Srinagar, Jan 17 : Work for the renovation of a temple in Srinagar as part of the government's 'Smart City Project' for renovating a temple, a gurdwara, an imambara, a church and two Muslim shrines in Kashmir will be completed by the end of February, officials said.
The temple dedicated to Lord Ram was constructed on the banks of river Jhelum in Srinagar by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1835. Its renovation was started last year.
In early 1990s after militancy erupted, there was a mass migration of Kashmiri Pandits who fled for their lives and settled outside Kashmir leaving behind their residences, businesses and places of worship.
After moving out, most Pandits started living in cramped transit migrant camps in Jammu. Successive governments promised better accommodation and facilities for them but the progress of implementation remained slow.
"By the end of next month, the work on the renovation of Raghunath temple in Srinagar will be completed," a tourism official said.
He said the roof of the temple involved intricate work for which material made of bronze were procured from outside of Kashmir.
"Many new projects of renovation of religious sites are being taken up under pilgrimage tourism programme," he said.
According to a survey in 2009 by Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), there are a total of 1,842 Hindu places of worship in Kashmir including temples, shrines, holy springs, holy caves and holy trees. Of the 952 temples, 212 are running while 740 are in a dilapidated condition. Just 65 temples remained open after Pandits left Kashmir in early 1990s.
In 1997-1998, 35 temples were revived mostly in the villages with the help of Kashmiri Muslims. Since 2003, till date 72 more temples have been revived by the Tourism Department in collaboration with the managing committees of the temples.
Sanjay Tickoo, President of KPSS, spearheading the cause of 808 Pandit families who didn't leave Kashmir, said most temples in Kashmir particularly those situated on banks of river Jehlum need immediate attention.
Tickoo said experiments for reviving temples in Kashmir were done in the past but a constant flow of devotees to the temples has remained a concern.
He said if a temple is opened, it is important that devotees visit it otherwise the whole exercise is futile.
Muslims living in the neighbourhood of the temple are welcoming its renovation. "It is a good thing that the temple is being renovated, we are looking forward to the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir," a resident at Barbarshah in Srinagar said.
(Zaffar Iqbal can be contacted at email@example.com)