MARTAND SUN TEMPLE GUIDE – THE LOST HINDU TEMPLE OF KASHMIR
This blog is about the new and old Martand Sun Temple aka Martand Surya Mandir. It is located in Anantnag near Srinagar in Kashmir. It is a complete and most comprehensive guide to the most known ancient temple of Kashmir. This free guide includes the history and many startling facts about the temple.
Who destroyed the Martand Sun Temple? Who was the crazy ruler of Kashmir who destroyed all the temples of Kashmir? How did a Hindu Kashmir became an Islamic region? Who converted all the Hindus into Islam? Who built Martand Sun Temple? What does Martand even mean? Who was Martand ji? What does the temple look like now? Do they still worship Martand ji?
MY FIRST GLIMPSE OF MARTAND SURYA MANDIR
It was a sight to behold. It was in the middle of nowhere. I had no idea that it was built on the top of a plateau offering bird’s eye view of the entire Kashmir valley beneath. Some local Kashmiris were whiling away their time there. There were no tourists. I and my co travelers were the only tourists present there when I visited. Maybe it is the lack of promotion or zero marketing which led to such neglect. It was a silent place. A disturbing silence! Despite lying in shambles, the temple didn’t fail to make my jaws drop!
It was not even guarded. There was no one to protect the temple nor was there any ticket vendor. People could have picked any ancient rubble from the temple and no one would have batted an eyelid. It was gloomy. The only solace was the abundant greenery which surrounded the temple.
It is a centrally protected monument and yet I didn’t see any one taking care of it. As per the Archaeological Survey of India or ASI, Martand Sun Temple is a site of national importance in Jammu and Kashmir.
THE RUINS OF MARTAND SURYA MANDIR MADE ME GLOOMY
Everything was in ruins. Like no one cared! Huge stones with intricate carvings were lying around on the floor. If I were not cautious, I could have stepped on them, many of which depicted Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The smaller temples around the main central temple had lost its Gods and Goddesses.
Sad, I thought to myself, “One day the things will change, the temple will bounce back and hordes of people will come to pay their respects to the temple.”
The mass exodus of Hindus in Kashmir, thanks to the ethnic cleansing (Rape, murder, forced conversion to Islam) performed by their Muslim neighbors had left the temple alone. Without any caretaker! Sans any admirers! Standing symmetrically in the center of the temple premises, I could feel that. The Hindu shlokas reverberated through my mind. I looked around. No one was chanting. It was in my head! I didn’t feel like leaving the place. But it was getting darker. Not as dark as the days and nights Kashmiri Hindu Pandits had seen though.
I hope things change. I will return to see if it does! The temple is in a dangerous state of decay. I really hope more travelers come here so that better maintenance is done by the Government of India.
ABOUT MARTAND SUN TEMPLE
According to Alexander Cunningham
“The architectural remains of Kashmir are perhaps the most remarkable of the existing monuments of India.”
The Martand Sun Temple is located in South Kashmir with snow capped mountains in the backdrop. The literal meaning of Martand is Hindu Sun God in ancient Indian language Sanskrit. The Surya is the main solar deity in Sanatan Dharm aka Hinduism. As per the folklore, Surya, the sun God was the son of Sant Kashyap and Aditi. Surya was the 13th child born from a lifeless egg.
As per a plaque outside the Martand Sun Temple,
“Dedicated to Martand, the Sun God, Temple was built by Lalitaditya Muktapida (Circa AD 724-61). It represents the apogee of Kashmir temple architecture and is unique for its dimensions and grandeur. The main shrine is built in the center of a courtyard with cellular peristyle. The imposing gateway has human figures, floral scrolls, pairs of geese and figures of Vishnu.
The main shrine consists of an oblong garbha griha (sanctum), antrala (vestibule) and spacious mandapa. Two double chambered sideways flanking the mandapa are on novel and special features on the temple. The images carved on side walls of antrala and mandapa are of Ganga, Yamuna, Vishnu and are other deities.
The small shrines within the courtyard are later fine dressed. (I didn’t understand this). Devri stone is used in the construction of the temple. The large earthen jars within the compound, some of which are still in situ, were unearthed during excavations.”
ARCHITECTURAL STYLE OF MARTAND SURYA MANDIR
You will be surprised to know that the architectural style of the Martand Surya Mandir is a mix of authentic Kashmiri architecture and Gandharan, Gupta, Chinese, Roman, Syrian-Byzantine and even Greek architectural styles.
