Temples of Gujar Khan

BY Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro

Temples of Gujar Khan
Like other tehsils of Rawalpindi, Gujar Khan is also home to a number of historic temples which are believed to have been erected during the British period. Some of the prominent temples are located in Gulyana, Narali, Harnal Beval, Sukho (demolished now) and Gujar Khan town.

Haryal temple is situated about 10 km southeast of Mandra in Gujar Khan tehsil. This temple is conspicuous from a distance. It is built in a square plan. The interior, as well as the exterior of the temple, are decorated with paintings.

Like other towns and villages of Gujar Khan, Narali is a village boasting some splendid monuments of the past. Narali is located about 4 km north of Daultala town. Some of the monuments that mark the landscape of Narali are the temple of Radhe Sham, a pond and Sikh and Hindu havelis.

Beval Temple

The Radhe Sham temple, which collapsed on 31 August, 2020, was a very tall structure which dominated the landscape of Narali village. It was situated near a tank. It was a two-storey structure superimposed with a shikhara (superstructure). Both the lower and upper storeys had arched openings. The lower storey served as a sanctum and in the upper one a statue of the deity was placed so that the devotees may have visual interaction or darshan from a distance. The temple was noted for its height. There are a few temples in the Pothohar region which are conspicuous by their height – and here is an example. Both lower and upper storeys in this case, as well as the shikhara, were square. Floral paintings also decorated the inner walls of the temple.

A tank is located near the collapsed temple of Narali village. It is constructed of masonry. On its western side are the stairways which were made to wade into the water. On the southern wall of the pond is an inscription bearing the name of the builder. It reads that the pond was constructed by Harnam Singh, survey superintendent, in the memory of his father Teja Singh and his uncle Sant Sahib Singh. Narali Pond is noted for its inscription and masonry work.

Haryal temple

Radhe Sham Temple at Narali, now collapsed

Apart from Narali, Gulyana, which is located about 10 km south of Gujar Khan, is noted for its elegant temples, samadhi and splendid havelis. Today many of the Hindu and Sikh buildings still grace the landscape of Gulyana.

There are also two temples in Gulyana which lie 1 km east of the village. Of these one is larger, with a shikhara. From inside it is decorated with paintings representing the Sikh and Hindu mythologies. On the southern wall of the temple is a painting of Baba Guru Nanak with his two companions Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana. The depiction of Baba Guru Nanak with two of his companions was a recurrent theme in Pothohari havelis, temples and samadhis. Both Hindus and Sikhs painted this theme in religious as well as secular structures. From samadhis of Kot Fateh Khan in Attock district to Khem Singh Bedi haveli in Kallar Syedan, every religious and secular structure depicted Baba Guru Nanak with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana.

Painted ceiling of a Gulyana temple

On the western wall of the Gulyana temple are depictions of Rama and Sita with Hanuman and Lakshman. The deity Hanuman is shown paying homage to Rama and Sita. The southern wall depicts the stories of Krishna with gopis and Radha. In one of the panels, Krishna is shown with Radha. In another, he is depicted sitting on a tree after stealing the clothes of the gopis. And in fact, the gopis are shown pleading him to return them clothes. This theme is painted in many temples and samadhis of Pothohar. The northern wall depicts the Shiva with his consort Parvati. They are shown preparing bhang. It also depicts Anantashayana Vishnu reclining on the Ananta-Shesha (snake) with Lakshmi. Lakshmi is depicted massaging the feet of Vishnu.
There are a few temples in the Pothohar region which are conspicuous by their height

To the west of this temple and samadhi complex is located another Hindu temple. It is built square in plan. The inner sanctum (garbhagriha) is square. The shikhara is also square. From inside, it is decorated with depictions of deities. Krishnalila decorate the western southern walls of temple. All these paintings have now been defaced. There are also inscriptions in the temple.  Floral designs also decorate interior of the temple. The temple is believed to have been built by Bakhshmi Moti Ram, who was grandfather of Tek Chand. Tek Chand embraced Islam after the 1947 Partition. He had three sons, Roshan, Bhera and Shal. They also migrated to India.

Krishna raaslila in Beval Temple

Apart from the Gulyana temples, Beval town in Gujar Khan tehsil is also noted for mural paintings. The temple here was constructed by the rich Hindu community of the town. The community contributed in its construction. The temple is built in a square plan on a square podium.

One enters the temple from a main entrance, which opens to the east. It is approached by a flight of steps. On either side of the stairways are the platforms where devotees used to rest after puja (worship). Nowadays either the occupants of the temple or their animals sit on these platforms. These platforms were an essential part of haveli and temple architecture in Pothohar. Similar platforms were also made at the main entrance of the gurdwaras in Pothohar. They are elaborately decorated with either cut brickwork ornamentation or miniature pillarets.

Inscription at Narali tank near Radhe Sham Temple

The garbhagriha of the temple is a square superimposed by a square shikhara.

The outer walls of the temple were adorned with paintings depicting Hindu deities. They still have traces of the paintings. On the northern wall there is a painting of Shiva with his family on Nandi. Though in poor condition, paintings have survived on the inner walls. The painted panels depict scenes from Hindu mythology. The lilas (cosmic plays) of Krishna are also painted in the temple. Of all the lilas of Krishna, raas (aesthetic emotion) lila is the most pivotal which is painted in the temples, as well as Sikh and Hindu samadhis and havelis. The ceiling of the Beval temple is also adorned with raas lila of Krishna with gopis (cow-herd girls). Krishna is shown dancing with gopis in a circle which. The gopis were drawn from their homes and held their hands together and made a circle around Lord Krishna after hearing him play the flute. This sacred ring/circular dance of Krishna with gopis can also be seen in the Krishna temple in the Kabari Bazaar and in Kalyan Das temple in the Kohati Bazaar in Rawalpindi city, Kot Fateh Khan Samadhi in the village of the same name and in the Fateh Jang temples in Fateh Jang town and in Makhad temple etc. It was one of the favorite themes of Pothohari painters, who mainly painted it on the domed ceiling of the temples. However, there are also a few exceptions in Pothohar where one finds this theme of raas lila of Krishna depicted on walls – prominent being the temple of  Kalyan Das in Kohati Bazaar, Rawalpindi.

The author is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at zulfi04@hotmail.com. Excerpts have been taken from the author’s new book “Reflections on the Pothohar Heritage” published by Emel Publications. All photos are by the author

The author is an anthropologist. He tweets at: @Kalhorozulfiqar