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Temples of Kashmir

ORIGIN OF TEMPLES

According to Hindu Dharma , time is divided into four ‘yugas’ namely ‘Satya Yuga’ ,’Treta Yuga ,’Dwapara Yuga’ ,and ‘Kali Yuga’ .It is said in the ‘Puranas’ ‘Satya Yuga ’-- Age of perfect virtue, there were no temples , for the Gods appeared to the people and helped them directly . In the second Yuga namely ‘Treta Yuga’, virtue diminished in quality and effect, the Gods appeared in their normal forms to the virtuous and in the ionic forms to others. There were no temples. The pious sages installed ionic forms in their own homes and worshipped them. In the third Yuga, ‘Dwapara’, when virtue and vice almost vied with each other with equal ardour, the sages installed ionic forms in remote jungles and built shrines over them for the benefit of the pious. In the final and present stage, ‘Kali yuga’ ,when vice dominates over virtue, need for the temples was found for people to worship, since it is only the presence in an ionic form that people could seek communion with Gods and invoke their blessings.

The Hindu temples are the abodes of God, where man and God commune. In the Hindu temples ‘Param Parmeshwara’ is worshipped in forms . The Hindu temples are not prayer houses. In the temples people worship God in its ionic form and establish communion with the absolute being. Hindu Dharma does not accept of any unbridgeable distance between God and man. Infact the whole concept of realization and the unity of the ‘ Astitiva,’ in man and the absolute being God is the essence of the Hindu Dharma. Devotion in Hinduism is known as Bhakti. It is the essence of worship in the temples. Bhakti assumes expression in temples, where the bond of love, is reflected in form of divinity. Hinduism views existence as composed of three worlds .The first world is the physical universe, the second world is the subtle astral or mental plane of existence in which “Devas” or angels live. The third world is the spiritual sphere of the ‘Mahadeva’, the Deities , the Gods. The path of Karma is of two kinds. The first is Vedic ‘Karm-yoga’ where all actions are without the desire for fruits thereof. The second kind is ‘Tantric Karmyoga’ wherein the mind by worship, salutation and the like becomes riveted on the Lord. The first is possible only for those with greater stability of mind, while the second is accessible to all and easy to start with. It is this second kind that is known as image worship in Hinduism. Image worship is considered to be one of the best aids to realization. This worship is called ‘ Puja ’.Devotees behold the Spiritual presence of their divine Lord in the holy image .Worship is a direct link between the man and Master. It is the voice of the soul. Grace is received from the God when one is consistent in his worship, consistent in discipline, consistent in Bhakti and consistent in devotion. With such a foundation in life, a great Shakti, a force or power, will come from the Lord. This is grace. It is uplifting. It comes unexpectedly. When grace comes, your mind may change and your heart may melt. Your sight will become clear and penetrating. Many have prayed and been answered! Each form attributed to a Hindu god is a symbol of philosophical ideas.Hindu iconography is a perfect science connecting art and religion. The conception of Nataraja is the greatest work of religious art in the scientific world. The dance of Shiva represents the rhythm and movement of the world spirit. One can witness the dance of Shiva in the rising sun, in the waves of the ocean, in the rotation of the planets, in the lighting,in the thunder and in cosmic ‘ Pralaya’. The whole cosmic play or activity or ‘Lila’ is the dance of Shiva. All the movements within the cosmos are His dance. Without Him, no one moves. He dances quite gently. If He dances vehemently there will be ‘Pralaya’. He dances with eyes closed, because the sparks from His eyes will consume the entire universe. A great seer has written that “the dance of Lord Shiva takes place in the heart of every individual.” Temples are the cradles of the Indian culture. Science and Arts in ancient India have originated and flourished mostly in temples. Indian society is basically temple oriented. Worship of the holy image is morally purifying, aesthetically charming ,emotionally satisfying and spiritually elevating. Regular worshiping in temples [Mandir] with faith and devotion can pave the way for ‘Moksha’ or release of the soul in its embodied state from all its physical, mental , temporal ,spatial and causal limitation .People who attend temple regularly , tend to feel better than those who do not, are less prone to stress and have happier marriages, says a report published in September 1998 by a federal agency of Canada . The report is consistent with other researches indicating Bhakti to be beneficial for mental health . Mahatma Gandhi said that “Mandiras and images remind us to renew our renunciation and dedication from day to day life . ”

