The scenic Salt Range is dotted with many historical sites, but other than the Katas Raj, Malot Fort, Nandna Fort and Rohtas Fort, many of these are not that well known.
One such site is that of the Malkana Temples located on a rarely travelled road and unlike the Nandna or Kussak forts, the site is relatively easier to access.
A link road from the Kallar Kahar-Choa Saidan Shah Road in Kallar Kahar leads to Dalwal village. From there, a rundown road leads to Malkana. This road also connects to the one leading to the Malot Fort, which is some six kilometres from Malkana.
Malkana was once a hamlet and the majority of its population consisted of Hindus who migrated to India after the partition. The few Muslim families in the village also moved to other, larger villages due to the scarcity of basic necessities as all the small businesses were run by its Hindu residents. There are only two houses at the site now.
There are two Shiv Gunga temples in Malkana, a banyan tree and three peepal trees, a date tree and many others as well as a stream of fresh water complete with a waterfall and a cave. There are two dried up ponds in this now forgotten village and a well in which the Hindu residents would bathe. The ponds are now filled with soil and are covered in weeds.
The dilapidated temples are some 100 years old, as are the trees and cave. The two temples are not clearly visible from a distance as they are covered by the unkempt trees.
“One of the temples was for the use of men and the other was for women,” said Mohammad Altaf, who lives in one of the houses left behind by a wealthy Hindu family. The temple used by men is a masterpiece of Kashmiri architecture.
“The temples were established by Buddhists and later used by Hindu Shahiya,” said Shahid Azad, a lecturer at the Govt Postgraduate College, Chakwal.
“Travel writers do not write about this site and their minds have always been occupied by the Katas Raj Temples,” he added.
Mr Altaf recalls there was a garden with trees of black grapes, loquats and pomegranates in the village as well. The site can still be preserved and the barren garden can be revived to attract more tourists.
Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2017