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Home » Monuments In Kashmir » Shankaracharya Temple Kashmir

Shankaracharya Temple Kashmir

Shankaracharya Temple Kashmir

Shankaracharya Temple Kashmir

The Sankaracharya temple is situated on the summit of the Takht-i-Sulaiman hill, to the south-east of Srinagar . Neither the hill nor the temple preserves its ancient name; in Hindu times the former bore the name of Gopadri, and the latter - or more probably some earlier structure which occupied its place - that of Jyeshthegvara. But the modern name of the hill seems to be of fairly long standing, as it is mentioned by Catrou, and in a slightly altered form Koh-i-Sulaiman by Abul Fazl. The temple is built on a high octagonal plinth approached by a long flight of steps enclosed by two side-walls which originally bore two Persian inscriptions. One of these was dated A.H. 1O69 =A.D. 1659. Both inscriptions disappeared some time in the last few decades. The plinth is surmounted by a low parapet wall 23' 6" long on each side, the inner surface of which was originally adorned by a range of eighty-four round-headed recesses enclosed in rectangular panels. The greater part of the wall has now fallen. The shrine consists of a cell, circular inside, with a diameter of 13' 2". Externally it is square with two projecting facets on each side. The surface is plain, except for the salient and re-entering angles of the facets. The maximum thickness of the walls in the middle of each facet is 8' 2". The interior of the sanctum is covered by a modern ceiling "composed of flat stone slabs and wooden boards, which rest on two lintels of the same material, themselves supported on four columns in the centre of the room. The south-west column bears two Persian inscriptions, one of which states that the column on which it is engraved was carved by a mason named Bihishti in the year 54 - i.e., A.H. 1054, corresponding to A.D. 1644. The date falls in the reign of Shah Jahan. It is obvious, therefore, that this ceiling with its columns was erected in the time of that king." The original ceiling, which this modern addition has hidden from view, is dome-shaped and built of horizontal courses of kanait or kanjur a kind of light and porous limestone. The absence of the trefoiled entrance to the sanctum, and similar niches on the other three sides, is remarkable. In this respect, as in the circular interior plan, this temple is similar to the larger temple at Loduv. The brick roof seems to have been constructed within the last century. The date of this temple has been a source of controversy among archaeologists. General Cunningham and, after him, Lieut. Cole assigned it to the times of Jalauka whom they date 220 B.C. on the strength of local tradition. This theory has been rejected, firstly on architectural grounds, and secondly because of the doubtful character of the tradition.

Another theory, advanced by Fergusson, is that the temple was built in the reign of Jahangir. He says thatthe temple as it now stands was commenced by some nameless Hindus, in honour of Siva, during the tolerant reign of Jahangir; and that the building was stopped at the date engraved at the staircase, A.H. 1069 (A.D. 1659), the first year of the reign of the bigoted Aurangzeb. It was then unfinished, and has consequently remained a ruin ever since, which may give it an ancient look. But Fergusson's conclusion was based on arguments which appear to have little foundation. Among other things the Jesuit Catrou, who published his History of the Mughal Empire in 1708 A.D., only one year after Aurangzeb's death, says that the Kashmiris are descended from the Jews. Moses is a very common name there; and some Ancient Monuments still to be seen discover them to be a People come out of Israel. For instance the ruins of an Edifice built on a high mountain is called at this Day the Throne of Solomon." Again, Bernier, who accompanied Aurangzeb to Kashmir in 1665, writes of the existence of an "extremely ancient building, which bears evident marks of having been a temple for idols, although named Tact-Souliman, the Throne of Solomon. These statements show that as early as the beginning of the reign of Aurangzeb the origin and authorship of the temple were lost in the mists of antiquity. They also prove that the temple had already fallen into disuse and ruin; and its construction, therefore, could not have been begun in the reign of Jahangir and stopped by Aurangzeb.

Kalhana, in his Rajatarangini definitely states that king Gopaditya built a shrine of Jyeshthesvara on the Gopadri which is the modern Takht-i-Sulaiman, but it cannot be asserted with certainty that the present temple is the same as that which was built by Gopaditya. It appears, however, probable that that shrine occupied the same position. Gopadityais date, and consequently that of his buildings, is uncertain. But the conjecture that the present temple must be at least a century or so earlier than that highly finished example of Kashmir architecture, the Martand temple, seems plausible.

To the north of the base is a low cell 10' 8" square, entered through a plain and nearly circular-headed low doorway. The ceiling is flat and built of plain stone slabs placed on long stone joists, which rest on remarkably long beams supported on two octagonal columns.

To the south-east of the temple base, slightly lower down the hill, is a tank 10' 1" square.

In the area in front of the temple are the ruins of two Muslim structures, probably the remains of the small mosque and garden mentioned by Bernier, and belonging perhaps to the reign of Shah Jahan, when the Persian and Arabic inscriptions in the temple were put up.

The temple of Sankaracharya commands one of the finest views in the whole of Kashmir. The view of the city with its green, turfed roofs, covered in the spring with iris, tulip, and a variety of other flowers, is without a doubt unique.