In India the worship of Lord Shiva and the Shakti is indefinitely old . The worship of Vishnu is perhaps more modern . In between is the worship of Sun God and ‘Ganesha’. We find monumental Sun temple of Konark in Orissa , Modhera in Gujarat, Katarmal in Almora and unique , magnificent Sun temple at Martand in Kashmir. In Rigveda ,Sun is termed as the eye of the universe, which oversees all happenings. It is also the source and sustainer of life on earth. Sun-god or Surya was worshiped by Munu. He has ordained that Vedic Mantra Gayatri, addressed to Sun-god as Savitr, be muttered while standing in the morning facing east till sunrise and in the evening in a sitting posture facing west till stars appear in the sky. But the worship of Sun in temples could not last long. ‘Ganesha’ worship is quite common .Ganesha, the son of Lord Shvia and goddess Parvati is a god to whom every Hindu offers worship on every auspicious occasion. In any Yajina first of all Ganesha is invoked and worshipped. He is the bestower of prosperity and remover of obstacles. He is the Lord of intelligence and accomplishment. The origin of Shiva worship in India is untraceable. The number of Shiva temples from Kashmir to Kanyakumari surpass all temples put together. According to Rudra-Hrdaya Upanishad, the combination of Uma and Sankara is known as Vishnu. In the universe, the males represent Maheshwar and females represent Bhaghwati Uma . The apparent universe is in itself the form of Uma and non-apparent universe the form of Maheshwar. The union of apparent – Uma and non-apprent Shanker is known as Vishnu. The word Har +e becomes Hari . Shakti is nothing but purified Buddhi of man which perceives the whole cosmology as manifestation of Shiva Himself. Shiva and Shakti are inseparable, like moon and moonlight.

Many religious and spiritual leaders have stressed the importance of religion and temples. Swami Vivekanada has said the greatest source of strength for any society is in its faith in God. The day it renounces such faith will be the day that society begins to die. By introducing collective Ganpati Puja, Lokamanya Tilak aroused a unique sense of cultural and national awareness among the people which helped greatly in achieving our independence. Similarly, Kashmiri Pandits launched a major agitation during 1967, to restore a girl, from Shital Nath temple.

ANCIENT TEMPLES OF KASHMIR

“Kashmir ---land of pilgrimages…. It would require endless space to attempt to give list of places famous and dear to all Hindus.” Wrote Sir Walter Lawrence in his ‘The valley of Kashmir’. Kashmir is full of temples,shrines and pilgrim centers of pilgrimage or ‘Teertha’. Almost every mountain peak , cave and spring has a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the different forms of Divine Mother Bhawani . Similarly , different temples are on the two banks of river Vitasta (Jehlem). Kashmiri Pandits are known for the worship of Shiv-Shakti .

Temples of Kashmir exhibit unique and distinctive architecture suited to its geographical and climatic conditions. The main features are (1) The temple faces east or west. (2) The temples have straight-edged pyramidal roofs in two tiers instead of the curvilinear superstructure of the southern temples. (3) The triangular pediments enclosing trefoil niches, is on all the four sides of the main shrine. (4) The double-chambered gateway matches the central shrine in scale and design. (5) The cellular layout with the row of pillars is also a peculiar style not found elsewhere. The temple building was a ritual and every stone laid was consecrated to God by the holy chant of the Brahmins. The temple at Lodhau situated 20 kms from Srinagar is in midst of a spring . This temple is said to be the earliest remaining stone structure. There are many more temples which are either in a spring itself or adjacent to it,but most popular and sacred is at Tulamula, dedicated to Maa Ragina. A great phenomena observed here is that the colour of the water of the spring changes occasionally with time .There is great faith among the devotees that changing of colours indicate impending good or bad coming days. In Kashmir a Chinar known as “BOUIN” a broken word of Sanskrit “ BHAWANI”, the Goddess who is worshipped by all, is largest , coolest and healthiest tree . Its large hollow trunks have been used by meditators for meditation over time. The chinar is considered sacred and planted generally at places of worship .The next stage of temple development is found in the temple at Narsathan, in district Pulwama, 4o kms. from Srinagar. It has triangular canopies, sunken trefoil niches and the enclosure wall with a prominent gateway. Dr. Ernst Neve, the famous medical missionary of Kashmir , observed “Ancient India has nothing more worthy of its early civilization than the grand ruins of Kashmir which are pride of Kashmiris and admiration of travelers . The massive and elegant in architecture may be admirable in parts of India but nowhere is to be found counterpart of the classically graceful yet systematically massive edifices as in Kashmir temple ruins.” The famous Shiva temple known as Shankarachcharya temple stands in the heart of Srinagar on the hill top of ‘Gopadari’, over looking the famous Dal Lake of Kashmir. It was built by king Gopaditya who reigned Kashmir from 308-328BC.The temple is on a high octagonal platform and approached by an imposing flight of steps. The temple has a low parapet wall, inner side of which has the recesses. The shrine is circular inside. The most powerful Hindu ruler who ever ruled Kashmir Lalitaditya (701-737AD) built a number of new towns with great temples .Pandit Kalhan writes in his Rajatarangini “There is no town or village, no river or lake, no island where the king did not built a sacred foundation.” He built the famous and elegant Sun temple at Martand and Parihaskesva at his capital Parihasspura. The Sun temple of Martand is a wonder in stone. Laltaditya is said to have built four Vaisnava temples—the Muktakesva, Parihaskesava, Mahvaraha and Govardhanadhara besides a Buddhist monastery and a grand caitya. Once an important center, little of it remains now except the plinths of a Buddhist monastery, a caitya that once enshrined a colossal Buddha image and a great stupa.In fact, he had as his prime minister a Chinese Buddhist named Tsiang-Kiun whose name translated in Sanskrit, was Cankuna. The prime minister constructed a lofty stupa and gold images of Jina (Buddha). A gigantic statue of Muktakesava(Vishnu) was made of gold weighing 84,000 tolas (980tonnes)!Another statue of Parihaskesava was built with 3,36,000 tolas (3,919 tonnes)of Silver . Lalitaditya built another colossus of Buddha with 1,01,64,000 tolas (11,855 tonnes) of bronze. The second golden age of temple building was during rule of Avantivarman (855-883AD) the founder of Utpla dynasty .The king established his capital at Avantipura and built two temples one dedicated to Shiva and other dedicated to Vishnu. The Shiva temple is of the panchayatana type, with the main temple at the center of the Court and four subsidiary shrines at the four corners of the main sanctum. Vishnu temple repeats the plan of Martanda on a smaller scale. The final refinement of form and a more polished look is seen in temples built by Sankarvarman (883-902AD) who succeeded Avantivarman. He shifted his capital to Sankarabattnam (Pattan) and built two temples, Sugandhesa and Sankaragaurisa These structures reveal a refinement in handling of material, treatment of ornamentation and have a more polished look. By the beginning of the 10th century, the growth of style had come to an end but small shrines continued to be raised. Among the surviving temples of this period, one at Buniar is still preserved. There was a tradition in Kashmir of building temples of wood also. But there is not a single surviving ancient wooden temple. While concluding “Kashmir and Related Schools” in “The Art of Ancient India” Susan Huntington records “The Buddhist and Hindu art of Kashmir came to an abrupt end when the Muslims became the dominant political force in the region around 1339 , when Shah Mirza, a Muslim adventurer, overthrew the Lohara dynasty and major patronage was no longer available.”

