ISLAMABAD: A few yards from the seminary in Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi which became the focal point of Ashura violence, stand a gurdwara, a temple and a mosque depicting the city’s multi-religious character and pluralistic past.
The gurdwara building is presently being used as a boys school and 52 marlas were recently reclaimed by the school administration from land grabbers who want to build a shopping plaza there.
The gurdwara and the temple have never been documented while compiling the history of heritage buildings in the city.
“It is really amazing to see such a beautiful place with pluralistic past,” said Dr Ayesha Pamela Rogers, who had come from Lahore to document heritage buildings in Rawalpindi.
The Palki Sahib — the holy scriptures regarded as the living guru by Sikhs — is placed in the main hall of the school.
Inscriptions on different stones in the building are in Gurmukhi, and school principal Sheikh Tariq has requested that every researcher and archaeologist to translate the writings.
Iqbal Qaiser, who is an expert on the Sikh history, told The Express Tribune that according to one of the stone plaques, the gurdwara was built in 1930 by Guru Singh Sabha. “This gurdwara was built in memory of Sardar Mol Singh and Channa Devi by their son… who acquired the land for Rs2,000,” said Qaiser.
The school was set up in 1969 by the city government and according to the principal, the religious nature of the building saved it from land grabbers, but it is still in bad shape and dangerous to use as a school. The three-story building has many small living rooms which are used as classrooms while the main prayer and recitation hall is now the examination hall.
“We carried out renovations, but according to structural engineers who visited the building, it has to be demolished and replaced with a new building,” said the principal, who wants the land to be used for a full-fledged school.
Meanwhile, a dilapidated Hindu temple with broken doors and chairs stored inside it stands in the small basketball court.
The gurdwara and the temple buildings speak volumes about the government’s interest in protecting religious and cultural heritage, especially when compared with the equally old mosque.
There are also non-functional temples and gurdwaras in the Krishanpura, Akaal Garh, Mohanpura, Amarpura, Kartarpura, Bagh Sardaraan, Angatpura areas of city.
“This was the glorious past of this city and subcontinent, with a history of coexistence and tolerance,” said National College of Arts Rawalpindi Director Nadeem Omer Tarar. (Courtesy Express Tribune)