Dialogue July-September 2008, Volume 10 No. 1
The Kashmir valley blessed with the natural bounties is rightly
celebrated as the
Foreign Influences or Interactions on the
art and architecture of
Indian and Pan Indian art and architectural movements were viewed similarly. It is only in the recent past that there has been a marked change in the western outlook towards the artistic contribution of the Indian sub-continent. Indian art and thought acted as a pivot and its
influences are said to have nurtured the whole of
The Hindu temple represents the cosmological symbolism in an aesthetic
grab. It is a symbol or rather an
aggregate of various symbols. It is ritually invested with human personality (Vastupurusha)
and conceived in terms of human organism, which is the most evolved form. The
scriptures say that the temple should be worshipped as Purusha. The names of the
various limbs of the human body from the foot to the crown of the head are
applied in Indian architectural texts to different parts of the temple
The door of the temple is its mouth, the platform terminating the trunk
to the superstructure, represents the shoulder of the Purusha; the projection,
the arms and down to the wall, the leg and to the very bottom, to the lower most
molding- the feet. The temple is Purusha and conceived by means of Prakriti the
We talked about the perfect body- the Vastupurusha, but it is lifeless
without the resident soul. The image in the temple, the Pratima is the
very life of the temple. The sanctum called Garbhagriha is the house of
the womb, it is here the regeneration is effected and the higher self of the
devotee is reborn
A similar purpose is served by the superstructure, which is frequently designed as the mystical Meru, Mandara or Kailasa — the function of which is to lead from a broad base to a point where all lines converge — the ultimate one.
The conceptualization and development of Hindu temple architecture was the result of the churning of cosmic ideas in the microcosm of
natural setting. The temple was not a four-walled enclosure but an embodiment of the cosmos and the energy, which propels it. The main sanctum sanatorium, which houses the Garbagriha, the womb, is the personification of Purusha so as to define the relationship of cosmos and man. The image placed in the Garbagriha is the atman — the soul. The temples were laid according to a well-defined plan. The temple building was a ritual and every stone laid was consecrated to God by the holy chant of the Brahmins.
temple builders of Kashmir were way ahead of their contemporaries of the plains
Despite limited means of communication there were interactions at the
social, economic and cultural levels. The interactions in the field of
architecture have been remarkable as it brought about a fusion. The resulting
indigenous designs produced new art. Architectural projects were set amidst
Buddhism was introduced in
With the background of Buddhist artistic tradition, Kashmiri artisans
evolved a style of Hindu temple architecture with a distinct characteristic of
of a tank and is said to be the earliest remaining stone structure. Vigne gave the description of the temple in 1866. This temple does not find mention by Kalhana or any other text. The temple is a plain and simple square, walled structure, circular on the inside. A large number of dressed stones are lying around in the tank, notable among them are the memorial stones depicting war heroes. The corbelled corners of the structure suggest that it had a pyramidal roof as found at Pandrathen. Because of its simpler type of trefoil niche, consisting of a rounded arch inside a trefoil pediment and its unique circular plan, it is representative of the earliest engineering developments which later on culminated at Martand.
The next stage in the development of temple architecture may be studied at the Sankracharya temple. The temple is on a high octagonal platform and approached by an imposing flight of steps. The entrance doorway to the sanctum contains a tri-cusped trefoil arch, set inside a high pitched pediment. The roof of the cella is a plain unornamented pyramid. The temple has a low parapet wall, inner side of which has the recesses. The shrine is circular inside.
In the temple at Narsathan, situated 40 kms, SE of Srinagar in district
Pulwama, the pediment and arch motif is in a process of development. Triangular
canopies sunken trefoil niches and the enclosure wall with a prominent gateway
is close to the final form of temple architecture of
The Karkota Period (ca. 625-855 A.D.)
marked the culmination of art during the reign of Karakota rulers. Lalitaditya
Miktapida (724-761 AD) ushered in an era of glory and prosperity in the kingdom.
After gaining victories over Punjab, Kananuj
and Bihar, he turned his attention to the bordering territories of
Lalitaditya built the famous and elegant Sun temple at Martand and Parihaskesvar at his capital Parihasapura.
