Restoration of centuries-old Raghunath temple, other shrines in Srinagar begin

Restoration work of historic Raghunath temple in downtown Srinagar begins after 30 years. -Excelsior/Shakeel
Restoration work of historic Raghunath temple in downtown Srinagar begins after 30 years. -Excelsior/Shakeel

Funds sanctioned under Smart City Project

Avtar Bhat

JAMMU, Sept 20: To preserve and protect the heritage shrines and monuments which suffered a heavy damage during last three decades of terrorism and turmoil in Kashmir Valley, the J&K UT has started the restoration of lost glory of some centuries old heritage shrines in Srinagar district of Kashmir valley including historical Raghunath temple situated at Fateh Kadal on the bank of river Jhelum.
According to official sources, the restoration work on these shrines has been started after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 -A and conversion of J&K State into two UTs of J&K and Ladakh by new UT Government. The Projects are funded under Smart City Scheme and executed by J&K Tourism Department.
The restoration work on these shrines and historical monuments was to be started in May this year but it was delayed due to spread of COVID and imposition of lockdown by the Government, sources said. However, with announcement of unlock and improvement in the situation to some extent the Tourism Department went ahead with the restoration work of these shrines and they are hopeful of completing the same in one and a half month.
Besides, the Raghunath Temple of Fateh Kadal, the Department has under taken the restoration work of Church at Drugjan, Srinagar near Chest Disease Hospital, Imambada at Hasanabad Rainawari and Gurdwara near HMT Zainakot, sources said, adding while Temple at Fateh Kadal, Imambada at Hasanabad and Church at Drugjan are to be renovated the Gurdwara at HMT has to be reconstructed as some portion of Gurdwara land had come under construction of road in the area.
The estimated cost for renovation of these shrines will be approximately from Rs 50 to 60 lakh each while the cost on construction of Gurdwara has been estimated at Rs 70 lakh, sources said.
“We are trying our best to restore the grandeur of these shrines”, sources said, adding “the Raghunath Mandir at Fateh Kadal which was a magnificent monument was totally damaged and it was in dilapidated condition”. “But our efforts are to restore it in the same form to keep the remembrance of ancient art afresh”, said Executive Engineer Tourism, Kashmir Syed Zahoor. He said work on the projects is going on full swing and it will be completed within one and a half month.
Along with the temple, the ghats of river Jhelum will also be beautified. This long-pending decision has lifted the mood of the Kashmiri Hindus in the Valley who have remained devoid and oppressed for years due to adverse circumstance, created by Pakistani terrorists and anti national elements which also compelled 99 per cent of Hindus to migrate from Kashmir.
This centuries-old Raghunath temple was vandalized and burnt down by terrorists in early 1990s soon after the terrorism gripped the Valley. This was the time when Valley witnessed mass genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Hindus at the hands of the blood-thirsty terrorists who were ready to do anything to erase every mark representing India in Kashmir.
In the early 1990s, the terrorists had initially burnt a school which was located on the premises of the temple which led to the gutting of Dharamshala of the temple also. The Hindus were forbidden by terrorists from worshipping in the temple. However, when the devotees refused to stop visiting the entire temple was set on fire and destroyed.
The temple was later also damaged and idols thrown into river Jhelum. It was also turned into garbage dumping site. However, the initiative of the local Mandir Committee led by Bharat Sharma who is a non migrant and Sunil Kumar Tickoo its treasurer to restore this temple to its pristine glory bore the fruits. It was first Dr M K Razdhan who with the support of Mandir Committee cleared entire garbage dumps from the vicinity of the temple.
Later, the Committee representatives took up the issue of its restoration with then Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir presently Advisor to Governor, Basher Ahmed Khan. Taking personnel interest in its renovation, Khan got it included under Smart City projects and sanctioned Rs 55 lakh for the same.
Kashmiri Pandits said for the last 30 years, the temple site remained abandoned and ignored. Police failed to nab the terrorists responsible for the attacks and also failed in tracing 23 precious idols, ornaments of silver, gold and other valuables worth lakhs of rupees which was looted from the temple. Over the years the beautiful heritage site was turned into garbage dumping site like other Hindu shrines in the Valley.
Raghunath temple, which is dedicated to Lord Rama a is one of the most revered temples in the Valley. The temple was constructed by Maharaja Gulab Singh who was the founder of the kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir and the work on the temple began in the year 1835. After his death, the work was completed by Maharaja Gulab Singh’s son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1860.