Temple architecture

Shankaracharya Temple: History on a Hill

Professor Upendra Kaul

Shankaracharya hill and temple is a feature of Srinagar city. It is a very historic hill. The top of it has been adorned with a structure in the architecture of ancient Kashmir.

The temple is also considered an icon of Buddhist architecture. The hill, which has had several names over the centuries, is also linked to the Persian and Muslim faith. Names associated with the hill include Gopadari Hill, Sandhimana-parvata, Koh-e-Suleman, Takht-i-Sulaiman.

The hill about 5 km from Srinagar has a height of 1100 feet above the city level.

The top of the hill still offers a picturesque and magnificent view of the vast Dal Lake, the houseboats and surroundings on one side and the snow-capped mountains, South Kashmir dwellings and dense forests on the other side.

The exact date and year of construction are unclear. The hill and the structure, however, have been considered sacred since time immemorial. The most vital information regarding its history is given by an ancient historian named Kalhana to Rajatarangni, the legendary historical chronicler of the kings of Kashmir and North West India.

According to him the hill was called Jeetlark or Jetha Larak and later Gopadari Hill. He also writes that King Gopadhitya granted the land at the foot of the hill to the Brahmins who came from Aryadesa (Aryan land). The land grant was called Gopa Agraharas.

This area is the current Gupkar. According to Rajtarangni, King Gopaditya built the temple on the hill as a sanctuary for Jyesthesvara around 371 BC. Auriel Stein who translated Rajtarangni into English writes that the superstructure is of a later date but places the base and stairs as much older.

Other historical figures associated with the monument include Ashoka’s son, Jaloka. Ashoka of the Gonandiya dynasty was a king of the Kashmir region according to the Rajtarangni.

Kashmiri pundits strongly believe that in 8and century CE, the temple was visited by Adi Shankara, an Indian Vedic scholar and preacher and has been associated with him ever since.

The temple and the hill takes its name from him and it was the faith of the region at that time and the union of Shiva and Shakti called Shaktism transpired. Many believe that the hill was conquered by a person named Sulaiman (also called Solomon and Sandiman) long before the arrival of Islam.

He is supposed to have flown on his throne and everyone, including demons and birds, was under his full command. Kalhana mentions the fierce struggle between the rulers of the time, who had to take refuge in the hills of Gopaldari from where they found a passage from the low pass of the hill.

Sulaiman had gone there with his followers and his throne. Since then it has received the name of Takht-i-Sulaiman, the hill of Koh-I Sulaiman and the Kashmir of Bagh e Sulaiman. It was later repaired and rebuilt by King Gopadittya.

Subsequent rulers during the period from 34 BC to 13 AD improved it and added additional places of worship. King Zain ul Abdin (Budshah) renovated his roof which had fallen in an earthquake.

The temple has enormous significance not only from the religious point of view but also from the architectural point of view. This includes the octagonal shape and horseshoe curve still seen today in the final stages of its construction. According to legend, in the time of Gopaditya, a prophet by the name of Yuz Asaf came to the hill of Gopadari (Shankaracharya) and was renovated by him.

Yuz Asaf is none other than Jesus himself who came here in search of a lost tribe of Jews. Most authorities, however, believe that there is no evidence of this and that it is all imaginary and controversial. The historical records of Kalhan and other writers, however, point to a person named Yuz Asaf.

Under the Mughal regime, the presence of a small mosque was recorded next to the temple by Francios Bernier, a French physician accompanying Aurangzeb, during his visit to Kashmir in 1616.

Emperor Jahangir is said to have picnicked at the top with Queen Noor Jahan. Pandit RC Kak, archaeologist and prime minister of the last Dogra king, Hari Singh, is also said to have seen the remains of a mosque.

This mosque being in disuse for a long time after the Sikh rule in Kashmir was demolished during a clean up operation during the Dogra regime in the era of Pratap Singh. King Dogra Gulab Singh built the steps leading to Durga Naag hill from the side of the temple.

The Maharaja of Mysore came to Kashmir in 1925 and made the installations of electric floodlights at the temple, five around and one at the top and made an announcement to finance the cost of electricity. The Maharaja also funded the cost of electricity.

In 1961, Shankaracharya from Dwarka Peeth visited the temple and placed the statue of Adi Shankaracharya in the temple. Geologists say the hill is made up of volcanic rock formed by the eruption of magma from deep within the earth.

In fact, the mountains surrounding the Kashmir Valley are largely made up of these volcanic rocks which began to form with the eruption of magma 320 million years ago and reached their peak around 280 million years ago. earlier. The eruption of the magma continued at low volume to finally end around 200 million years ago.

The chance of its eruption is most unlikely according to scientific accounts. Despite this, people continue to harbor an unnecessary fear of its eruption one day.

The temple is an architectural marvel. It rests on a solid rock. A 20-foot (6.1 m) high octagonal base supports a square building at the top. Each side of the octagon is 15 feet (4.6 m). The front, back and sides are simple while the other four sides have a minimal design but noticeable angles.

The center consists of a circle 21.5 feet (6.6 m) in diameter with an entrance 3.5 feet (1.1 m) wide. The walls are 8 feet (2.4 m). The terrace around the square temple is accessible by a stone staircase enclosed between two walls. A door on the opposite side of the stairs leads inside, which is a small, dark, circular plan room.

The ceiling is supported by four octagonal columns, which surround a basin containing a Lingam surrounded by a serpent. The journey that leads to it has 243 stages. The Border Roads Organization has constructed a carriage road to the base of the temple with space for car parking.

Visitors can then take the steps. The temple is used for regular worship and pilgrims visit the temple during the Amarnath Yatra. During the yatra, Shiva’s sacred mace is carried to the temple. It is also done on occasions such as Shivaratri (Herath).

The temple is illuminated and full of faithful who go to pray there. It has been the location of many Bollywood filmings like “Mission Kashmir” and “Pukar”. The very famous song “Jai Jai Shiv Shankar” was also shot here.

ROPEMAKER:

One of the heritage sites of ancient Kashmir is the famous hill of Shankaracharya and the temple located on the top. It is prominently mentioned by Kalhana in his notes on Rajtarangni. According to him, King Gopaditya built the temple on the hill as a sanctuary around 371 BC. Several names are associated with him, including Gopadari Hill, Sandhimana-parvata, Koh-e-Suleman, Takht-i-Sulaiman. In 8and century BC Adi Shankaracharya visited it and it was associated with the current name. Historically, it has been linked to several religions, including Persian and Muslim.

Prof Upendra Kaul Founder Director Gauri Heart Foundation. Padma Shri and Dr BC Roy award recipient.