I was impressed to see the layout of the Martand Surya Mandir. The sprawling campus of the temple was surrounded by 84 smaller shrines on the boundary. The central temple rose above the ground as if guarding the entire Kashmir valley. It was the most unusual Hindu structure I had ever seen. I have never seen any parallel despite having travelled to around 300 places in 11 years in India and abroad. I am not boasting, just giving a perspective. It is believed by the historians and archeologists that the temple’s top was pyramidal in shape. Many temples in Kashmir have a pyramidal shape also known as shikhar in Hinduism. (Not to be confused with shikara of Kashmir, that’s a boat, eh!)
The impressive boundary housing shrines is 142 feet broad and 200 feet long. The Greek inspired peristyle is the largest such structure found in all of Kashmir. The architectural marvel that Martand Surya Mandir is, I was agape mouthed to see that all the chambers were in alignment to the perimeter of the temple. What’s more? The chambers were even proportionate in size. The strong foundation is made up of huge square blocks of limestone. The Greek style pillars can still be seen. Many carvings are weathering away just like that due to poor maintenance. Martand Sun Temple in Kashmir is second only to another Sun Temple, the impressive Konark temple in Odisha. The other ancient Sun Temple is in Modhera in Gujarat. None of these temples are in use in present times. I remember someone telling me about an ancient Sun temple in Bihar near the ruins of Nalanda University as well.
Such is the brilliance of the architecture that the main entrance of the temple is of the same width as the main temple in the center of the courtyard, making it look dramatic, grand and larger than life. As is common in the typical Hindu architecture, the main entrance of the temple is located on the western side of the overall layout.
I noticed heavy carvings and decorations on the main entrance. Turns out, it reflects the main temple. Many Hindu deities were carved on the stone pillars and walls, the most remarkable of which are the carvings of Vishnu ji, Ganga maa, Yamuna ji and of course the sun God, Surya. In one of the carvings, I noticed a musician playing the flute.
As is common with Hindu temple architecture, the design allowed the sunlight to fall on the main idol of the Sun God all day long.
Unfortunately only few pillars, rich panels, plinths and some rare carving survive today. The building blocks and other unearthed stone structures are scattered along the temple premises like no one cares! But, it is still preserved because it is in the middle of nowhere and away from Srinagar. Some say that many structures are still buried underneath the soil and fresh excavations need to be done.
WHO BUILT MARTAND SURYA MANDIR?
The real date of construction of Martand Surya Mandir is disputed and historians have different views on the same.
King Lalitaditya Muktapida who was the third ruler of the Karkota Dysnasty built the Martand Sun Temple near present day Anantnag in Kashmir in the 8th century CE. Anantnag is known for the production of good quality saffron.
It is believed by the historians that the Martand Surya Mandir was built during the years 725 and 756 CE. King Lalitaditya ruled Kashmir between 724 CE and 760 CE. Other temples built by the King Lalitaditya are the temples at Naranag and the ruins of Parihaspora.
HISTORY OF MARTAND SUN TEMPLE
Some historians hold the view that that the construction of the Martand Surya Mandir was initiated by King Ranaditya who ruled Kashmir around 223 CE. The construction of smaller panels around the main shrine in attributed to Queen Amritprabha, his wife. It is believed that King Ranaditya built Martandeshwari temple in front of his Royal Palace in the city called Babul.
Some also believe that the foundation of Martand Surya Mandir was laid as early as between 370 and 500 CE. Few claim that Samdhimati Aryaraja (35 BCE) built the Martand Surya Mandir.
Kalhana has documented the entire history of Kashmir well in his epic book Rajtarangini. The book was written in Sanskrit between 1148 and 1149. Kalhana was the son of Kashmiri minister, Chanpaka. It is believed that Chanpaka served in the court of King Harsa of the Lohara dynasty.
WHO DESTROYED THE MARTAND SUN TEMPLE?
Martand Sun Temple was destroyed in early 15th century during the rule of Sikandar Butshikhan who was responsible for forced conversion of Hindus into Islam in No prizes for guessing, why he was also called the ‘Sikandar the Iconoclast’ or Sikandar Butshikan. He was the sixth sultan of Kashmir’s Shah Miri Dynasty. He ruled between 1389 to 1413.
Sikandar Butshikan was a religious bigot. Sufi saint, Mir Mohammad Hamadani influenced him to commit crimes on the then majority population, Hindus in a strategic move to convert them to Islam by force. As a result, many Hindus converted to Islam in large numbers. Their descendants now live in Kashmir and identify themselves as Muslims. Those who refused to convert to Islam either fled Kashmir or were killed. It was not very different from the mass slaughter of Kashmiri Pandits in the 90s.
Sikandar Butshikhan was known as idol-breaker or But – shikhan as he was infamous for his enthusiasm for destroying, temples, idols of the infidels and idol-houses. But means statue!
