National treasure: Exhibition space in Gor Gathri to revive Pukhtun heritage

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While the east wing of Gor Gathri, a historically rich and diverse site, has almost decayed, the tourism and archaeological department plans to utilise the undamaged parts of the complex in a bid to revive Pukhtun heritage.

Gor Gathri houses many important cultural structures including the 17th century Guru Goraknath temple, a mosque, and a historical firehouse, circa 1912, which is now in a state of ruins.

Nidaullah Sehrai, director of the archaeology department, told The Express Tribune, “Gor Gathri will not be used for commercial purposes as was reported in the news earlier, but will be used to highlight the dying crafts of Peshawar.”

Sehrai explained artisans would be given an area to set up stalls to display their craft in a bid to create awareness about Pukhtun heritage amongst people. This will be a space for long-term use to hold exhibitions and sell local art. The revenue generated would be spent on Gor Gathri.

For this purpose 38 rooms on the west and south wings of the historical complex have been adorned with vibrant doors and windows boasting Mughal architecture, a style developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Stained glass has also been incorporated in the design, and so far, doors and windows of eighteen cells on the southern side have been completed, according to the director.

Conservationists in the province earlier expressed their apprehensions that the new construction would affect the original structure of the building and eventually Gor Gathri would be used for commercial purposes.

The archaeology department rejected these concerns and said the new work being carried out would not damage the original shape or building structure. The added doors and windows have enhanced the beauty of buildings in Gor Gathri, maintained Sehrai.

This is not the first time an exhibition has been planned within Gor Gathri. Artisans and craftsmen from different parts of the province were brought to the complex before, but a lack of response from the public and the volatile security situation of the city forced the organisers to postpone their plans indefinitely.

Sehrai went on to say a considerable amount of money was being spent on the preservation of these historic sites. “Establishing a handicrafts centre would also help bring in necessary revenue which, in turn, would be spent on the sites’ preservation,” he insisted.

The complex is managed by various authorities, including the archaeological, tourism and the municipal corporation departments.