Monday, August 7, 2017

Katas Raj Temples


The Katas Raj Temples is a complex consisting of several Hindu temples surrounding a pond 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 temples play a role in the Hindu epic poem, the Mahābhārat where the temples are traditionally believed to have been the site where the Pandava brothers spent a significant portion of their exile. 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.

 The Katasraj Temple complex is located near Kallar Kahar, and is located at an altitude of 2000 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.

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. Some local experts date discovered artifacts to the period between 6000 and 7000 BCE.

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.

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 Shahi empire funded construction of several temples throughout northern Punjab and the Potohar plateau, including the nearby Tilla Jogian, and Kafir Kot in Khyber Pakhtunkwa province. Hindu Shahis established Hindu places of worship at Katas Raj from the mid 7th to 10th centuries.

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 complex was a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus prior to the 1947 Partition of British India, with large numbers visiting for Shivratri. Following Partition, the local Hindu community left the region for the newly established Republic of India.The relationship of Hindus with local Muslim population was good, and local Muslims accompanied Hindus to the nearby town of Choa Saiden Shah, from where the local Hindu population departed for India.

The Katasraj temple complex is believed to date back to the Mahabharata era. Many legends are associated with the temples. The five Pandava brothers, mentioned in the Mahabharata, are said to have stayed here for four of the thirteen years they spent in exile.

The lake in the complex is believed to be filled with Shiva's tears and are believed to wash one of ones own sins. The complex is also believed to be the site where one of the Pandava brothers, Yudhishthira, defeated the Yaksha with his wisdom, bringing his brothers back to life.

Another legend involves the death of Shiva's wife Sati; the story goes that when she died he cried so much and for so long that his tears created two holy ponds - one at Pushkar, near the famous Sufi pilgrimage center of Ajmer, in modern India; while the other at Ketaksha in modern day Pakistan, which literally means "raining eyes" in Sanskrit. It is from this name that the word Ketas is derived. Another version of the legend mentions the two pools at Katasraj and Nainital.

Yet another version of the Shiva legend involves the death of Shiva's horse Katas instead of that of Sati his consort. Some legends also state that very first Shiva Ling (Sihv-Ling) was in Kattas. some old manuscripts also consider Katas as the janam bhoomi (birthplace) of Hindu incarnation Rama, as well as that of Ayodhya; but this has become quite controversial.The oral tradition by local Hindus never mentioned it as being Rama's birthplace or celebrated in annual rituals.

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