SARADA TEMPLE

NAMASTE SARADA DEVI, KASHMIRPUR VASANI I
TANWA AANH PRARTHNAY NITY, VIDYA DAAN DEHMAY II

O, Goddess of Learning , Sarada , Your Abode Being Kashmir , I I, Salute Thee and Pray You Always To Bestow Knowledge Unto Me”

In the ancient times in Kashmir, there was a great temple called Sarada or Saraswat temple. In the temple premises there existed one of the best manuscripts on Saraswats and their way of living .According to Prof. Bhuller, the manuscript of Kashmir were found in this very temple. Kashmiri Pandits are offspring of Rishis and belong to the order of Brahmins, the Saraswats. Kalhan’s Rajtarangini records in the chapter ‘The Shrine Of Sarada’ as “The temple of Sarada rises in prominent and commanding position above the right bank of the Madhumati on the terrace-like foot of a spur which descends from a high pine-clad mountains to the east . Immediately below this terrace to the North West is the spot where the waters of the Madhumati and the Kishanganga mingle . There, on a sandy beach , the pilgrims perform ‘Shradhas’ to their ancestors. From the height of the staircase, which forms the approach of the temple from the West, an extensive view opens . To the South East, the valley of the Mudhumati is seen narrowing gradually into a gorge between precipitous spurs through which passes the direct route to Kashmir . In the North East from where the Kishen ganga flows, successive ranges of barren steep mountains with snowy peaks behind them seem to close all passages . To the North , a narrow chasm in the rocks marks the debaucher of the Sangam river, the Kankatotri of the map , which flows form the mountains towards Cilos and falls into the Kishenganga a short distance above the Madhumati.” It is the Saraswati of Kalhan’s description, still known by that name to local traditions. Excerpt from the news report in The Daily,Nov.12,1999,”The Saraswati emerged as a mighty river from the Himalayan glaciers about 10,000 years ago. It coursed through north-western India and drained into ancient Arabian Sea before vanishing into oblivion after 4,000 years of glorious existence.” According to’ History Of The Dakshinatya Saraswats ‘Saraswats are from the banks of the Saraswati…. This river is found to be more important in vedic period than other rivers including the Ganga . The Vedas were composed `mostly on its banks and it is described as the most mighty river .The veda describes her as “limitless, undeviating, shining and swift –moving.” The Vedic Brahmins were Kashmiri Pandits and are identified as belonging to the group of Saraswat Brahmins. Saraswati called Sarada is the goddess of learning , music and beauty. Sarada in Sanskrit is an appellation for Saraswati as well as Durga . It is said that goddess Sarada esponded to prayers descended on the peak facing the Madhumati - Kishanganga in Kashmir to ensure ‘Bhoga’ and ‘Moksha’ for the ‘Sadhakas’. The goddess enables its worshippers to be both creative and communicative so as to understand religion and its philosophy. Sarda temple became epicenter of religious philosophy.

