By Arshad Abbasi

The Jain temple is located in Hussain Agahi bazaar at the heart of the ‘walled city’ Multan.

It was around the time of sunset when I along with my wife reached the temple jostling through the traffic of motor bikes and men thronging to the Hussain Agahi Bazar.

When we were able to make it to the temple the time of Asar prayer had just begun. The molvi sahib was sitting along with his pupils teaching them the recitation of the Holy Quran. The temple at the first site gave a dreary look of an abandoned place. The stair path to the rooftop was populated by bats whose screeching sounds were quite audible.

One of the sprawling, ancient buildings and architectural monuments is the Jain Temple located in Hussain Agahi Bazar the oldest in Multan rather South Punjab. The nomenclature of the temple is still a matter of a second guess as it is said to be visited by Buddhists to perform their religious rituals.

Bhuddists are also known to have frequented the temple for the observance of rituals.

However later on the Hindus claimed the temple and flocked there. As the history took another twist now a day the temple has been converted into Madrasa.

Interestingly the building of the temple has not been tempered with. It presents an intriguing look as the Islamic teachings are offered in a non-Muslim place of worship.

Despite takeover by the madrassah administration, the temple has retained its original form depicting footprints of other civilizations.

The darkness with sultry smell along the staircase was reflective of its abandonment to the whims of surrounding circumstances and inhabitants.

The eye-catching interior of the temple shows the intricate patterns of art work.

The rooftop of the temple presents the site of its marvellous interior which is visible only from the top as it is locked from the inside.While standing on the first floor the sealing of the temple could be seen bearing the handwork of copper and glass into different designs and patterns.

Due to negligence, this sealing is losing its ancient charm indicated by the broken glasses and rusted copper. The interior of the temple presents the very fact that this place was often used by both Buddhists and Hindus for worship.

The structure of the building is also in bad shape calling immediate attention for repair and renovation work.

Ali Ameer our host and himself a keen nature photographer and well-acquainted with the “Walled City” told PakVoices that the temple is rarely visited by the followers of Hindu religion for worship adding,  “it still retains religious value making it a sort of a place of religious tourism for them.”

This seated image of the idol shows the traces of Jainism at the temple.

The walls of the temple have the images of idols which in spite of negligence are still present on the walls but fading away as the time is passing. On the wall, the seated images resembling “Tirthankara” (to whom Jains make offerings during worship) are painted which reveals the fact that this temple was used for worship by the followers of Jainism.

The building has not been renovated or preserved which is alarming as the condition of its rooftop is scary to an extent that it can collapse anytime.

Molvi sahib is teaching holy Quran to the students at the temple.

Circling back to the main story when we asked a shopkeeper about the way to enter the temple he asked us to secure the permission of molvi sahib. Consequently, permission was sought from the molvi sahib which was granted. As a matter of fact the madrasa being run in the temple is not registered with the department of Auqaf meaning it is a self-grown seminary.

Another important fact that came to the light was that the temple has not been listed in the heritage sites of Multan so as to receive due attention and support from the government. So, this ancient architectural wonder is lying at the whims of circumstances.

Madressah has occupied the main hall of the temple but many rooms still remain locked.

The temple is a site for the archaeological exploration as to study the history of the religions in that particular area which hosted many civilizations. But this temple is on the verge of losing its beautiful architecture and religious value if not preserved in the near future.

This site after the preservation and declaration as a heritage can be used to boost up the tourism in Multan as it will be an attractive site for the followers of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism around the world.

The facade of the temple appears intact withstanding the pressures of times and influences of civilizations. However, with madrassah calling the shots now a days, it’s hard to predict the future of the temple.

Hassan Siddiqui, a social mobilisation expert at Walled city project Multan, told PakVoices: “This temple and other ancient architectural monuments in the old hinterland of Multan need to be preserved, protected, presented and projected so as to attract tourism and arouse archaeological interest in the city of Multan.”

All photographs by Emrana Arshad

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