa and Mehran near Pind Beghal in Islamabad.

Today, one finds rubbish inside the main chamber of the Rawal lake temple. The outer wall of the temple has fallen. One wonders if it’s too much to ask of the authorities to save the ancient structure from further damage.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th,  2011.


Marina Khan | 13 years ago | Reply Oh thank God it is forgotten, otherwise it would be a victim of bomb blasts.
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