The ancient Katas Raj Temples at Chakwal is one of Pakistan’s most important Hindu pilgrimage sites and is still visited by locals and Hindu pilgrims from around the world.
The temples are dedicated to Hindus’ Lord Shiva and date from the times of Hindu Shahis (kings) about 615-950 CE.
Katas Raj Temples are situated in Kallar Kahar village near Choa Saiden Shah in Chakwal district of Punjab province.
It’s around 20 to 24 kilometers from Kallar Kahar on the route between Kallar Kahar and Choa Saiden Shah, at an altitude of 2000 feet. The site is located 100 kilometers by road from the Tilla Jogian complex, which is another major Hindu pilgrimage site.
The complex consists of seven Hindu temples that retain at least 1500 years of history covering many empires and eras. The magnificent building pays homage to Pakistan’s architectural history.
Katas Raj, after Jawala Mukhi, is the second most important Hindu pilgrimage site in Punjab, according to Alan Cunningham, the first Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1872-73 CE.
It is believed that the mythical Pandwas brothers resided in Katas for 12 years and built the Satghara sanctuaries.
The complex of seven temples at the site’s highest point, according to Cunningham, is the most important element of the site, echoing the architectural style of Kashmiri temples built by the Karkota and Varma kingdoms, who ruled from 625 to 939 CE.
Architect Of Temples
The Satgraha, or seven temples, is a collection of seven ancient temples, the remains of a Buddhist stupa, a handful of medieval sanctuaries, havelis, and some recently built sanctuaries scattered around a Hindu-sacred lake which is sacred to Hindus.
At Katas, the sanctuaries are mostly built on square platforms. The sub shrines’ elevation appears to be in the shape of a series of cornices with tiny rows of pillars, crowned by a ribbed dome.
Previous Names Of The Temples and Pond
‘Kataksha’ was Katas Raj’s previous name, which means “God’s Tears” in Sanskrit. Locals refer to these temples as Qila Katas because they are connected by walkways. The pond is two kanals and 15 marlas in size, with a maximum depth of 20 feet.
It was formerly known as ‘Viskund’ which means “poison spring,” but was later renamed ‘Amarkund’, ‘Chamaskund’, and ultimately Katashkund, which means “spring of tearful eyes.” The pond is also known as “Chashm-e-Alam” in Urdu and Persian, which means “Sorrowful/Tearful Eyes.”
Pandava Brothers And Katas Raj
The Pandava brothers of “Mahabharta” are said to have visited the site, and this complex of temples was built to honor their presence.
This is supposed to be the location in the epic known as Dvaitavana, where the Pandavas stayed during their exile and where the sequence of questions between the Pandavas and the Yakshahs took place.
The Pandavas are supposed to have established their home in the Satgraha, or Seven Temples, during their twelve-year exile.
At Katas Raj Temple, Hindu pilgrims commemorate Maha Shivaratri. It is said that Shiva had tied the knot in this location. The earliest text in Hinduism, “Reg Vida,” was written here.
According to another legend, the Hindu god Krishna laid the foundation for the temple and set a hand-crafted shivling within it.
Prior to its Hindu origins, the site was home to a Buddhist stupa that stood 61 meters (206 feet) tall and was surrounded by 10 streams.
Faxian, a Chinese monk who lived in the 4th century CE, reported a temple in Katas Raj in his travelogues.
The region was visited by Chinese explorer Xuanzang in the 7th century CE, who claimed the existence of a Buddhist Stupa dating from the reign of King Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE.
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, is also said to have visited the Katas Raj Temple. The Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh also made pilgrimages to the place regularly.
In 1806, December 1818, and 1824, he returned to the place for the Baisakhi celebration.
The Salt Ranges contain ancient relics that are still buried beneath the ground. A number of animal limb and vertebral bones have also been discovered at adjacent locations.
Prehistoric granite axes and blades, as well as items like terracotta bangles and earthenware, were discovered at the Katas Raj site. The latter has been discovered to be comparable to those discovered at Harappa, but have yet to be dated.
Prior to the 1947 partition of British India, the Katas Raj Temples complex was a prominent Hindu pilgrimage site, with enormous crowds arriving during Shivratri.
Following the subcontinent’s division, the local Hindu community relocated to the newly formed Republic of India.
Katas Raj has a beautiful collection of structures and ruins that run in an uninterrupted line from the Buddhist era to British control, preserving at least 1500 years of history in one location.
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