Hindu pilgrims throng Katas Temple
CHAKWAL, Nov 4: After being restored to life, the pond at Katas Temple greeted the first flock of Hindu pilgrims.
The sacred pond was specially showered with rose petals as pilgrims drank its water and filled bottles to take home.
The pond had dried up in summer however the Punjab government took immediate steps to revive it.
On Saturday, as many as 115 Hindu pilgrims came from different cities of the country to visit the site.
The trip was facilitated by the Punjab government.
An official ceremony was held where Secretary Environment Protection Department (EPD) Saeed Iqbal Wahlah was the chief guest.
Director-General (DG) Punjab Archaeology Department Dr Ismat Tahira, Deputy Director Maqsood Malik, District Coordination Officer (DCO) Ahmad Aziz Tarar, Assistant Commissioner Choa Saidan Shah Abid Hussain Bhatti, President of Hindu Sudhar Sabha Amarnath Randhawa, Pandat Deep Chand and other officers concerned and leaders of the Hindu community were present on the occasion.
While briefing the audiences, Secretary EPD Saeed Iqbal Wahlah, who is also the focal person of the Katas Raj Conservation Committee, said the Punjab government took steps on war-footing to revive the holy pond.
“It is the responsibility of the Punjab government to protect sacred sites of minorities as they are equal citizens of the country,” he said, adding that the government had done its duty with full devotion and dedication.
“We brought you here so that you could witness our work,” he said.
He further informed that Rs609.19 million had been spent on the renovation process.
“The Katas Raj Conservation Committee also proposed that a hostel be built here where Hindu pilgrims could stay,” he said.
Mr Wahlah said the federal government would also provide Rs20 million for renovation.
Speaking on the occasion, DG Archaeology Department Dr Ismat Tahira said her department was trying its best to renovate the Katas Raj, keeping it in its original shape.
“The plight of the temples and the pond was so miserable some years ago but now all the temples have been renovated and the pond has been restored,” she said.
“Nations protect their heritage and we are doing our best to protect our historical sites,” she maintained.
DCO Chakwal Ahmad Aziz Tarar assured Hindu pilgrims that Chakwal would always welcome them.
“Chakwal is a peaceful district and its natives are very hospitable. You would never face any problem while visiting your revered sites,” he said.
“I want to convey my message to my Hindu brothers and sisters that they can visit their holy places anytime. They would always be given a warm welcome,” he said.
Ashok Chand, general secretary of Hindu Sudhar Sabha, appealed to the federal and provincial governments to protect other Hindu sites in the country.
“We are very thankful to the Punjab government as it did a great job for us,” he said.
After attending the ceremony, Hindus visited the temples. They worshipped at Lord Shiva’s Linga Stone and the holy pond.
“By worshipping Lord Shiva, our prayers and wishes come true,” Namindar Rani who came from Mandi Bahaudin told Dawn.
“We showered rose petals in the holy pond to pay homage as it is a sacred site for us,” Rachna who came from Lahore said.
She further said that by bathing in the holy water “we become Pawitar (clean).”
“We want to celebrate Diwali here and we appeal to the Punjab government to help us in this regard,” urged Ratan Lal, the vice president of National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony.