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The Temple restorer who prays in Mosques

By Sujoy Khanra | Aug 22, 2022

Yasin Pathan Is On A Mission To Restore Ruins In South Bengal

Yasin Pathan has fought poverty, worked as a labourer, staved off ailments, graduated to the job of a school clerk and walked hundreds of miles across seven villages in Midnapore but never lost sight of his target.

Despite resistance from his own community, Pathan, 69, has worked tirelessly all his life to preserve, renovate and restore 34 ancient Hindu temples in and around his village that were in ruins. These have lived because of his effort.

Pathan received the Kabir award from the President in 1994 for encouraging communal harmony.

Pathra mouja, not far from Midnapore town, is spread over Pathra, Bindapathra, Ramtota, Upardanga, Kanchkala and Haatgeria villages, spread over 25 bighas. The villages have 34 old temples dating back to the 18th century.

In his youth, Yasin would often travel to Pathra with his father Taharit and stare at the magnificent temples that were already crumbling. No one cared about them although they were on the verge of destruction. Yasin decided he would save them. Born in a lower-middle-income family, Yasin could not study beyond Class VIII.

Being the eldest of 10 brothers and sisters, he began to work as a labourer to support his father. Later, he got a clerk’s job in a local school. In 1971, he started enquiring about the temples. Initially, Yasin was not sure how Hindus would react to a Muslim youth caring for the temples. He faced resistance in his community but never deviated from his goal.

He persuaded the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the district administration to compensate the families whose land had to be taken over for the restoration. He sought support from villagers in his mission. They stood by him. Ninety percent of families in the villages are Hindus. Residents of Halihalka, a Muslim-majority village where Yasin lives, too, came forward to help.

Yasin brought the temples to the notice of the district administration. Pranab Mukherjee, the late Congress veteran who went on to become the country’s President, noticed Yasin’s work.

Yasin met Mukherjee and persuaded him to allocate Rs 20 lakh from the Planning Commission for the restoration. The ASI took over the temples on July 16, 2003. Of the 26 temples renovated so far, 19 were done by ASI. The sites under restoration include a Pancha Ratna Shiva temple, Rasmancha, Vishnu temple, Manasa temple, Shitala temple, Durga temple and a temple courtyard.

Asutosh Mazumdar, 79, a resident of Binda Pathra, said: “Even though Yasin belongs to a different religion, what he has done is commendable. We have risen above our religious identity for the restoration of our cultural past. Yasin is thus a family member.”

His passion for the preservation of history and archaeology of old Hindu temples has kept him young at heart, Yasin said. He has written a book in Bengali, titled “Mondirmoy Pathra” (Temple Village Pathra).

“Yasin Pathan has done exemplary work for archaeological preservation. It is his initiative which saved these temples from destruction,” said a senior ASI officer.

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