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How a Hindu temple was renovated by a Muslim and a Sufi shrine revamped by a Sikh in Pakistan

Two historical structures in Lahore that show a glimpse of our past where our ancestors enjoyed communal harmony and peace. Where our society, despites of all the differences lived like one body where many souls interlinked to each other helpful in every matter to shape peaceful and progressive society. These two structures are Bheru da Sthan constructed by a Muslim Godar treasure of Prince Dara Shikoh, and Data Darbar renovated by a Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Bheru da Sthan

Bheru da Sthan or the abode of Bheru is one of the oldest standing temples in Lahore, an ancient city believed to have been founded by Lav, one of the twin sons of Ram and Sita.

The temple was built on the spot to which Godar, Prince Dara Shikoh’s treasurer, was brought after being rescued from the dungeons where he had been kept after he was caught deceiving the prince.

Godar was visited in the dungeons by a man who later identified himself as Bheru. The man asked him to shut his eyes and brought him here. A free Godar started living in Shah Alami area in Lahore and constructed a small temple here at the spot he had last seen Bheru. The temple was given its contemporary shape (including a vast complex and several rooms) during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule over the Sikh Empire in the 19th century. The Maharaja’s Muslim concubine, Mora, gave Rs 1,400 for the temple’s construction.

When Mora’s mother had taken seriously ill, all the hakims and healers failed to cure her. She was then informed of a man who lived in this temple, a descendant of Godara and a magician, who exorcised the djinns from Mora’s mother. As a reward, Mora summoned bricks from all the 100 villages that had been granted to her by the Maharaja for the construction of this temple and donated money.

Data Darbar

Just outside the walled city of Lahore is one of the most important Sufi shrines of the city, Data Darbar, dedicated to the city’s patron saint Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh. This shrine lends Lahore its monker of Data ki nagri, or Data’s city.

About 1,000 years old, the shrine has witnessed the evolution of the city – the arrival of the first Muslims, the construction of the walled city under Malik Ayaz. The shrine stood its ground through the rise of the Khalsa Empire, the emergence of the colonial bureaucratic state and the transformation of the city from a multi-religious metropolitan to a Muslim-dominated city that saw the exodus of Hindus and Sikhs during Partition and the erosion of their religious symbols.

Once again defying popular perceptions, it was during the tenure of Maharaja Ranjit Singh that shrine began to grow. A library was built here, the first of its kind, with a vast collection of handwritten copies of the Quran. The religious texts were donated by Maharani Jind Kaur, Ranjit Siingh’s youngest wife who, after his death, briefly served as her young son Maharaja Duleep Singh’s Regent.

This rare collection of handwritten Qurans brought many admirers to the shrine, gradually increasing its significance.

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