Hindu, Sikh temples in state of disrepair
By Shoaib Ahmed
LAHORE The city’s oldest temple, dedicated to its founder Loh, is in atrocious condition in the Lahore Fort and has been closed to the public for years. A Sikh temple in the Fort is also deteriorating and has been closed for a hundred years, sources in the Archaeology Department told Daily Times.
According to legend, Loh was one of the two sons of Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana, and the founder of Lahore. Rama’s second son, Kash, founded Lahore’s sister town of Kusa-war, or Kasur.
Loh’s temple is near Alamgiri Gate besides the Fort’s old jails. The temple was closed until 1985, during General Ziaul Haq’s regime, because the jails were controlled by the police and civilians weren’t allowed in, the sources said. After that the temple was opened occasionally for visits by Fort officials. But in 1992, after the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was razed, the temple was closed because of the threat of vandalism, the sources said.
They said local and foreign Hindus had often tried to visit the temple but found it closed. An introductory plate giving visitors information about the temple was once fixed next to it, but has now been removed. Asked why the temples were closed, a guard at the Fort said it was by order from above.
Magicians consider the mud around Loh’s temple very powerful. Pirs and magicians send their clients to get mud from around or inside the temple to make potions.
The Sikh temple in the fort was built during Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s rule of Lahore. Located outside the Shish Mahal, the temple has been closed for a hundred years.
A Fort spokesman told Daily Times that Loh’s temple was closed for repair. The Sikh temple, he said, was closed because there was “nothing to see” on the inside. He said the temples were closed because of the fear of vandalism.
With permission from the Fort administration, Daily Times entered Loh’s temple. The employee who led us inside said it was the first time he had been there in his 22 years working at the Fort.
The temple was dirty inside. Thick spider webs covered the walls and it smelt bad. There were no signs of repair work being carried out.
Daily Times was not given permission to enter the Sikh temple. The chipped door to the temple is barred with a rusted lock. The stairs leading to both temples have been destroyed, so there is no easy entrance.
The sources said the Sikh and Hindu communities had officially and unofficially asked the Fort administration to open their temples. Sikhs from Gurdwara Dera Sahib, which is near the Fort, even offered to pay for the renovation of their temple, but they received no response to the offer, the sources added.