Islamabad, Dec 14: Pakistan plans to renovate and improve facilities at a historical Hindu temple complex near here besides allowing more devotees to visit it as over 120 Indian pilgrims on a trip to the country prayed for peace between the two countries at the ancient religious site.
About 124 pilgrim on a two day visit arrived at the sacred Katas Raj temples in Chakwal district near capital Islamabad on Friday and were overwhelmed by the official reception.
Speaking at an event at the temples, Evacuee Trust Property Board ETPB chairperson Mohammad Siddiqul Farooq said that the people of both countries had always dreamt of everlasting peace and love between the two nations, which would only be possible if both the governments took practical steps to attain it.
"Although partition caused irreversible loss to the people of both countries, partition is a reality and now we must accept this stark reality and move on. The best way [to move] forward could be that we open our hearts to each other," Farooq said.
He said the ETPB was working to improve the facilities at the temple complex and a hostel with 30 rooms is already being built, besides a restaurant. The temples will also be renovated to increase the number of pilgrims in the future, Farooq said.
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"I am happy to tell you that last December, 85 pilgrims came from India, but this time 124 have arrived," said Shiv Pratab Bajaj, the leader of the pilgrims' caravan.
"Last December I demanded a hostel for pilgrims, and this time I am left overjoyed to see that construction is going on," he said.
The pilgrims and their hosts called for eternal peace and warm relations between India and Pakistan, the Dawn reported "I'm waiting for the day that citizens from both countries living in the border areas can cross onto the soil of each other's countries during their morning walk without any fear and barrier," Sushma, a pilgrim, said at a ceremony.
Dedicated to lord Shiva, Katas Raj Mandir is believed to have existed since the days of Mahabharata. The Pakistan government is considering nominating the temple complex for World Heritage Site status. "When we set out for Pakistan, we were curious throughout the journey about how we would be received, and what Pakistan would be like.
But when we reached Wagah border we were left stunned by the love and warmth with which we were greeted by the people of Pakistan," Sushma said. "Coming here, we found everything to be the same. Our language, culture, dress and our fields are all the same," she said.