In his rabid madness, he destroyed many Hindu temples. Some of them include the much revered temple of famous temple of Mahadev at Bahrare, temple of Maha-Shri built by Praversena and another temple by Tarapida. He also destroyed the temple at Jagdar, temple built by Raja Alamadat in Sinpur, the grand Hindu temple of temple at Bijbehara in Kashmir. He also destroyed many hermitages, viharas, shrines, chaityas and other sacred places where Hindus and Buddhists worshipped. Only one temple from his era with roof exists today, probably because it was spared the wrath of the mad King owing to its insignificance and small size.
He also established many rigid and unfair policies. For example, under his rule, the Hindus were not allowed to apply Tilak or Teeka on their forehead. He also forced the non muslims to pay jizya tax. It was Sharia law all over. Much like the destruction of the precious books of Nalanda University by Bakhtiyar Khilji in present day Bihar, Sikandar Butshikhan also destroyed many ancient and sacred Hindu books of Kashmir. It was a ‘thing’ with the wicked Islamic invaders of India in those times.
As was common in those days, the material was used for the construction of Jami’ mosque. I observed something similar Qutub Minar, New Delhi, India and in Amman Citadel, Jordan. It was perhaps a common Islamic practice in those times. Sikandar Butshikhan thus played a major role in Kashmir’s Islamization.
HOW WAS MARTAND SUN TEMPLE DESTROYED?
It was Sikandar Shah Miri also known as Sikandar Butshikan who was responsible for the destruction and desecration of the Hindu Martand Sun Temple. It was a grand temple and it is said that it took him a dedicated team and one year to bring damage to the Martand Sun Temple. Many historians believe the theory that he ordered to fill the insides of the temple with timber and set it on fire.
WHO ATTACKED MARTAND SUN TEMPLE?
When I visited Martand Sun Temple, the signs of destruction were all over. The Sultan clearly failed to damage the strong temple despite his passionate efforts. The central shrine of Martand Sun Temple still stands tall.
Let us see what different historians and personalities like Jonraj, Ajit Bhattacharjee, Firishta and A.K. Jujumdar have to say about Sikandar Shah Miri. Source – Wikipedia.
As per M. Mujeeb, it was his sustained political policy to make forcible conversions of Hindus to Islam a regular practice.
Not surprisingly the evil Sikandar Shah Miri also banned any aesthetic or cultural practices of the Buddhists and Hindus. He declared such practices as un-Islamic and thus haram. And of course, theater, drama, music, dance, gambling, iconography and selling wine etc were banned too.
In fact, a city Sikandarpora, was built by him on the same land where once existed the glorious Hindu temples of Kashmir, destroyed by him of course.
MARTAND SUN TEMPLE IN BOLLYWOOD
The Martand Sun Temple has been featured in 3 Bollywood songs and unfortunately all of them have been gloomy and unhappy songs.
- Haidar (2014) – Most of you will remember the Martand Surya Mandir from the Shahid Kapoor- Tabu starrer Bollywood film Haidar. A memorable political song Bismil was shot here. Honestly, that movie was the reason I had visited the Martand Sun Temple. I didn’t even know about it till I saw the movie. Unfortunately, the temple depicted the Martand temple as evil. Thankfully, Bollywood actor Anupam Kher, who himself is a Kashmiri Pandit questioned the filming of the Devil’s Dance in a place sacrosanct for Kashmiri Hindu Pandits. Kashmiri Pandits had also objected to the director for portraying the temple as the den of the devil.
I saw the song again and I was aghast that they even placed a devil inside the main temple. Indeed in a very taste! I have always said that it’s important to be a good artist, but it’s much more important to be a good human being. Go figure out!
- Aandhi (1974) – The popular song ‘tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahi’ which is the epitome of melancholy and is still popular with people with broken hearts was shot here. Surprised? Check out the song here
- Man Ki Aankhen ((1970) – I had not heard the song Chala Bhi Aa Aaja Rasiya[ by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi. I had not heard of the movie Man Ki Aankhen This song has Waheeda Rehman and Dharmendra against the backdrop of the Martand Sun Temple. You can see how huge the temple is when Waheeda moves around it. This song depicts sadness and longing too. Click here
LOCATION OF MARTAND SUN TEMPLE
Martand Sun temple is located just 5 miles away from Anantnag in the Jammu and Kashmir, the union Territory of India. It is 3 kilometers away from Mattan.
Quick Facts – Mattan was originally called Martand or Bhawan
HOW TO REACH MARTAND SUN TEMPLE, KASHMIR?