Kashmiri scholar, Bilhana fellow – poet of Kalhana mentions in his description of Pravarapura (Srinagar) about Sarada tirath Shrine and Sarada Peet as great center of learning.He left Kashmir in 1066AD during the reign of king Kalsa ( 1063 to 1089) to become chief pandit of Karnata (Mysore). Bilhana has mentioned this Shrine with great devotion and Jain Scholar Hem Chandera(AD1088-1172) has also mentioned in ‘Prabhavakacarita’ about this great temple. Another reference to Sarada by Jonaraja , a writer of 14th and 15th century 1389-1459 AD who updated Rajtarangini mentions in his chronicle, Zain-ul-Abidin (Badshah) visited shrine , in 1422 AD to witness the miraculous manifestations of the Goddess. In16th century , Abdul Fazl writes , “ At two days distance from Hayahom is the river named Madhumati, which flows from the Darda Country. On its banks is a stone temple called Sarada, dedicated to Durga and regarded with great veneration. On every eight tithi (Ashtami) of the bright moon, it begins to shake and produces the most extraordinary effect.” Kalhana indicated the exact location of the shrine where, in course of time, ” a huge temple complex came up.” Some chronicles mention presence of an idol of Sarada made of wood inside the temple The shrine of Sarada stands on a hexa-angular Spring (19’-13’) which is covered with a stone slab .The temple had been surrounded by a wall 11 feet high .The main temple stood in the middle and in architecture, it resembles Kashmir Temples. It had a square plinth , 24 feet in length .From ground level, it was 5 feet high. The temple door faced the setting sun. One had to traverse stairs to enter the temple. The stair was 5 feet wide . A 4 feet varanda supported by two pillars lead to the door. The pillars were 2 feet 4 inch square and reached a height of 16 feet. The prayer room of temple was 12 feet 3 inch square . In the middle is the covered spring .This is the place where devotees worship and the sacred spot where the goddess appeared in her divine form is marked by a stone slab 7feet long,6 feet wide , half a foot thick. The stone is supposed to cover a ‘Kunda’ or spring from where the goddess rose and gave Darshan to Muni Shandalya then finally vanished in. The saint Shandalya with Maa Saradas blessings became great Rishi and Gotra Pravartak. He composed many hymns and wrote stotras on Sarada Devi. This seat and Sri Chakra are worshiped in the shrine. Sri Chakra form of Mother Goddess, in her form of Shakti, is associated with Chakrashwari (Hari Parbat). Sri Chakra is worshiped at Hari Parbat also in the cosmic form of Divine Mother. As per our religious scriptures this form is cosmic yoga of the Goddess, tantric in nature, which is adopted while fighting evil. Close to temple there had been a great center of learning as Sarada used to be the abode of scholars and Pundits of high vedic learning .Adi Sankara had also visited this temple. There he vanquished many learned disputants and seated himself triumphantly on the throne of ommiscience. The famous Vedanta scholar Achrya Ramanuj also visited this temple and great place of learning in 12th century AD. Dr . Max Mullar, the great German Sanskrit scholar writes, it was the only Sarada learning center in India where there was arrangement for teaching Indian philosophy which we call six systems of Indian philosophy. A prestigious education center based on Gurukul system flourished here. When and who built this grand and majestic temple at Sarada remains a mystery .The temple was repaired by Maharaja Gulab Sing under whose orders Col. Gundu , the Zildar of Muzaffarabad erected a shingle roof over the temple for its protection. The Maharaja also settled a small bounty of seven rupees “chilki” per mensem on the family of Gotheng Brahmins who claim the hereditary guardianship. This holy shrine is situated between 34 degrees 48’ North and 74 degrees 14’ East longitude, on banks of Kishanganga now called Nelam in Pakistan. It is about 100 kilometers from Srinagar and is situated at a height of about 3400 meters. The shrine is now in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The pilgrims approached it through two principal routes of Kupwara and Muzaffarabad (POK). Nobody has visited this holy shrine for a long time now.

Shakaracharya Temple

One of the oldest stone temples of Lord Shiva in Kashmir is Shankaracharya temple. It is located in Srinagar on a hilltop about 1000ft above the ground level, overlooking Dal Lake with beautiful surroundings. Swami Vivekananda visited Srinagar in 1897.He described this most conspicuous temple : “Look ! what genius the Hindu shows in placing his temples !He always chooses a grand scenic effect ! See, the hill commands the whole of Kashmir.”

The temple was originally built by King Sandhiman of the Gonanda Dynasty of Kashmir in (2605-2540 BC) . He gave the name “Jeshteshwara “ and the hillock “Sandhiman Parbat”. According to Dr. Stein, King Gopaditya (369-309 BC) repaired the temple and the hillock was re- named “Gopadari” or Gopa Hill. However, the name of the temple remained unchanged. King Lalitaditya (701-737 AD) repaired it again. The temple is a massive stone structure built on a high octagonal plinth about 30 feet high. The basement is of 13 layers of stone and is about 20 feet high on the solid rock. The square building of the temple is supported by the basement. It has 84 recesses on its exterior and is surrounded by a parapet enabling devotees to have the Parikrama of the temple. The stairs leading to sanctum sanctorum number 36, first flight of 18 steps followed by 12 steps and again followed by 6 steps on either side of the landing terminating the second flight. The present structure, the interior of which is about 4 meters in diameter, is said to have been built by an unknown Hindu devotee during the reign of Emperor Jahangir. The original Shiva Lingam in the temple, along with over 300 precious idols of Gods and Goddesses therein and other structures around the temple, were destroyed by Sultan Sikandar (the Iconoclast) who ruled Kashmir (1389-1413 AD). It was repaired during Sikh regime and latter by Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the second Dogra ruler of Kashmir. The Maharaja of Indore electrified it. The temple was originally connected with the river Jhelum near the temple of Goddess Tripurasundary on its right bank known as Shudashyar Ghat by a finely sculptured stone stair upto the top of the hill . This flight of steps was got dismantled by Emperor Jehangir and the stones were used by his queen, Noor Jehan, to built a huge mosque, known as Pathar Masjid. This mosque was never used for prayers by Sunni Muslims as it had been built by a Shia woman. In her book “The Cities Seen in East and West’, Mrs. Walter Tibbits says in the chapter ”The City of Sun” that ;”The hill is rough and jagged as the path of Yoga. The elements have stained it every shade of ochre, the colour sacred to the Lord of the universe. Sharp rocks break the path as the trials of the way cut and wound the feet of the aspirant to knowledge. On its summit stands in simple, solemn dignity a small fane of grey stone. Its columns are fluted, its doom is round, surmounted by a trident, Inside is one thing only, an upright black stone... The Lingam is the oldest religious symbol in the world . It is also the simplest.” The British researcher Sir Walter Lawrence has remarked “while the old Hindu buildings defy time and weather, the Muslman shrines and mosques crumble away.”

Sri Adi Shankaracharya , a great philosopher, a saint of high order exponent of Vedanta , visited Kashmir in first quarter of 9th century (788-820 AD),for advancing his Vedantic knowledge. He along with his party camped outside the city of Srinagar without any boarding and lodging arrangement. Seeing the plight of visitors, a virgin was sent to meet Shankara. She found the party uneasy and frustrated because of not being able to cook as no fire was made available to them. The first glimpse of Shakti was exhibited to Shankara by this girl, when Shankara expressed his inability to make a fire, in reply to girl s question that you are so great, can not you make fire. The girl picked up two thin wooden sticks into her hands, recited some mantras and rubbed the sticks and fire was produced to surprise of Shankara. Later a religious discourse was arranged between Shankara and a Kashmiri Pandit woman. This discourse continued for 17 days.Sri Adi Shankaracharya yielded before the woman in discussion and accepted the predominance of Shakti Cult. He composed the well known hymn called Soundarya Lahari in praise of Shakti, at the top of the hill, known till then as Gopadari Hill. Kashmiri Pandits dedicated this hill and temple in honour and memory of his visit to Kashmir, thereafter it is known as Shankara- charya hill and Shankaracharya temple. The Shiva linga which is now worshiped in the temple is the modern one and was installed in 1907. The original image which existed was a linga encircled by a snake. Koshur Encyclopadia published by J &K Academy records ; “Behind Shiv Lingam at Gopadri (Shankaracharya temple)is statue of Adi Shankaracharya, which has been installed in1961.”By Shankaracharya DwarkaPeeth.

During April 1903, Sri Aurobindu, a great seer and Yogi visited Kashmir. He described the glory and divinity of Shankaracharya temple in a poem Adwaita and is reproduced as;

“I walked on the high-wayed seat of Solomon,

where Shankaracharya‘s tiny temple stands,

Facing infinity from Times edge alone,

On the bare ridge ending Earth ‘s vain romance,

Around me was a formless solitude All had become one strange un nameable,

An unborn Sole Reality World ---nude,

Topless and Fathomless, for ever still, A silence that was being’s only word, The unknown Beginning and the voiceless end, Abolishing all things, movement---seen or heard, On an incommunicable Summit reigned, A lonely calm and void unchanging peace, On the dumb crest of nature’s mysteries”.

