For over three years, Panj Tirath, a 1000-year-old Hindu heritage site in Peshawar, Pakistan has been embroiled in a legal battle. According to reports, the Hindu heritage site, which the Pakistan government had declared a National Heritage site in 2019, has been encroached upon and is being used as a warehouse in an amusement park.
According to reports, the Government in Peshawar leased the area to one Pakistan-based Chacha Younas Family Park company, which began using the structures as godowns. The heritage site, which consists of two temples and a gateway, is now in a dilapidated condition and requires archaeological conservation.
According to the archaeologists, the total area covered by the Panj Tirath is about 5 kanals (0.625 acres) and 11 marlas (0.06 acre). The amusement park, which uses the temples as warehouses, told the provincial government it was ready to give back one kanal (0.125 acres) and 11 marlas of the site, which is almost six times less.
It is said that whenever the archaeologists tried to access the site they were intimidated by armed men.
On February 10, the Peshawar High Court voiced its displeasure that the problem had not been resolved after more than three years and hinted at suspects of corruption among local officials.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Director of Archaeology Abdus Samad Khan told the court, “the park administration wanted to give only one kanal (0.125 acre) and 11 marlas to the archaeology department whereas our archaeology site consists of 5 kanals (0.625 acre) and 11 marlas (0.06 acre).”
The park administration did not allow officials to enter the temple through the park, the official said.
“We need more time to address other problems relating to the land demarcation between the park and archaeological site which also housed Panj Teerath mandir,” said the official of the Auqaf department.
Panj Tirath, a 1000-year-old revered Hindu pilgrimage site in Peshawar
Prior to 1947, Panj Tirath was an important Hindu pilgrimage place in Peshawar. Archaeologist SM Jaffar in his book ‘An Introduction to Peshawar’, published in 1952, stated, “the Panj-Tirath (five tanks) is among the places of interest and antiquity in or around Peshawar, dating back to the Buddhist times. Archaeologists believe Panj Tirath holds marks of the Buddha’s Begging Bowl.”
Pandu, the mythological king from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, is said to have lived in this area, and Hindus used to gather here for bathing during the month of Karteek (October 23 to November 21) and to pray for two days under the trees.
The site was damaged during the Afghan Durrani dynasty’s reign in 1747, but it was rebuilt by local Hindus during the Sikh rule in 1834, and worship started again.
The archaeology directorate has requested that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remove the site of encroachment and allow archaeologists to carry out much-needed preservation work. It has also requested that a perimeter wall be built around the land.
Hindu temples vandalized and destroyed by Islamists in Pakistan
Attacks on Hindu communities, their houses, businesses and even temples have been an unceasing issue in Pakistan. Apart from the forced abduction, rape, and marriage of Hindu girls, particularly minors, in Pakistan, Hindu sacred sites have been under persistent danger in the neighbouring country. In 2021, OpIndia reported on the seven Hindu temples that were vandalised and destroyed by Islamists since 2020.
As per reports, Pakistani human rights activist and spokeswoman for Justice for Minorities in Pakistan Anila Gulzar said that only 20 temples out of 428 are left in Sindh.
As per a 2021 India Today report, out of 365 Hindu temples in Pakistan, only 13 are being managed by the Evacuee Trust Property Board board, leaving the responsibility of 65 to the persecuted and impoverished Hindu community, and abandoning the rest to the land mafias.