Prayers were offered on Sunday in an 1823 vintage temple in Peshawar that has been closed for worship for the past 60 years. The temple reopened for worship under court orders; bringing joy to the Hindu community that otherwise lives under the shadow of rising intolerance.

The Goraknath Temple is located in Gor Kattri archaeological complex which traces its origins back to the pre-Christian era and has an association with Buddhist, Mughal, Sikh and Hindu traditions.

On September 15, the Peshawar High Court had decided that worship would be permitted within the temple while refusing to give control over the property to the family that was staking claim to it. The main premise for not handing over the property to the Hindu family is its location within an archeological complex.

The Gor Kattri complex is best known for the display of Gautam Buddha’s begging bowl before it became a centre of Hindu worship. There is a reference to the complex in the `Babarnama’. Since the area is at the crossroads of an old trading route, a `caravansarai’ (rest house for caravans) and a mosque were built later as per the orders of Jehanara, the daughter of Shah Jehan. This mosque was destroyed during the Sikh rule and replaced with a temple to Goraknath.

Though the court did not give them the property rights to the temple premises, the Hindu community was jubilant over being able to offer prayers there. They installed a trident inside the temple and, according to the local media, the temple resounded with devotional songs. While allowing worship within the temple, the court had also instructed the administration to provide adequate security.

For Ram Lal, president of the Hindu Balmik Mahasabha, Peshawar, the opening doubled their joy over Diwali. He termed the opening as a gift to the Hindu community; adding that it would improve the image of Pakistan.

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