1,200-year-old Hindu temple in Pakistan opened to public after being reclaimed from illegal occupants

Lahore (TIP) : A 1,200-year-old Hindu temple here in the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province has been formally opened to the public after it was reclaimed from a Christian family following a lengthy court battle, according to a federal body. The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), the federal body overseeing minority worship places in Pakistan, last month reclaimed possession of the Valmiki temple situated near Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore from a Christian family, which had grabbed the place of worship more than two decades ago.

Besides the Krishna temple, the Valmiki temple is the only functional Hindu temple in Lahore.

The Christian family, which claims to have converted to Hinduism, had been facilitating only the Valmiki caste Hindus for worship at the temple for the last two decades. ETPB spokesperson Amir Hashmi said the Valmiki temple was formally inaugurated on Wednesday with over 100 Hindus, some Sikh, Christian and Muslim leaders gathered there to celebrate the occasion. Talking to PTI on Thursday, Hashmi said the Hindu devotees performed their religious rituals and had langar for the first time it was retrieved from the grabbers.

“Valmiki temple will be fully restored in accordance with a master plan in the coming days,” the spokesperson said.

The ETPB said the temple’s land was transferred to it in the revenue record, but the family in 2010-2011, claiming to be the owner of the property, filed a case in a civil court. Besides going into litigation, the family also made the temple only for the Valmiki Hindus, it said. This left the ETPB with no option but to fight the case in court. “This time, the court also reprimanded the petitioner for false claims,” the ETPB added.

Pakistan Hindu Mandir Management Committee (PHMMC) President Krishan Sharma said the ETPB’S move was a goodwill gesture and also a step towards mainstreaming the community and should be applauded, the Dawn newspaper reported. “The role of Valmikis is very significant in Hindu mythology; had they not written the Ramayan, no one would know Ram. Earlier, this temple was not being used for worship, those possessing it didn’t allow anyone to enter. But now, every Hindu can come in and pray,” he added. “We’re making efforts to promote religious tourism and rehabilitate many other temples and religious sites across the country,” Sharma added. (PTI)

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