A temple in Peshawar reopens for the first time since 1947: Shabbir Imam
Guest post by SHABBIR IMAM from Peshawar, Pakistan. Video and photos by Shabbir Imam
During Sikh rule in Peshawar, the Gor Khatri area of Peshawar was declared Governor House, so the Gorakh Nath temple here was abondened and Hindu families shifted to a close by residential compound called Christian Colony. Then during the British Raj, the government provided residential quarters to a Hindu family to look after the temple.
Later, in account of the Partition, most Hindu families of Peshawar migrated to India, so 6 other temples for less then five hundred Hindu population in Peshawar were sufficient and they stopped using the 160 year old Gorakh Nath (Shiv) temple.
The census of 1998 shows that over 1,200 Hindu families live in Peshawar, and as per elders of the Hindu community of Peshawar, over twenty thousand Hindus are registered in Peshawar. In early 2001, the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) has been assigned by then Governor, Iftikhar Hussain Shah, to build a public park at the Gor Khatri compound which was used by number of government departments including Police.
The Temple was not in use since the Partition and it was looked after by the Federal Archeology Department, which is dissolved after 18th constitutional amendment of Pakistan, and now it is the provincial archeology department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (earlier called NWFP) is looking after the temple.
According to an insider, the provincial government led by the Awami National Party (ANP) which has a reputation of being a nationalist and secular political party, encouraged Hindus to take back control of the temple through legal means, after which the government would relax rules to give full access of the temple to Hindus.
The Hindu community went to court and got permission last month and got a court verdict to use the temple for religious rites only and on 30 October 2011, a belated Diwali was celebrated at this Shiv temple for the first time since 1947.
The courts are yet to decide on the issue of ownership, which the Archeology department is contesting. The key of the temple is still with Archeology department, which is not allowing Hindus to use the side-rooms of the temple for accommodation and keep the temple open at all times of day and night. One Hindu elder told me that they are preparing to fight the case through to its logical end and gain full control of the temple.
The Minister of Sport, Archeology and Museums, Syed Aqil Shah (an ex-Senator and senior leader of the ANP) was chief guest at the Diwali celebrations. He announced a grant of Pakistani Rupees 2 million for providing facilities on the temple site.
From Kafila archives: