Katasraj temple – Punjab Pakistan
Katasraj Mandir is a Hindu mandir or temple complex situated in Katas village near Choa Saidanshah in the Chakwal district of Punjab in Pakistan. Dedicated to Shiva, the temple has existed since the days of Mahābhārata and the Pandava brothers spent a substantial part of their exile at the site. The Pakistan Government is considering nominating the temple complex for World Heritage Site status. In 2007, it also proposed to restore the temple complex.
The smaller temples, built in pairs around the larger central temple, were built around 900 years or so ago, although the earliest of them dates back to the latter half of the 6th century AD.
The temple complex was not abandoned by Hindus when they migrated to East Punjab in 1947. It has always been the site of holy pilgrimage for people of various faiths. Even nowadays, worshippers of all faiths perform pilgrimage to the mandir. The pilgrims bathe in the sacred pool and seek forgiveness as Hindu belief holds that bathing in the pond (especially on certain occasions) leads to the forgiveness of sins and helps attain salvation. Until recently, it was believed that the pond had unlimited depth.
The two semi-ruined temples of the Hindushahiya period (650–950 AD) have been frequently photographed by newspapers and history journals.
The Katasraj mandirs are located 40 kilometres from Chakwal District. It takes a little effort to reach Katasraj by road – one has to go off the M2 motorway – (Islamabad – Lahore) at the Kallar Kahar interchange, Then follow the road to Choa Saidan Shah for 24 km and after passing the cement factory the road passes through the temple complex, with the major temple complex and the pond on the right.
The Katasraj temple complex is believed to date back to the Mahabharata era. Many legends are associated with the temples. The five Pandava brothers, heroes of the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata, stayed here for four of the 14 years they spent in exile. The lake in the complex is believed to have magical powers and is supposed to be where Yudhisthira defeated the Yaksha with his wisdom, bringing his brothers back to life.
Another legend involves the death of Shiva’s wife Sati; the story goes that when she died he cried so much and for so long that his tears created two holy ponds – one at Pushkara in Ajmer and the other at Ketaksha, which literally means “raining eyes” in Sanskrit. It is from this name that the word Ketas is derived. Another version of the legend mentions the two pools at Katasraj and Nainital.
Yet another version of the Siva legend involves the death of Shiva’s horse Katas instead of that of Sati his consort. Some legends also state that very first Shiva Ling (Sihv-Ling) was in Kattas. some old manuscripts also consider Katas as the janam bhoomi (birth place) of ram, as well as, that of Ayudhiya; but this has become quite controversial.