Katasraj Mandir is a Hindu mandir situated in Katas village in the Chakwal district of Punjab in Pakistan. Dedicated to Shiva, the temple has existed since the days of Mahābhārata and the Pandava brothers spent a substantial part of their exile at the site. The Pakistan Government is considering nominating the temple complex for World Heritage Site status. It is also spending about Rs 20 million in three phases for the restoration of the complex.
Nestled away in the eastern part of the great Salt Range, east of Islamabad, lie ancient temples whose beauty has inspired countless travellers for centuries. With the construction of the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway which skirts its edge, it is emerging as a popular tourist destination in the region.
It is located on the main road leading from Lake Kallar Kahar to Choa Saidan Shah and is not far from the Kallar Kahar 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.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva had seven wives and when one of them, his very favourite, died, he shed so many tears in her grief that his endless tears formed this pond. The pond is not merely a historic decoration; it is not only a source of fresh water to thousands of people but also irrigates orchards sprawling on tens of thousands acres of land.
According to Gen Cunningham, Katas was considered the second largest holy place in Punjab for Hindu pilgrims after Jawala Mukhi. It is said famous Pando brothers spent 12 years in Katas and built the temples of Satghara. It is said Al-Beruni also spent some time at Katas to learn Sanskrit in a linguistic university which, at that time, was established here. Temples at Katas have been transferred from the federal government to the Punjab Archaeology Department recently.
Katas Raj is also the place where Alberuni attempted to measure the circumference of the Earth, studied Sanskrit and wrote his renowned Kitab-ul-Hind (Book of Hind) which depicted the religion, scientific knowledge, and social customs of Hindus. Paras Nath Jogi drew his last breath on Katas. Jagat Guru Nanak Ji also visited the place on the 1st of Visakh. Katas came to be known as Nanaknawas and was a site of contemplation for many large groups of mystics, ascetics and jogis. According to Hindu beliefs, taking bath in the holy pond at the site washes away all sins and makes man innocent.