close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
May 7, 2009

From Rambagh to Arambagh

Pakistan

WD
Web Desk
May 7, 2009

Karachi

Behind Arambagh, in the heart of the city, is a miniscule, obscure and faceless temple that remains closed six days a week. “It remains locked except on Monday afternoons for a short while,” said a hawker who sits outside the temple. Requesting anonymity, he said: “I have been here for the last 18 years but have seen it open only on Monday evenings.”

According to Kaleemullah Lashari, Sindh Antiquities Department Secretary, “Prior to partition in 1947, Arambagh was Rambagh, and there was a cluster of temples here. The temples were built in the garden because Hindu tradition says that Ram and Sita spent a night here while going to Hinglaj for offering thanks after Ram spent 14 years in the jungle and completed his ‘Banbas’ as a result of court intrigues.”

“Till the 20th century, the area was called Rambagh. Ram camped in the gardens where there were trees and abundant water. It was converted into a refugee camp after 1947 and named Arambagh. It’s a failure on the part of our municipal administration that they could not retain it,” he said.

Citing folklore, noted architect and town planner Arif Hasan maintained that Ram and his wife Sita spent a night in Rambagh on their way to the ancient shrine of Hinglaj located in the north of Karachi. The location of the existing Mahadev beside the Kothari Parade at Clifton confirms the fact that present-day Karachi existed during the early days, he said.

Ram is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu and central figure of the Ramayana, one of the greatest Hindu epics. “Some structures are still there. Hence, it’s a heritage site and should have been preserved. We changed its complexion and have lost the essence of the area. Had we saved the wells and temples of Rambagh, it would have been a heritage site of great value,” Lashari said.

Prominent architect and academic Yasmin Cheema pointed out that Rambagh was a sacred garden of the Hindus spread over nine

acres. It contained three tanks, the Ram Chandur Temple and several wells. The most famous of the three tanks was Rambagh. Later, the wells of the area supplied water to the British army camp, as well as its cantonment, according to Cheema.

According to Hasan, Hinglaj is one of the seven sacred places in Hindu tradition so one can’t go beyond it. In fact, tradition has it that Ram and Sita came here after Ram freed Sita. They went to the Mahadev temple and spent a night at this Bagh — hence it came to be known as Rambagh. After that Rambagh became a place of pilgrimage too, Hasan said.

“Karachi is also known as Ramya in some Greek texts,” he added. Eminent conservation architect and town planner Yasmeen Lari pointed out that closely following the boundaries of the Artillery Maidan Quarter was the Rambagh Quarter which boasted three water tanks. The most famous of these tanks was the Rambagh Tank which gave the Quarter its name.

The Rambagh Tank was spread over nine acres, according to Lari, with a large area surrounding it, devoted to temples, plantation, wells, and the assembling of people around the Tank. These wells were located within the Tank, while other five were distributed along its periphery. Another 10 wells were dispersed in a five-acre irregularly shaped compound to the north, which also included one of the four temples situated at the four corners of the Tank.