Sun Temple Of Kashmir

There are very few Sun temples in India. The most important Sun temple is Konark in Orissa. Modhera in Gujarat and Katarmal in Almora (Uttranchal) are equally important. Sun temple in Kashmir at Martand is unique, magnificent and architectural marvel. Martand is one of the earliest and yet largest of the Kashmiri stone temples known to have a chain of pillars. On its right and left are some rooms meant for meditation. In the central temple, the images are desecrated and broken, but this central portion is exquisitely grand beyond description. According to H.Cole, Martand temple was built by Samdha Arya (35BC) .Some believe that it had been the Raja Ramdev of Pandva dynasty who first built the original temple devoted to Sun God. Many subsequent kings repaired and renovated the temple complex. The remains at Martand probably date from the period of Lalitadita (701-737 AD). The Rajatarangini is quit explicit on the subject, for in the section on Lalitadita it states that “That liberal king built the wonderful (shrine) of Martanda, with its massive walls of stone within a lofty enclosure (prasadantar),” further it reveals that the temple was dedicated tom the deity of the sun, Surya, who is called Martanda in the text.’’ Martand is about 64 kms to the south-east of Srinagar. The temple at Martand dedicated to the Sun is the most perfect construction with high technical accomplishments The proper temple is 63 feet in length by 36 feet in width at the eastern end. The width at the entrance end is only 27feet. It consists of a courtyard with principal shrine in the middle and a colonnaded peristyle. The latter is 220feet long and 142feet wide. It has 84 fluted columns facing the courtyard. The peristyle is the largest example of its kind in Kashmir. In main shrine, there are three distinctive chambers; the mandapa, the antaral and the garbhagriha .Another distinctive feature is the imposing gateway,as imposing as the main shrine. The walls of the gateway are profoundly decorated internally and externally, the chief mofit of decoration being rows of double pedimented niches. Most of these niches contain single standing figures of Gods. Other rectangular panels contain sitting groups, floral scrolls, pairs of geese etc. Susan Huntington wrote in “ The Art Of Ancient India,” about the Sun temple that it is rectangular in plan, consisting of a mandapa and a shrine. Two double shrines flank the mandapa on the western end. It is enclosed in a vast courtyard by a peristyle wall having 84 secondary shrines in it. Its courtyard was often used for defence purposes in the ancient past, a sort of a fort and a place of refuge. According to Rajatarangini, it was King Kalsha (713-750) who had taken refuge in this temple and had installed the idol made of gold. Fargusson speaks of King Jaisima (1128-1149) who also had taken refuge in this temple.

According to W.R. Lawrence, “ The ruins of the Hindu temple of Martand, as it is commonly called, the Pandav-Koru House-the Cyclopes of the east are undoubtedly’ occupying the finest position in Kashmir. This noble ruin is most striking in size and situation of all the existing remains of Kashmir grandeur.” He further writes,” There are in all eighty four columns, a singularly appropriate number in a temple of the sun. The number eighty four is accounted sacred by the Hindus in consequence of its being the multiple of the number of days in the week with the number of signs in the Zodiac.”

The Kashmir temple to all intents and purposes is a manifestation of an in independent ideal .

MYSTERIOUS CAVE TEMPLE OF SWAMI AMARNATH

Pandit Kalhan , the greatest and earliest historian-poet completed in AD1150, his immortal work of 7,844 verse Rajtarangini-“River of kings”, the history of ancient Kashmir in a detailed manner. According to Rajatarangini the most famous pilgrimage in Kashmir is the cave of Amarnath and mentions that King Ram Deva is stated to have imprisoned the debauch King Sukh Deva and to have drowned him in the Lambodheri (Lidder) among the mountains of Amarnath about 1000BC.It also mentions in Tarang II, Samdimat (Arya Raja)34BC-17AD,a great devotee of Shiva who rose from the position of a minister to be the king of Kashmir, “used to worship a Linga of snow above the forests, which is not to be found elsewhere in the world during the delightful Kashmir summers,” it further states in verse 267 that Shushram Naga (Sheeshnag) is seen to this day (i,e.1148-49AD) by pilgrims proceeding to Amreshvara.” As per ancient literature cave temple of Amarnath was worshipped by devotees of Lord Shiva from time immemorial. It is recorded that Himalayan caves have been abode of celestial beings and great sages used to meditate for hundreds of years in these caves. It is also recorded that the Himalayan mountain range especially the northern range is indeed the first and the sublimest symbol of divinity. “Of the mountains, I am the Himalaya” says Lord Krishna in the Bhagwat Gita. Someone asked Swami Vivekananda, “Why have we so many Gods and Goddesses?” He promptly replied, “Because we have Himalaya.” The music of the Himalayan streams brought divine feelings to the seers. The rushing streams fall like thunder with the sound of Vyom,Vyom on the rocks and the flow out in frightening speed with the sound Hara, Hara. Probably

