Katas Raj Temples

Pothohar Plateau (75)

Katas Raj Temples

The Katas Raj Temples also known as Qila Katas are several Hindu temples connected to one another by walkways.The temples form a complex surrounding a pond named Katas which is regarded as sacred by Hindus.The complex is located in the Potohar Plateau region of Pakistan's Punjab province. The temples are located near the town of Kallar Kahar, and are near the M2 Motorway.


The temples' pond is said in the Puranas to have been created from the teardrops of Shiva, after he wandered the Earth inconsolable after the death of his wife Sati.The pond occupies an area of two kanals and 15 marlas, with a maximum depth of 20 feet.


The temples play a role in the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata,where the temples are traditionally believed to have been the site where the Pandava brothers spent a significant portion of their exile.[3] It is also traditionally believed by Hindus to be the site where the brothers engaged in a riddle contest with the Yakshas, as described in the Yaksha Prashna.Another tradition states that the Hindu deity Krishna laid the foundation of the temple, and established a hand-made shivling in it.


The temples were visited by India's former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani in 2005. In 2006, the Pakistani government began restoration works at the temples, with further improvements announced in 2017.In 2018,Pakistan issued visas to 139 Indian Hindu pilgrims to visit Katas Raj dham.[7][8]

Location

The Katasraj Temple complex is located near Kallar Kahar, and is located at an altitude of 2,000 feet.It is approximately 100 kilometres away by road from another important Hindu pilgrimage destination - the Tilla Jogian complex. Katas Raj is located near the interchange for the town of Kallar Kahar off the M2 Motorway which links Islamabad to Lahore. The complex is located alongside the road that connects Kallar Kahar to Choa Saidan Shah near the village of Dulmial.

Etymology

The name of the temple complex is believed to derive from the Sanskrit word kataksha, meaning "tearful eyes."The pond was originally referred to as Viskund, or "poison spring", but was later referred to as Amarkund, Chamaskund, and finally Katakshkund, meaning "Spring of tearful eyes."The pond in Urdu and Persian is referred to as Chashm-e-Alam,meaning "Sorrowful/Tearful Eyes."

History

Prehistoric

The Salt Ranges have archaeological remains still hidden underground. A number of bones of the limbs and vertebrae of animals have been found at some nearby sites. Prehistoric axes and knives made of granite, and artifacts like terracotta bangles and pottery have also been unearthed at the Katasraj site. The latter have been found to be similar to those excavated in Harappa, but have not been dated.


Hindu tradition holds that the temples date from the era of the Mahabharata, and is believed to be where the Pandava brothers spent a large portion of their exile.It is also believed by Hindus to be the site where the Pandavas engaged in a riddle contest with the Yakshas, as described in the Yaksha Prashna.


Founding

The 4th century CE Chinese monk, Faxian, described a temple at Katas Raj in his travelogues.The 7th century CE Chinese traveler Xuanzang visited the area and reported the existence of a Buddhist stupa dating to the era of the 3rd century BCE king, Ashoka.The stupa was reported to be 200 feet tall, and surrounded by 10 springs.


Following the collapse of the Buddhist empire of Gandhara, Hinduism gained traction in the region under the reign of the Hindu Shahis beginning around the 7th century CE.The Hindu Shahis established Hindu temples at Katas Raj from the mid 7th to 10th centuries,though the British engineer Alexander Cunningham dated the shrines to around 66 BCE.The Hindu Shahi empire also funded construction of several other temples throughout northern Punjab and the Potohar plateau,including the nearby Tilla Jogian, and Kafir Kot in Khyber Pakhtunkwa province.

Early

The founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak, is believed to have visited the Katas Raj Temples, as the site became a popular destination for ascetics.The Sikh emperor Ranjit Singh also regularly performed pilgrimage to the site.He visited the site for the Vaisakhi festival in 1806,in December 1818,and again in 1824.




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