Yesterday’s temple — tomorrow’s hotel
By Zulfiqar Ghuman
ISLAMABAD: A building that is centuries old, situated in the oldest Saidpur village at the foothills of Margallahs and a stone’s throw from the Prime Minister House, is going to be turned into a hotel as the Capital Development Authority plans to develop the village into a tourism spot.
Villagers say the building is some four centuries old and was built by Hindus as a place of worship. The building still has not lost any of its originality and or beauty.
After crossing the main gate of the building, one can witness the grandeur of the site. Once inside, there are two rooms for worship on the right and left hand sides. After the worship rooms comes the main complex for the lodging of pilgrims who used to visit the site all through the year.
The entire C-type complex consists of a main hall with rooms on two storeys on the left and right sides and one veranda. Marble tiles covering the courtyard of the elevated complex are engraved with the names of the donors who participated in the building of the site and running of its affairs.
Worn-down bricks at the stairs narrate tales of lost glory and centuries of dereliction. An old Jamin tree (a tropical fruit) adds to the solemnity of the ancient building. The trunk of the tree has been cut in such a way that a man can easily walk through the opening. There are also some ten Hindu houses around the complex, which villagers believe to have been resided in by the original caretakers of the building.
Marble tiles within the complex are inscribed with Sanskriti words. The names of Lala Haimraj and Lala Dhoni Chand, who helped in the construction of the building, are inscribed on plaques fixed on the left side rooms within the building.
According to records, this place of worship turned into a school in 1944, towards the end of the British Raj. The school register shows that Rabnawaz, the son of Fazl Khan, was the first student at the building.
The school presently runs in two shifts - one for boys and one for girls. Nasreen Malik heads the girls’ section, in the mornings, with 231 students and 10 teachers, and Ali Asghar is the head master of the boys’ section, in the evenings, with a total of 188 students and 10 teachers.
Saidpur is a village of some 7,000 poor people as most rich former residents have moved to the affluent areas of the newly established city of Islamabad. The CDA has announced a Rs 110 million grant for the project to develop the area into a tourism village to promote the country’s diverse culture.
Turning the once sacred place of worship into a hotel is also a part of the plan to attract foreigners to experience the real beauty of the country.
Sanaullah Aman, the CDA director and in charge of the project, said that the school would be rebuild at another location. “We want to preserve this old temple in its original form and promote it as an attraction to foreigner and local tourists by converting it into a hotel,” he said.