66-year-old Muslim man on a mission to protect Bengal’s ancient temples
Yasin Pathan started the ‘Save the Temples’ initiative in the 1970s with an aim to protect the 18 th century Shiva and Vishnu temples in West Bengal’s Pathra village.kolkata Updated: Nov 08, 2016 12:18 IST
At a time when instances of religious intolerance are reported from different parts of the country, a 66-year-old Muslim is championing the cause of communal harmony by leading a movement to preserve temples.
Retired school peon Yasin Pathan started the ‘Save the Temples’ initiative in the 1970s with an aim to protect the 18 th century Shiva and Vishnu temples in West Bengal’s Pathra village.
“The temples form a part of our heritage, and I am just doing my small bit to protect them for the next generation,” Pathan, who is mostly confined to his house due to poor health, said.
There are 34 temples in Pathra and Pathan’s campaign has resulted in 18 of them getting restored by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Pathan, however, said his work was far from over.
“A lot of work still needs to be done. A renewed campaign is needed,” the former Pathra Archaeological Preservation Committee head said.
Through the course of his initiative, Pathan had to face opposition from villagers who objected to a Muslim associating himself with a drive to protect temples. But Pathan continued writing to officials concerned in an attempt to draw their attention towards the temple’s depleting condition. The ASI eventually carried out `4-crore worth of preservation work on few of the temples in 2013.
“Yasin Pathan is doing a commendable job. Now, there is a proposal to develop the village as a heritage tourism destination,” said Kaushik Nandi, district information and cultural officer.
According to the district administration, Pathra’s history dates back to the Gupta age, when the place was the hinterland of Tamralipta port. However, villagers said the authorities did not take any steps to protect the area’s historical structures.
“There was no initiative from the government, or academia to preserve the structures. The entire effort began only after Pathan started his movement,” said a local Ajharul Pathan.