Bridging cultural divides through exploring archeological history

Bridging cultural divides through exploring archeological history

Students come together to learn history and strengthen interfaith peace

This May, thirty-two students from universities and colleges in Lahore, Faisalabad, Abbotabad and Peshawar, got together to visit the Katas Raj Temples located in the town of Choa Saidan Shah in the Potohar Plateau area in Punjab. The trip among students was planned as a step towards strengthening relations among various youth groups through exploring Pakistan’s rich cultural history and recognizing the tradition of interfaith harmony practiced here in the past.

Upon nearing the temples, the group crossed a huge cement factory and golden wheat fields, as the complex surrounding the temples, gradually became visible. Before entering the temple, the local experts and the guide of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) narrated the history of the Satgraha Katas Raj Temple and explained the many religious practices that were carried out in each temple. The Katas Raj Temples complex originally consisted of a cluster of seven old temples, remains of a Buddhist Stupa and also some medieval sanctuaries and Havelis[1]. However, today, only four of the seven temples are intact. These ancient ruins are scattered around a pond that practising Hindus consider sacred.

The Katas Raj Temples signify a long history of interfaith synergy, as the site is also home to a historic mosque and another Buddhist temple. The students on the site were also told a Brahman tale narrating the history of the pond. It is believed that the pond was formed after Lord Shiva’s wife, Sati, died. Lord Shiva’s inconsolable grief at her death resulted in a flow of tears forming a pond at the Katas Raj Temples. With this story, the magnificent temples also represents unconditional love between partners.

Students formally introduced themselves to each other and comfortably interacted and shared experiences with another throughout the trip. Many of them planned to organize similar activities for other youth members to encourage an awareness and appreciation among people of different faiths. Asma Syal, one of the students, shared,

I have perceived that all cultures, religions and beliefs deserve the same amount of respect even if they are different.

. The Katas Raj Temples visit not only raised awareness about interfaith harmony, but also connected students from various universities. Students with disparate backgrounds were motivated to build an understanding regardless of race, color and religion.

[1] A traditional townhouse or mansion with historical and architectural significance.