Fateh Jang Temples

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro on some of the marvels to be found in the Attock region – and their deplorable state of preservation

Fateh Jang Temples
Fateh Jang, in Attock district, is home to a number of Sikh and Hindu monuments which are in deplorable condition. In Fateh Jang town are located two temples which stand together. Both temples are accessed through two small domed structures, the mandapas. The walls of both the mandapas do not exist anymore. Both the temples are square in plan. The temples are adorned with paintings representing themes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana and Gita Govinda. The southern temple depicts more interesting themes from these sacred texts. The walls of temple depict Vishnu reclining on the coils of great serpent Shesha. Lakshmi is shown massaging his feet, Brahma seated on a lotus emerging from Vishnu’s navel and sage Markandeya paying homage to him.

The southern temple depicts different avatars of Vishnu. It shows Matsya avatar, incarnation of Vishnu, Krishna-lila episodes. It also shows the battle between the armies of Rama and the king of Lanka. The artist has painted it on the southern wall of temple in which monkey hordes, loyal to Rama and his allies, battle Ravana’s army of titans. The ceiling of southern temple depicts Parasurama (Rama with the axe). In the painting, Parasurama is shown conquering the warrior class to restore the social order who, according to Hindu mythology, had tried to wrest the spiritual power of the Brahmins or priests. Parasurama is the sixth incarnation of Vishnu.

Qutbal Temple

The ceiling of the southern temple depicts Rama with his consort. It also depicts the King Bali offering water as a vow to donate his kingdom to dwarf Vamana, the fifth incarnation of Vishnu. The southern wall of the temple depicts Samudra manthan (churning of the ocean) as well. It also shows the infant-god Krishna killing Putana, the demoness (rakshasa). The scenes from Bhagavata Purana has also been painted in the temple. In one of the paintings Krishna is shown killing Kansa with an elephant tusk removed from a mad elephant that he and his elder brother Balarama have killed. Kansa is shown seated with his attendants holding sword around him but they did not resist as they saw Krishna killing Kansa. The Potohari artists have tried to paint them from Bhagvata Purna with the details of each of the characters. Krishna is also represented milking the cow as Radha looks on at him.

The most amazing paintings are dancing scenes. In the first panel in the southern temple, Radha and Krishna are shown dancing together. In the northern temple, the Raas Lila of Krishna with gopis (cow-herd girls) is painted on the ceiling.

King Bali offering water as a vow to donate his kingdom to dwarf Vamana

Apart from Fateh Jang temple, there are also few Sikh and Hindu monuments in Qutbal village in Fateh Jang tehsil. Qutbal was an important trade centre during the Sikh rule over Punjab and was also famous for Hindu merchants who controlled business in Fateh Jang and other towns in Attock district.

After 1947 the Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India. Today the village is mainly inhabited by Khatter, Mughal, Awan and other castes.

Some of the monuments built during the Sikh and British periods still grace the landscape of Qutbal. The ban (pond) constructed of semi-masonry was used by Hindus for ritual baths with a small area reserved for women, which no longer exists. Another building complex from that period is that of a temple, a Samadhi and haveli (locally called Maari) which dominate the landscape of Qutbal village.

Fateh Jang temples

The most amazing paintings are dancing scenes. In the first panel in the southern temple, Radha and Krishna are shown dancing together

The temple is believed to have been built by Lakhi Devi in the memory of her father Narain Singh in 1924. The inscription slab is fixed on the façade of the temple. It is a square building. The sanctum is superimposed with a square shikhara (superstructure), different from other temples in the Potohar region, which have octagonal shikharas.

The artists of Attock have also added corner turrets to the structure which are normally found on Muslim tombs. In the temple architecture, the skhikara is always decorated with miniature shikhars or niches for placing the images (murtis). The temples found in other towns and villages of Attock district, particularly at Makhad Sharif, Attock Khurd, Attock town, Hazro, Kot Fatah Khan, Fatah Jang, and Hasan Abdal do not have corner turrets or kiosks.

Painting of the infant god Krishna killing Putana, Fateh Jang temple

Corner turrets are, therefore, peculiar to the Qutbal temple. This is the innovation of the Attock artists, because the artists of the Attock were famous temple- and haveli-builders in the Potohar region.

The top of the shikhara is also decorated with a turret, not with the kalasa or amalaka as found on the shikharas. Close to the temple is a Samadhi which is also built on a square plan. The main entrance of the Samadhi is flanked by two niches which were used for placing oil lamps. From inside it is decorated with floral designs but most of its paintings have now been damaged.

However, the truly impressive structure in Qutbal is the haveli. It is a two-storey building and decorated with fresco paintings on the inside as well as outside.

Krishna Raas Lila in Fateh Jang temple

There is no comparably impressive haveli in the whole of Fatah Jang tehsil. One of the distinctive features of the Maari is the tower on the top of the haveli which, in Potohari havelis, is generally square or octagonal.

The havelis in Daultala and Kontrila in Gujar Khan, Khem Singh Bedi haveli in Kallar Syedan and Wah have towers for taking a panoramic view of the surroundings and enjoying the morning and evening breeze in the summers.

The haveli was turned into government girls primary school when the owner of the building migrated to India.

Much of the painting work is now damaged. Floral paintings on the façade of the haveli are also in a bad condition. The wooden doors of the haveli are all gone. The wood carvings found on the windows and the ceiling of the haveli are also in a bad state of preservation.

All these historical buildings are victims of neglect. Authorities should take note of the crumbling condition of the temples, haveli and Samadhi. The haveli being used as a school needs to be repaired as it is serving a purpose and is a landmark of the history of the village.

The author is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at: zulfi04@hotmail.com. This information has been extracted from author’s forthcoming book “Reflections on the Potohar Heritage”

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