The temple at
Martand is the most impressive of all the ancient structures of
reveal a great depth of thought, the delicacy of execution and the balanced
proportion of figures. Even in its present ruinous condition, Martand evokes awe
and wonder and is hailed as the most striking masterpiece of architecture of
The Utpala Dynasty (ca. 855-939 A.D.)
The second golden age of temple building was brought into being by the patronage of king Avantivarman the founder of Utpala dynasty. The king established his capital at Avantipura and built two temples Avantishvara and Avantisvamin, one dedicated to Shiva and other dedicated to Vishnu.
Avantisvamin temple repeats the plan of Martanda on a smaller scale. The temple
consists of a colonnaded peristyle comprising of 69 miniature cells, enclosing a
stone paved courtyard. The main sanctum built on a double base in the centre of
the courtyard and at its
The other temple built by Avantivarman is Avantisvara temple, dedicated to Shiva. The temple is panchayatana type, having main temple at the centre of the Court and four subsidiary shrines at four corners of the main sanctum. The gateway of the temple is double chambered and is devoid of any ornamentation. The main sanctum is raised on a high platform. It has staircase on each of its four sides. Among the sculptured stones in this temple is one of the king Avantivarman and his queen.
The final refinement of form and a more polished look may be seen in a group of temples erected by Sankaravarman (A.D.883-902), who succeeded Avantivarman.
He shifted his capital to Sankarapattnam, modern pattern, and built two temples, Sugandhesha and Sankaragaurisha. Both the temples are much on the same plan as described earlier but these structures reveal a refinement in handling the material, treatment of ornamentation and more polished look.The former is of panchyatana type, surrounded by a cellular peristyle. The main shrine and the remains of two subsidiary shrines are the only surviving structures. Sankaragaurisha is an enlarged version of Sugendhesha and consists of a garbhagriha and antarala. Peristyle walls and superstructure are entirely lost.
During subsequent years due to constant wars between the weak kings and kingdoms temple activity gradually started receding. By the beginning of the 10th century the growth of style had come to an end but small shrines were raised without any notable architectural development.
The main architectural features of the temples of
1. The temples face either east or west.
2. The temples have a straight-edged pyramidal roof in two tiers
instead of curvilinear superstructure of the southern temples.
3. The triangular pediments enclosing trefoil riches are on all the
four sides of the main shrine.
4. They have a cellular layout with a row of pillars – a feature,
which is not reported elsewhere in
5. The double-chambered gateway matches the central shrine in
scale and design. The temple walls in
The offshoot of the Kashmir style of architecture is found in
The traditions never die. The elements of ancient Hindu architecture of
With the advent of Islam in the Valley, the Hindu temples were either
converted into mosques or tombs or fell into disuse with passage of time. It was
only during the Dogra rule that the Pandits could recover their identity and
with the help of oral traditions and scriptures, were able to identify some of
the ancient shrines and relate them to the Hindu past.
The iconoclastic zeal of the
invaders had already left temple architectural heritage in a shambles. Most of
the monuments built
in ancient times were of wood
and stone. Wood being a perishable material, we may not attribute its damage to
man but the lofty stone structures were razed to rubble and nothing noteworthy
of ancient architecture remains, except for a few stone temples at Pandrathen,
Payer, Mamal, etc.
was state patronage during the rule of the Dogras, the regime was not as
powerful as that of the Karakotas or Utpalas. The temple activities during the
Dogra rule started afresh but on a comparatively small scale. Most of the temples we see in the Valley are built on the
remnants of ancient structures and the superstructure was built of bricks. The
temples built during the Dogra rule have a curvilinear superstructure, which is
found in the north Indian plains. In these temples were also placed
sculptures/idols excavated from the surrounding places. These sculptures are
very valuable and throw important light on art and iconography of ancient
The description of some
of the lesser known but well preserved temples is as follows:-
The small temple at Mamaleshvara, Pahalgam like other ancient temples of
Vishnu temple, Buniar
On the bank of river Vitasa at Buniar, Baramulla is a well-preserved
Shiva temple with all the typical characteristics of
Shiva temple, Payar
Payar is a small hamlet, three kilometers from of Pulwama. The Shiva
Pandrethan derived from Puranadhistava, meaning the old capital was
founded by Ashoka. The Shiva
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Fergusson, James, History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, 2 vols.,
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