Martand Sun Temple is a mere 64 kilometers away from Srinagar. Martand Surya Mandir is located at Kehribal near Anantnag. You can reach here from Srinagar. You can hire a cab or auto-rickshaw. Do not forget to visit the modern Martand Temple which falls a little before the original one.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MARTAND SUN TEMPLE
Kashmir is a year round destination. It can be visited throughout the year. The landscapes look particularly beautiful during the months of autumn in India. If you fancy seeing the temple in snow, then winter is the best time. However, you will miss out on many details as they will be covered in snow. I visited in the month of April. It was perfect.
EXCURSIONS –TOURIST PLACES IN SOUTH KASHMIR
Below mentioned places (in alphabetical order) in South Kashmir are located close to each other and can be visited conveniently making Pahalgam or Srinagar as a base.
- Gurudwara at Mattan.
- Awanti Swami Mandir in Avantipura
- Martand Temple
- Simtahn Pass
MY VISIT TO THE MARTAND SUN TEMPLE, KASHMIR
I was clear in my head when I was traveling to Kashmir. It was my first time in Kashmir but I was not very keen to see the Dal Lake (dull, touristy and smelly!) or the many gardens left by Mughals (Yawn!) My local host was not very keen to show me around the ancient Hindu temples of Kashmir. But I was adamant, especially because most of the temples are so close to Srinagar and Gulmarg where I was staying.
I was keen to explore the lost Hindu Temples of Kashmir. I visited the Awanti Swami Mandir (See picture above) in Avantipur temple, the awe inspiring Shankaracharya Mandir in Srinagar and an unknown temple accessed by a small hike in the Drang village. By the way, Drang looks like Pahalgam. Both the places are in Kashmir and located close to each other. I would also want to visit the forgotten Jeevnath Temple dedicated to Shiv ji at Ladhoo also in Kashmir.
THE MODERN MARTAND SUN TEMPLE:
Not many know this but before one arrives at the ruins of ancient Martand Temple, a new Martand Temple exists on the foot of the original one. The new temple is a practicing one. Despite the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits during the ethnic cleansing in the 90s, some Hindus stayed back. The local pujari said to me, crestfallen, “Now only 8 Hindu families remain here. This temple is for them and anyone else who visits. There was a time there used to be more than 1000 Hindu families in Mattan area.” I stared at the blank walls of the temple complex which was still under construction when I visited. I normally do not offer donations at any temple or any religious places. But I donated Rs. 100 at the donation box which would help in the construction of the new Martand temple.
SURYA MANDIR MARTAND TIRTH ,MATTAN KASHMIR
“The construction of Surya Mandir and Yatra Bhawan is in process, yatris are requested to donate generously under receipt for this auspicious purpose.”
- The Purohit Sabha Martand Tirath
This signboard was painted by a Muslim man outside the Hindu temple who signed it as Iqbal painter.
MYTH AND FOLKLORE ASSOCIATED WITH MARTAND SURYA MANDIR
Below is the information mentioned at the entrance of the Surya Mandir Martand Tirath, Mattan, Kashmir. The language was imperfect and there were many spelling and punctuation mistakes. I have tried to correct most of it. Hope the ASI takes care and installs better written signboards.
Martand means the sphere of rays emitted by the Sun in the dawn (1/5 of the day). Right from Pandav King (2500 BC) to Ramdev, Pratap Shil, Megvahan, Meergul, Torman, Ramaditya, Lalitaditya, Avantiverman and Deda Rani, all built grand temples to adore the seat of Martand.
Vishnu Bhawan Martand (Kashmir), District Anantnag is 5 kilometers away from District Headquarters. Martand Tirath has a sacred place in the Hindu mythology. The village is just off the road which leads to Pahalgam and Shri Amar Nath Cave under the foot hills of the Mata Bhargshikha the hair of the Sun God, i.e., Sh. Martand Ji. This temple exists on the tourist map; every year thousands of yatris from across the country and the foreign nations visit this place to perform their rituals and other religious functions.
In the ancient times, the boundaries of the Tirath were near about 16 kilometers away. This place was very popular for the religious discourses and activities throughout the valley in 2600 B.C. The Pandava King Sh. Ram Dev built this temple, after him king Lalitaditya in 742 A.D. had built various temples around the Martand. Mattan Maharaja Avanti vermin in the end of the 9th century also built temple at Martand, Mattan. During the 10th century, Maharaja Kalshakha in the name of Martand donated golden idol and breathed his last at the feet of the Martand ji.
This place was also worshipped in every period, even during the Mughal rulers Jehangir and Aurangzeb. They also donated the jagir of villages to this shrine. They bow in the feet of Martand ji and allotted the patta. All records pertaining to it are with the pandits of Mattan which is mentioned by the Pandit Kalhan in his book Rajtarangni.
