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Katas Raj, the ancient temple complex in Pakistan that finds mention in Hindu and Sikh scriptures, will reverberate to ‘bhajans’ (devotional songs) for the first time since partition of the subcontinent 59 years ago.

A three-day festival, Jigrattan, beginning Feb 14, is being organized in consultation with India after former deputy prime minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani visited the shrine in June 2005.

Katas Raj temple, located on a hill six km from Choa Saidan Shah in Chakwal district near here, is being readied for the occasion and part of the restored complex will be thrown open to public.

A spin-off from the effort is that techniques developed in India will be applied for conservation and restoration work of monuments and artefacts in Pakistan.

India has for long been the South Asian centre for UNESCO and collaborates with the International Council of Museums. It has also been involved in restoring the Cambodian Angkor Vat and the Buddha statues in Bamiyan in Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the then Taliban regime in April 2001.

A team of experts from Pakistan has just returned after visiting Fatehpur Sikri, the Taj Mahal in Agra, Daulatabad Fort, Ajanta and Ellora caves in southern India and Pushkar and Ajmer in Rajasthan.

According to team leader and Director General of Punjab Archaeology Department (PAD) Oriya Maqbool Jan, the visit was specifically aimed at gathering material and learning these techniques to restore the Katas Raj temple complex in Punjab.

But these techniques and methods would be used also for the restoration of the Shalimar Garden and Lahore Fort of the Mughal era. Jan said this would now be done as per a plan which is being drawn for other monuments and sites.

The experts’ visit and the festival, he said, were aimed at helping improve relations between Pakistan and India as well as to revive forgotten monuments.

The Indian experience on removing encroachments and developing the surroundings of historical sites and monuments would also come in handy.

“We have also decided to follow the rules followed by the Indian Archaeology Department such as removing encroachments near historical buildings,” he told The Daily Times.

A number of monuments and sites, earlier managed by the Punjab Government and civic bodies were last year handed over to PAD and funds have been allocated for the restoration and conservation work.

Meanwhile, for the festival at Katas Raj, pictures and idols brought from India are to be used as models for creating new ones for Katas Raj, Jan said.

Jigrattan is to attract more than 250 devotees. The three-day festivity would also include the traditional dances by the devotees. Officials said the rituals had been rehearsed and the holy pond, temples, the Hari Singh Haveli and changing rooms had been prepared for the performers.

Katas Raj is sacred to the Hindus. It is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. According to the Hindu narration, Katas and Pushkar, near Ajmer in Rajasthan, are Lord Shiva’s eyes.

Also, well known Hindu saint Paras Nath Jogi breathed his last in Katas. Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith, also visited the place on the first of Vaisakh, the occasion that heralds the summer season festival. After the visit, Katas also came to be known as Nanaknawas, or the abode of Guru Nanak. It was a site of contemplation for many mystics and ascetics.

It is also the place where Al Beruni, the 11th century Persian scientist and traveller, attempted to measure the circumference of the earth, studied Sanskrit and wrote his renowned “Kitab-ul Hind”.

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