Lahore, May 2 (PTI) The administrative control of historical Katas Raj Temples has been handed over to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a statutory body of the federal government which looks after holy places of minorities in Pakistan, for its 'proper upkeep'.
Katas Raj is one of the holiest places for the Hindu community in Pakistan. The temples in Punjab province form a complex surrounding a pond named Katas - which is regarded as sacred by the devotees.
'In the light of the Supreme Court decision, the administrative control of historical Katas Raj Temples has been taken back from the Punjab government and given to the ETPB after 15 years. The handing over ceremony was held at the Katas Raj on Saturday,' ETPB Deputy Director Fraz Abbas told PTI on Sunday.
Abbas has been appointed administrator of the Katas Raj Temples.
In 2006, the Musharraf government had taken back the administrative control of the Katas Raj from the ETPB and handed over to the Punjab government.
The Supreme Court in this February had ruled for handing over the Katas Raj temples to the ETPB for its proper upkeep.
Abbas said the ETPB has plans to launch renovations of all seven small temples in the Katas Raj.
'On the direction of the ETPB chairman Dr Aamir Ahmed, we will start renovation of seven small temples (Shive Complex Temples) in the Katas Raj with same old material from next week. Besides, plaques will be installed describing historical significance of each temple,' he said.
'From next week we will also launch cleanliness work in the Katas Raj. We will also install sign boards on the roads leading to the Katas Raj,' he said.
Abbas said that by the time Hindus from India visit the Katas Raj tempes in this November they will find a significant change here.
A group of up to 200 Indian Hindus visit the Katas Raj twice -- in November and January -- annually.
Abbas said construction of a small bridge inside the Katas Raj temple that had been broken for quite some time would be rebuilt and also the narrow passages there which were earlier closed would be reopened and renovated.
The apex court in its ruling in February said that the federal government should take the charge of the historic Hindu temple in Chakwal district, some 270 kms from Lahore, from the government of Punjab and transfer it to the EPTB.
The court heard a suo motu case about the drying up of Katas Raj pond, which is part of the temple complex and regarded as sacred by Hindus.
In 2018, the Supreme Court had imposed a ban on extraction of underground water by cement factories in the area.
The court had wrapped up the suo motu case in May 2018 after the cement factories in the area put forward a proposal that they would find an alternative water source and pay for the water they use until then.
The top court had taken notice of reports that the pond in the Katas Raj temple complex was drying up because cement factories nearby were drawing a large amount of water through a number of sub-soil wells.
Spreading its beauty near Chakwal in Punjab province of Pakistan, the most reverenced among all the temples are the Katas Raj Temples.
The complex of temples stands in homage to the deities of Hindu mythology.
The Katas site houses the Satgraha or seven temples, a gathering of seven old temples, remains of a Buddhist stupa, a couple of medieval sanctuaries, havelis and some as the newly built sanctuaries, scattered around a lake considered sacred by Hindus.
According to Alan Cunningham, the first Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1872-73 CE, Katas Raj is the second biggest holy place in Punjab for Hindu pioneers after Jawala Mukhi. It is said prominent Pandwas brothers lived 12 years in Katas and assembled the sanctuaries of Satghara.
Katas Raj, a conglomeration of temples, preserves at least 1,500 years worth of history ranging from Buddhist era to British rule in that particular space. PTI MZ ZH ZH