Adi Shankara, inspired by snow clad Himalayan peaks and ice Lingam of Shiva at cave temple of Amarnath wrote of Shiva ;” Oh, Shiva, Thy body is white, white is Thy smile, the human skull in Thy hand is white. Thy axe, Thy bull, Thy earrings, all are white. The Ganga flowing out in foams from your matted locks, is white. The crescent moon on Thy brow is white. O, all-white Shiva , give us the boon of complete sinlessness in our lives.” Swami Vivekananda wrote about Shiva of Amarnath;

For whom all gloom and darkness have dispersed ,

That radiant light, white beautiful,

As bloom of lotus white is beautiful,

Whose laughter loud sheds Knowledge luminous

The worship of the Linga according to Vivekananda, was originated from the famous hymn in the Atharva-veda Samhita sung in praise of the Yupa-Stambha which represented the ‘Eternal Brahman’. The fire, the smoke, the ashed, flames, the blackwood and the ox connected with this Vedic sacrifice gave place to the conceptions of brightness of Shiva’s body. His tawny matted- hair, His blue throat and the riding on the bull of Shiva and so on---just so the Yupa-Stambha gave place to the Shiva-Linga and was deified as the high Devahood of Sri Shankara…..In the Linga-Purana the same hymn is expanded in the stories meant to establish the glory of the great Stambha and the superiority of Mahadeva.”

In ancient scriptures, it is recorded that Maharishi Bhrigu was the first person to sight and identify the cave temple of Swmi Amarnath where Lord Shiva had narrated the secret of Amartav to his consort Parvati and got himself transformed into ice Lingam on Sharavan Purnimashi. This sacred day falls every year on the night of the full moon in the month of Sawan (July – August) on Shrawan -Purnemashi, when sun is in Leo, ‘Simha’ Rashi and Chandrama, moon in Kumb ‘Aquarius’ Rashi, this yoga makes the Shiva-Lingam darshan very auspicious. A pair of snow pigeons over heard Shiva’s discourse and became immortal. Thus Amarnath , the Lord of Immortality and Deathlessness became Amreshvara. !” On August 2, 1898 Swami Vivekananda had Darshan of Amarnath . When he entered the shrine, a profound mystical experience came to him and latter he said, ‘Shiva Himself had appeared before him’. He further said; “ the ice Lingam was Shiva Himself. It was all worship there. I never enjoyed any religious place so much, so beautiful, so inspiring .” Swami Ramatirtha, on having a glimpse of the ‘Amareshwara Linga’ uttered in ecstasy an Urdu couplet, which means; “Where ice is bedecked in formless movement,

There stands supreme-consciousness as Amar Linga” The cave temple is located in South Kashmir ( 34.12’ :75.07’) at an altitude 12,720ft about 140 kms from Srinagar. The huge natural cave is about 25 meters high and enough to hold hundreds of devotees where a self-forming ‘Ice Lingam’ waxes and wanes with moon. The holy cave is 50’ long 25’ wide and 15’ high approximately. The cave is nature’s temple where ‘Ice Lingam’ is completely filling the right corner of the cave, the top of the Lingam touches the base of the cave. The base of the cave is also covered with ice, like a carpet . Here Shiva is worshipped by nature in the purest way. Shiva is snow-white and pure. Lingam is formed by drops of water falling from the top of the cave and two other small ‘Ice Lingams,’ are also formed, believed to be the symbols of Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesha. The dripping that followed from the feet of ‘Ice Lingam’ or ‘Shiva Lingam’ took form of a stream known as Amuravati. According to Bhrngish Samhita a person who bathes in the waters of Amuravati and rubs himself with the ashes gets Moksha.

Pandit Kalhana describes in verse 267 of Rajtarangni; ‘ The lake of dazzling witness (resembling) a sea of Milk,which he created (for himself as residence ) on a far off mountain, is to present day seen by the people on the pilgrimage to Amreshvara.’