There is hardly any place which is not sacred according to Neelmat Puran, Bharahamvarat Puran, Brangesh Sahiti Martand Katha and Martand Puran. With the prayer of the Sant Kashyap Rishi, Martand ji was made the supreme of the Mal maas, Adhik maas aka Purushottam Maas by the God Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh.
Since the place has been a major Hindu pilgrimage the devotees believed that the yatra (journey) of Sh. Amar Nath ji will complete only if the fish in the sacred spring at Martand be fed on the way back from the yatra of Shri Amar Nath ji, as the sacred Charri Mubarak too starts its yatra from the Martand Kshetra (area) prior to one month of the yatra, i.e., by Ashad Puranmasi which culminates on the Sawan Puranmashi every year.
The word Mattan seems to have been transformed of the word Martand in local language with the passage of the time. The ancient name of Martand was Vishnu Bhawan. The temple was attributed to his legend. According to the Vedas, Surya the sun God was born in Daksh Manvantara (The age of Manu).
Aditi, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati and wife of the sage Kashyap Rishi gave birth to 13 offsprings. These initially were in the form of eggs. Of those, 12 eggs produced 12 sons and subsequently the kalachakra (cycle of time), comprising twelve months, six seasons and two paths viz. Uttarayan and Dakshinayan. Waxing and waning of moon was formed.
Seeing the thirteenth egg as impotent, the mother Aditi abandoned it in the Satisar (The then Kashmir). Meanwhile Sant Kashyap worshipped the trinity of God viz. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh for the fruition of his object and succeeded in draining out the water from the Satisar.
In the deep portion of the Satisar known as Martand ji, water remained stored along with the egg thrown by Aditi. Sage Kashyap saw the egg and he tried to hold it. As soon as he did, it broke when he held it. It gave way to a great flame which hit the mountain of the Martand area. It is said that the blood from the broken egg flowed down the hill.
It is locally known as ‘Bhawani Bal’. It created the shape of the hair which is known as the Bharghishikha. Even today the temple is dedicated to the Goddess Bharghishikha at the top of the hill and Bheema Bhagwati in the south area of the Martand Mattan Baswati and Shree Bhwani.
Another spot is Sangam at this place. The Lamboderi river which flows from the Shesh Nag and Chaka Nadi from the Martand. This meeting point is called Sangam. On the Vijay Saptami, Sankarati and in the month of the Mal maas, Adhik maas, yatris perform the rituals by performing the shradh in honor of their departed souls.
Luminous God of impotent egg! But the question arises that how could the 13th Sun be given his due share in the Kalachakra? It was discussed by the sage Kashyap Rishi first with the creator Bharma, then Vishnu and Mahesh. Brahma was authorized to re evaluate the time and see how the 13th Sun, 13th months that Martand ji will get the share.
Then saint Kashyap consulted his 12 sons and found that in the solar year, there are extra eleven days as compared to the lunar year so that every two years, eight months, sixteen days and 24 minutes, an extra month is formed. It has been found that Sun by way of its transition from Sankrati in every lunar month and after every 2 years, 8 months, 16 days, a month comes in which the Sun does not form the Sankarati.
This month has been named after the Martand ji as the Adhik maas (Extra month). This extra month is the time when Martand ji enters unnoticed to take his due right in the Kalachakra so the 13th month is equally adjusted in this way after every 2 ½ years.
Beside functions throughout the year, various religious festivals and other rituals are organized. The main celebration is the birth day of the Martand ji on Magh Shukla Paksh Saptami. With great enthusiasm and sanctity in the yagya, thousands of the devotees participate. After every 2 ½ years mal maas adhik maas, kalachakra so the 13th month is equally adjusted in this way after every 2 ½ years. This description is given in the Martand for the adhik maas.
There is no rule, season etc. Neither the waxing nor the waning of the moon, and nor the Shukla Paksh neither the Krishna Paksh of the moon govern it. It enters every 2 ½ years and disturbs the whole ritual. It is believed that Shiv ji blessed the departed souls with peace and salvation. Pind dan, Pitre Shradh Tarpan etc are performed under certain stellar positions and special areas the rituals like Purushottam maas aka Adhik maas, Vijay Saptami, Solar Lunar eclipse days, Amavasya and especially on the Sunday which leads to world’s salvation and peace.
The Purohit Sabha Martand Tirath Improvement Charitable Trust owns its whole responsibilities of the managing the shrine of the Tirath Raj, Martand. The management is the elected body by the basic members of the trust as per the constitution of the trust for 5 years beside.
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