Temple in the Shadows – Bahawalpur

Sometimes my mind sparks, I might just be a better archaeologist than a computer professional. Maybe the reason for my thoughts has something to do with the historical city I was born in or maybe its just my curious nature that makes me want to know about the past of everything that comes my way. In short, I feel history in my blood. I am a resident of Bahawalpur and I’ve been exploring it ever since I was a child. And every now and then I end up at a place or arena that’s got so much history attached to it but then again seeing the terrible condition these places are in today, mainly because of Punjab Government’s neglecting practices, is just heartbreaking.

Shahi Mosque in the city of Bahawalpur – © DestinationPak

This time around, my divine love for historical places took me inside the walled city of Bahawalpur. The tribe of Abbasid Caliph traveled through Sindh and stayed at the area where Bahawalpur is situated today. Soon, the foundation of the state of Bahawalpur was laid down in 1802 by Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbassi II after the breakup of the Duarrani Empire. He signed the first treaty with British on 22 February 1833 and soon became one of the wealthiest princely states of British India. Bahawalpur later became a part of Pakistan on 7th October 1947 after independence of Pakistan was declared.

Today, Bahawalpur is known as the ‘city of palaces‘ in Southern Punjab. Bahawalpur is full of colonial age infrastructure with interesting stories attached to almost all of them. Passing through Farid Gate, Bab-e-Farid, shows the unsurpassed affection Nawab of Bahawalpur had towards the great Sufi saint, poet and philosopher Khawaja Farid.

The Rangeela Bazaar is known for its popular fish market and thus called Machli Bazaar locally. 

© DestinationPak

“It was a fish market at the time of Nawab, my grandfather was also a fish seller in this market.” a local resident Akram said.

Today, jewelers dominate the ancient bazaar.

The bazaar used to be situated in the heart of the walled city and used to connect the remaining parts with each other through a dense network of thick and thin streets that are still, to some extent, preserved which ultimately reflects the architecture wonder this city used to be.

My target was to reach a street named Phattun Wali Gali (wood piece market). When I enquired a local named Allah Baksh about this strange name, he told me that at the time of Nawab, the street used to be a home to the city’s lumberjacks.

Kala Dhari, which used to be a Hindu temple has now turned into a primary school. Kala is the Urdu word for ‘black; and Dhari means ‘strip’ in Urdu and ‘color changer’ in Hindi. The original entrance main gate was replaced by a new one but is preserved in a museum.

Kala Dhari Temple – © The Express Tribune

“Before the partition, there was a barren ground where Hindu worshippers would usually stay before entering through the main gate but now it’s been cemented into a playground for school children” Chacha Mirza Afzal said

There’s a local popular myth that there is an underground passage that connects Kala Dahri Mandir with Delhi in India. Although no one was ever able to find this passage, it’s still pretty interesting to me and maybe, just maybe, there is actually a passage beneath the temple. It may just be true because let us not forget that the Nawab of Bahawalpur was insanely rich and keeping in mind the famous Rolls Royce adventure, the Nawab may even have dug a passage all the way to Delhi!

According to locals the temple is around 300 years old and its original name is Shiri Nani Dev Kaala Dhari Jee Maharaaj Mandir. The temple is an architectural masterpiece with its beautiful masonry and wooden work, it is surely a delight to one’s eyes. The temple is in a pretty good condition despite of government archeology department’s ignorance to preserve it.

Mr. Akthar Ali, an old resident of the street, told me: “The pillars and wood work of temple was done by the best craftsmen of that time and it took years to complete”.

The carvings of sacred Hindu gods are eye-catching on the walls of the temple are surely a masterpiece. It is, however, difficult for a human eye to detect the carvings marked on the doors, floors and walls as because of continuous rains and hot harsh weather has worn them off pretty badly. Locals complaint that most of its beautiful paintings, carved wooden doors and statues were taken away by the local administration and shifted to an unknown place. When I checked, only the main gate was still present in the Bahawalpur Museum.

The first floor of the temple used to be the residence of the preacher and care takers of the temple. One of old resident recalled his memory and told me there were statues of Hindu Gods fixed on the walls of first floor but were taken down after partition.

Muslims living around the temple say they respect and host Hindus when they sometimes visit their ancient temple.

Today, the temple serves as a prominent symbol of interfaith harmony and shows that Pakistan, especially Bahawalpur, respects and protects its minorities


What happened to Bahawalpur?

A glimpse of Bahawalpur’s history and its current problems:

Video – © Usman Pirzada (YouTube)

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House of Entremuse is currently working on an article covering Bahawalpur’s glorious history, the reasons for its economical and social collapse and the current problems it’s facing. If you wish to contribute in this project then kindly message us on Facebook or Email us at: entremuseofficial@gmail.com

This article was written by Irfan Mehmood, a resident of Bahawalpur, and edited by House of Entremuse Editorial Board. If you wish to contribute your work then visit: www.houseofentremuse.com/writeforus



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