Francios Bernier, was the French physician who accompanied emperor Aurangzeb to Kashmir in 1663. He has mentioned about cave temple, “a magnificient cave full of wonderful congelations”. Vigne in his book’Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardu’(1842) says; “The ceremony at the cave of Amarnath takes place on the 15th of the month of Sawan(28th July)….not only Hindoos of Kashmir but

those from Hindoostan of every rank and caste can be seen, collecting together and traveling up the valley of Lider towards the celebrated cave.” Lawrence mentions in ‘Valley of Kashmir’ ; “Pilgrims to Amarnath were joined by Brahmins of Mattan and further up to Batkot the Maliks used to take charge of the pilgrimage. “

On the night of the 11th day of the bright fortnight of Sawan (July-August) all pilgrims assemble at Pahalgam. Swami Vivekananda describes the on going pilgrimage as; “The procession of several thousands of pilgrims in far-away cave of Amarnath, nestled in a glacial gorge of the Western Himalayas, through some of the most charming scenery in the world, is fascinating in the extreme. It strikes one with wonderment to observe the quiet and orderly way in which a canvas town springs up in

some valley with incredible rapidity at each halting place with its bazaars and broad streets running through the middle and vanishing as quickly at the break of dawn, when the whole army of gay pilgrims are on their march once more for the day. Then again the glow of the countless cooking –fires, the ashes covered Sadhus under the canopy of their large geru (orange) umbrellas pitched in the ground, sitting and discussing or meditating before their dhunies (fire) , the Sanyasis of all order in their various garbs, the men and women with children from all parts of the country in their characteristic costumes, and their devout faces, the torches shimmering at night fall, the blowing of conch-shells and horns, the singing of hymns and prayers in chorus, all these and many other romantic sights and experiences of a pilgrimage, which can be met with nowhere outside India, are most impressive and convey to some extent an idea of the overmastering passion of the race for religion. Of the psychological aspect and significance of such pilgrimage, done on foot for days and days, much could be written. Suffice it to say, that it is one of those ancient institutions which have above all, kept the fire of spirituality burning in the hearts of the people. One sees here the very soul of the Hindu nation laid bare in all its innate beauty and sweetness of faith and devotion.”

According to Amreshvara Mahatmaya some of the important places where pilgrims had to perform ablutions while on pilgrimage were Anantnaga, Mach Bhawan (Mattan) , Ganeshbal (Ganeshpora,6800ft) Mamleshwara (name of Lord Shiva), (Mamal, 7300ft), Nilganga, Chandanwari, Shusshram Naga (Sheshnag),the pilgrims have to cross at Vayujana (Vowjan), from Lidar to Sind valley,then to Panjtarni, and finally to Amuravati. Nowadays the journey starts from Pahalgam (7500ft). The next halt which is at Chandanwari (8500ft) is 10kms.away. The old name of the place is ‘Sthanuashrama’. ‘Sthanu’ is an epithet of shiva and literally it means ‘a pollard’. Lord Shiva sat in samadhi like a pollard in the lap of Himalaya where ‘Deodar’ grew. From Chandanwari to Pisu Gathi (12200ft) is steep hill of 2kms.and then 7kms. away is Seshnag (13148ft) the next halting point. The Seshnag lake 25sq.kmrs. in area, is fed by the Kohenhar glacier(5178 mtrs.) which looks like hood of a cobra. The milky-water of the lake is seen just 200mts. Down in a trough-shaped basin. The mountain around Seshnag is covered with snow and it has seven peaks which resemble the seven heads of mythical Seshnag. From Seshnag to Panchatarni (12230 ft) is about 7kms. In between is 5kms climb, to Maha-gunas, the highest peak in the whole track. This is the last halting place for pilgrims. From Panchatarni to holy cave (12729ft) is 6kms. Panchatarni is a wide plain among the mountain ranges, where five streams flow side by side. Going across these streams there is the sixth stream in which pilgrims perform ‘Shradha.’

The whole Amarnath pilgrimage procession is conducted under the auspices of Chhari Maharaj. Bringesha Samhita records, that Rishi was once approached by the people praying to show them the path to salvation. The sage advised them to take pilgrimage to cave temple of Amarnath and pray to Shiva Lingam. To ensure safe journey to cave temple ,Bringesha Rishi prayed to Lord Shiva, he was graced with Holy mace pair. Ever since this became symbol of protection for the yatries and has now taken the form of Chhari- Maharaj----the holy mace, and leads the annual yatra. The Chhari generally used to leave after performing the Puja at Dashnami Akhara (Srinagar) on the 4rth day of the bright fortnight of Sawan. During Sikh rule in Kashmir ‘Chhaari Maharaj’ used to start from Amritsar, during Dogra rule from Srinagar and now after the exile of Kashmiri Pandits from valley it is from Jammu. The Mahants who wield the divine command of holy place carry the two holy maces and when the Mahant after the prayers at the cave temple takes his seat a Sadhu holding one of the mace stands on his right and other on his left. Despite the terrorist activities in Kashmir and their targeting Yatra, large number of pilgrims throng to Holy Cave Temple of Swami Amarnath, year after year.

Kashmiri Writers Chaman Lal Gadoo
  

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