Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

The Temple of Gori and the diamond-studded Statue

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On the highroad from Naukot to Nagarparkar in the deep south of the Thar Desert of Sindh, their lies between the towns of Islamkot and Virawah the tiny, nondescript village of Gori. The village takes its name from Gorecha (also known as Prasanath), a Jain god. A couple of hundred metres east of the village, amid the grey dunes and the kundi trees, sits the ruinous temple dedicated to this god.

The spire of the temple is gone, a victim of the great earthquake of 1898. But the bulbous domes, the finely polished marble pillars of the portico and in the dimly lit interior, the exquisite frescoes adorning the portico and the overall workmanship tell that no expense was spared in the building of the temple. According to the Memoir on the Thurr and Parkur of Stanley Napier Raikes, magistrate of the district in the 1850s, this temple once held a statue of Gorecha.

Raikes records that in the year 1376 Mejha Sha Vania, a rich merchant, procured the idol from a Turk and had the temple built for it. Accordingly, he named the temple Gori after the god. Now, because Gorecha was a much revered Jain deity, the temple drew huge crowds of believers with generous donations. The temple grew rich and over time Gorecha was endowed with three diamonds: two large ones on the breast and a smaller upon the brow. The value of the diamonds, it is said, was inestimable.

At some point in time, the local Sodha Rajput chief took control of the exhibition of the statue and started pocketing the proceeds. According to Raikes, Gorecha was housed in the sanctum of Gori from the latter part of the 14th century until 1716. Then Sutojee, the Sodha chief, thought it a losing enterprise to share the proceeds with his brothers. And so Sutojee surreptitiously removed the Gorecha idol from the temple to one of his strongest forts.

There he continued to periodically exhibit the statue to devotees against large sums of money. At the time the last festival was held in 1824, Sutojee’s descendant Poonjajee was in charge of the icon and the practice now was to carefully conceal the statue after each exhibition. It is said that the secret hiding place was known only to the incumbent Sodha chief who would pass it on to his son only upon his deathbed.

In the mid 1820s, the Talpur rulers of Sindh took Thar, old Poonjajee was captured and tortured to reveal where he secreted the statue. But Poonjajee was a hard nut to crack. The Talpurs kept him in prison until he quietly passed away in 1832. And so the secret of the hiding place of the diamond-studded statue of Gorecha went up with the smoke of Poonjajee’s funeral pyre.

To this day no one has discovered the lost statue. It may therefore still be lying under the dunes or mud flats of the wild and beautiful country around Gori or Virawah.

From Tales Less Told - Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) book of days 2009.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 09:06,


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

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