1,000-Year-Old Temple in Pakistan Reopens After Seven Decades Delighting Minority Hindus
This magnificent ancient Hindu temple in Sialkot, in Pakistan’s Punjab province, was built by Sardar Teja Singh and has been closed for worship for 72 years, recently becoming a den of drug addicts. But under the directives of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, and Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Chairman Dr Amir Ahmed, Pakistani followers of Hinduism are again permitted access to worship in the Shawala Teja Singh Temple.
So often it is said that religion divides nations, but in this case it seems to be mending disputes. In April this year the Pakistan government announced that they would “reclaim and restore 400 temples to the minority group in Pakistan”. According to a recent report by The Organization For World Peace (TOFWP) this “compliments a joint decision by Prime Minister Khan and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to construct the Kartarpur corridor, allowing visa-free access to Hindi pilgrims from India”.
Signs Of Peace In The Hyper-Violence?
Is this move potentially an effort towards ending the brutal conflict that began during the Partition of India in 1947, that displaced between 10 and 12 million people, and has caused deaths varying between 200,000 and 2,000,000? Rajdeep Sardesai, Consulting Editor of Indiatoday, said that Fawad Chaudhry, Information Minister of Pakistan, “ believed India and Pakistan had been fighting for too long” and he added “I think there’s a need for it. If India takes one step, Pakistan will take two steps”.
However, the TOFWP report says, “there are concerns that the peace agreement is not genuine” but rather and “attempt to win a perception war” and the corridor might be “a tool to gain territorial foothold by opposing separatists”. However, the repossession of ancient temples to the Hindu community in Pakistan suggests the effort is genuine and already the political decision is having glaringly positive effects.
Is the reopening of the ancient Shawala Teja Singh Hindu Temple a sign of the end of violence? (Junaid Syed / YouTube Screenshot )
Seeds Of Peace In The Destroyer’s Temple!
Temple remains contain not only the architectural prowess of a nation’s artisans, but they are also books in stone telling stories about a civilization’s culture. To access the Shawala Teja Singh Hindu temple pilgrims climb a steep staircase to reach the temple, which according to ‘History of Sialkot’ is about 1,000 years old. Here, at the center of the temple, at the apex of their sometimes hundreds of miles long pilgrimages, they connected directly with the creation energy of the Hindu deity Shiva.
Shiva was the destroyer of ignorance that had spread all across the universe and according to Axel Michael’s Hinduism: Past and Present , the Shaivism theology is broadly grouped into two: the popular theology influenced by Shiva-Rudra in the Vedas, Epics and the Puranas; and the esoteric theology influenced by the Shiva and Shakti-related Tantra texts. In Shaivism, the god is also worshipped by all other gods including the Devas Brahma and Vishnu, who with Shiva compose the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity.
The Hindu Trinity - Brahma, Siva, Vishnu. (Calvinkrishy~commonswiki / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Coming Back Online
SAMAA TV has interviewed several people connected with the reopening of the temple, including ‘one Hindu’, who said, “We are thankful to the government for opening our temple and we can come here whenever we want now”. Deputy Commissioner Bilal Haider said that they “collaborated with the Evacuee Trust Property Board to reopen the temple and “people are free to visit anytime”, and since then many tourists have already started coming to this almost forgotten heritage site .
Ancient Hindu temple now open to public. (Junaid Syed / YouTube Screenshot )
And most importantly, the government has stated that preservation work to restore the temple will start soon and this English News Track Live article says the government announced “Shivala will be kept open permanently while conservation work at this unique specimen of archaic Indian architecture” is undertaken. And, slapping down hard money, where their mouth is, and Pakistani government have vowed to spend "Rs 50 lakh” on the protection of Shivala, which is about $70,000 (57,250 GBP).
For 72 years the ‘Partition’ has given rise to continuing conflict between India and Pakistan which is now beginning to show signs of slowing down, a ‘hope’ that’s supported in the TOFWP report which states that in “2017 3,000 violations” of the peace agreement occurred, while in 2018 “this reduced to 1,000”. When we consider that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, any de-escalation of ‘breaches’ in the peace agreement and military confrontation can only, surely, be a step in the right direction.
Close up of entrance of Shawala Teja Singh Hindu Temple. (Junaid Syed / YouTube Screenshot )
Top image: Ancient 1,000 year old Shawala Teja Singh Hindu Temple. Source: Junaid Syed / YouTube Screenshot
By Ashley Cowie
It’s so refreshing to see something, anything positive arising from that conflict. With all the sabre-rattling going on in the world today, even a slight cessation in tension is commendable. Let’s hope the spirit of cooperation continues to grow.