PESHAWAR: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa authorities recently discovered a cluster of ancient Hindu religious sites, including a temple and crematorium, in Haripur district that experts believe could be as much as a thousand years old.
“We discovered a temple and other Hindu sites in the Khanpur area of Haripur district that predates the partition [of the Sub-Continent] by several hundred years,” said Haroon Sarab Dayal, a member of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s task force on promoting religious tourism in Pakistan as well as the Minority Ordinance Council of Pakistan.
“This is the first time after the creation of Pakistan that a temple complex and crematorium has been discovered in K-P. This is big news, especially for Hindus of both Pakistan and other parts of the world,” he added.
“While most Hindu buildings in K-P were built under Sikh rule in the 19th century, this temple discovered in Haripur may be as old as Peshawar’s ancient Panj Tirath temple, which is around 1,000 years old,” said Peshawar University history professor Ibrahim Shah.
According to Dayal, the temple complex discovered in Haripur is just one of the more than 300 ancient Hindu sites that are currently being researched. “Near the temple, we have found a cave thought to belong to legendary Hindu religious scholar Baba Mohan Das Kehar,” he said. “Seekers and jogis from all over India used to come to him for his teachings on Hindu faith.”
Shah pointed out that parts of K-P, particularly Peshawar, was once a major Hindu centre. “This much is evident from the Panj Tirath, Gor Gahro and Kali Bari temples,” he said. “To this day, Peshawar’s Mohalla Chaka Gali, Mohalla Sethian Ram Pura Gate and Gantha Ghar are home to Hindu buildings and places of worship.”
Dayal agreed, saying “Priests who inhabited the area used to disseminate Hindu teachings here and travellers from various parts of the world used to visit them.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, K-P MPA Ravi Kumar said the search for more hidden ancient sites in the province is underway. “We have received information about another site, an ancient fort near the river in the Pir Sabiq area of Nowshera,” he said.
Kumar express hope that the discovery of more ancient religious sites would kickstart tourism in the country. “Swat, Kalam and Nathia Gali are attractive places indeed, but ancient religious sites should attract an influx of religious visitors. Like the Takht Bhai ruins, which attract Buddhist tourists every year.”
Archaeology Department Research Officer Nawazzuddin said his department had identified as many as 6,000 other sites of historical importance in K-P that could attract religious tourists. “We will finish compiling our report soon. We hope that the restoration of these sites will bring a huge number of religious visitors to Pakistan.”
Although the discovery of the Haripur temple complex adds value to Pakistan’s archaeological significance, concerns are abound as to whether it will be properly conserved.
“To make sure that the site is properly taken care of, we will inform the Evacuee Trust Property Board as well as the Department of Ancient Relics so that the whole world knows about this historical discovery in the province. It will also encourage further archaeological research,” Dayal said.
Nawazzudin added that the archaeology department will soon draft a more comprehensive report on the discovery as well so that it can be developed into an attraction for Hindu tourists from all over the world.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2019.