Lake Kallar Kahar And The Katas Temple Complex


Nestled away in the eastern part of the great Salt Range, east of Islamabad, lies a beautiful lake whose beauty has inspired countless travellers for centuries. It's name is Kallar Kahar and, with the construction of the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway which skirts its edge, it is emerging - fortunately or unfortunately - as a popular tourist destination in the region.  

Located in the Chakwal district of Punjab province, the shallow Lake is approximately 150 kilometers from Islamabad and can be reached from the capital in less than 3 hours. It is said that Babar, the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India, passing by the Lake on his conquering quest in 1519 A.D. was so inspired by it, that he ordered the construction of a garden "Bagh-e-Safa" there which still stands to this day. There is also a small stone platform on which Babar stood and rallied his troops onward. Today's less combative visitors prefer to visit the Lake for picnics or walks, which are marvellous in Autumn and Spring, and to see its fascinating birdlife. There is a rest house with resteraunt overlooking the Lake which built by the Pakistan tourism authority where visitors can rent rooms and go out on the lake in boats. A few years back, the government of Punjab province initiated a preservation and beautification project which will overcome some of the problems for the Lake arising from the area's increasing population growth and pollution.

Located in close proximity to the Lake on an elevation is the Shrine of the Muslim Saint Abdul Qadir Gilani. A number of peacocks reside in its vincinity and near the Lake. They are fed by the shrine's caretakers at dawn and sunset. According to local legend, a kind of "spiritual bonding" between the deceased Saint and the peacock exists, and anyone harming them may experience bad luck.   

Another place of major tourist interest near Lake Kallar Kahar is the Katas Temple Complex. It is located on the main road leading from Lake Kallar Kahar to Choa Saidan Shah and is not far from the Lake. Built in the 9th-11th century when the Salt Range was part of the powerful Hindu Kingdom of Kashmir, this large complex houses several temples most of which, unfortunately, are in a rather derelict condition. There is also a fortress surrounding a pool. Legend has it that the pool was formed by the tears of the Hindu God Shiva while weeping over his dead wife. According to an Indian website I looked up, the pool reportedly has "magical powers" and is mentioned in the great Indian epic Mahabharata. The Katas Temple Complex used to be a major place of pilgrimage for the Hindus before the partition of India in 1947 and to this day several devotees visit it in Spring every year. There is talk that it may be placed on the World Heritage List and a joint India-Pakistan project to restore and renovate it is under discussion. Good luck there!   

The photos below of Lake Kallar Kahar and the Katas Temple Complex were taken on a tour organized by the Asian Study Group in March 1994.



This is a double-shot I took of Lake Kallar Kahar, considered to be one of the most scenic lakes in the region. When weather conditions are right, it must be a great place to go out boating and even for walks along its shore. There is a guest house next to it where accommodation can be rented. Photo of me taken in front of the scenic lake on the guest house lawn. Our itinerary did not give me time to sit and enjoy the breathtaking view though.


A small, lone Hindu temple or "Mandir" stands visible from the road en route to Lake Kallar Kahar and the Katas temple complex. This simple temple structure is found in many villages and towns across Pakistan. Many became derelict after the exodus of Hindus from Pakistan after 1947 and have been encroached upon by locals. 


Approaching the Katas temple complex by vehicle.  The buildings look rather old and derelict.

  Photos of buildings taken from the Katas Temple Complex. The structure in the photo on the left looks new. I don't know what it is. The photo on the right shows an old fortress-like edifice.  
  The photo on the left shows me standing inside one of the old structures at the Complex in front of two entrances surmounted by Indian arcs. In the photo on the right, my friend Raashid is surveying the pretty landscape from the top of one of the buildings.  
    The best photos in this set. In the photo on the extreme left, I'm standing in front of a crumbling temple structure. The second photo on the left shows a group of such structures. Note me sitting at the foot of the middle structure and the men who have climbed to its roof. Also note the intricate stone carvings on the structures in all three photos.  
  The photo on the left was taken after our group had left the Katas Temple Complex. The pink building I'm leaning on is probably the office of some district official. The photo on the right shows me standing on the wall in front of the building.   
  The building on the left is the Shrine of some Muslim Saint near Lake Kallar Kahar and the Katas Temple Complex. The photo on the right was taken behind the Shrine and shows me and my friend Raashid with the plain visible in the background.  



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