Kashmir’s ancient temples, monuments in need of preservation, attention


Heritage is often related to tradition, folklore, arts, monuments, places or things of special importance, architectural excellence or historical value. Such value is accredited by recognition from the society based on its uniqueness, artistic and historical importance. Especially, in civilizations that lack written records, they are the only means that throw light on the past. Apart from being a historical record, the monuments bear witness to the artistic, cultural, technological and economic development of the people who created them.

Satish Mahaldar

Chairman Reconciliation Return & Rehabilitations of migrants)

India has an extraordinary, vast and diverse pool of cultural heritage and ancient monuments in the form of buildings, temples and other archaeological sites and remains. Its Northern erstwhile State Jammu and Kashmir’s ancient culture is one of the most glorious ones to have existed in the world’s history, dating back more than 6,000 years. Its immortal creations of resplendent architecture, design and construction of forts to temples, murals to paintings, sculptures to scriptures, made of lime mortar to clay bricks, from stones to rocks, from herbs to fruits in an era of might is right, have stood bent on to unite this glorious land.

Kashmir is famous all over the world for its magnificent and ancient temples. The monuments here are the living witnesses of the golden historic era of over a thousand years. They exemplify the valor of this land and are the symbols of cultural expressions. More particularly, the temples, many of which are more than 6,000 years old, are repositories of knowledge and treasure houses of arts & architecture. They are continuing legacy, which connect the present with the past and vice versa and are living symbols of unique culture and the festivities connected there to make them vibrant and colourful.

Kashmir’s deep rooted traditions

Our people are also deep rooted in heritage. However, these heritage and cultural assets are going into oblivion in the present era. The upcoming generation does not know about the value of the same. That apart, the custodians of grand and antique temples and ancient monuments are least bothered and the conservation of our valuable heritage is deteriorating not due to any natural calamity or catastrophe, but due to reckless administration and maintenance under the guise of renovation.

In ancient times, there have been cultural invasions, which have damaged certain places with historical and archaeological importance to thrust deep rooted dispel into the minds of our people with hyperbole, there is much more in this land to pass on. It would not be enough if a monument or a heritage site is just handed over to future generations; it is equally exigent that its history is also passed on.

The younger generation hyping upon science and technological development needs to understand that many things claimed to be discovered and equated with scientific objectives were said and laid down here centuries in the spiritual sphere. The intelligence, knowledge and skill of the people of this land have been far superior and precious even in fields that science is yet to find answers. In proof, not only have the primogeniture of this land left behind theories beyond human comprehension, but also astonishing and illuminating monuments and scriptures.

The object of such creation was not just a personal achievement, but a conscious effort to leave a historical imprint for future generations. Just as good memories create nostalgia, knowledge about history brings in a sense of pride, belonging and motivation to recreate history. To fulfil its informative and educative functions, a monument or a place of historical importance with heritage value, in addition to its preservation needs to be opened to the public, which means that its spatial dimension as well as its content can be experienced by the public and be sustainable. Thus, it is needless to emphasize that these have to be preserved and protected at all costs and for posterity.

Constitutional obligation to save Kashmir’s history

Our constitution, understanding the importance of long standing history and civilization, has thrust upon the state a duty to protect, safeguard and nourish the rich culture, tradition and heritage of this land. The devout inhabitants of indigenous faiths of this land have left behind numerous symbols reflecting their adroit and arduous work, which by efflux of time have garnered great veneration to the faiths now known as religions. The right to profess, practice and propagate religion shall also include within its domain the right to protection of the symbols of such religion. The state is obligated under the Constitution to protect the symbols of heritage, tradition and culture.

At the outset, it would be apropos to brief about the heritage and cultural assets possessed by Jammu and Kashmir and its role in improving local economy by way of tourism, preservation of cultural and traditional values and practices, serving educational resources, increasing community value and social inclusion and above all, bringing pride to our Nation. The entire state is strewn with great examples of ancient Kashmir architecture that goes as far back as 5,000 years.

Apart from the temples, the state is also home to several historical forts and other modern architectural marvels from its medieval heritage to colonial history. It comprises the oldest inhabitants of the world, as it is the motherland to the world’s oldest language, Kashmir, in usage. The state has remained a cultural hub for various activities like debates, art, innovations, architecture, music and commerce from time immemorial. The culture, tradition and practices were connected with religious beliefs. The record of valorous and historical events, found in many places like temples and forts, monuments and heritage sites, exemplify the indomitable claim towards the ancientness of the language, belief, tradition and culture of the people.

Preserve for future

In social and cultural parlance, “Heritage” is often related to tradition, folklore, arts, monuments, places or things of special importance, architectural excellence or historical value. Such value is accredited by recognition from the society based on its uniqueness, artistic and historical importance. Especially, in civilizations that lack written records, they are the only means that throw light on the past. Apart from being a historical record, the monuments bear witness to the artistic, cultural, technological and economic development of the people who created them.

Monuments, which have been created for thousands of years, are the most durable and famous symbols of ancient civilizations. The evolution of the human race, from primitive to middle age, from renaissance to current age is the transition of human thought and execution. Such transitions are ostensible from the artefacts that stand tall and strong, effervescent and illuminating. They symbolize the growth and development of the place and people and are frequently used to enhance the appearance of a city or location. Structures created for other purposes that have been made notable by their age, size or historical significance may be regarded as monuments. They are also designed to convey historical or political information and the same can be used to reinforce the primacy of contemporary political power and educate the populace about important events or figures from the past.

Such monuments, which stand as testimony to cultural, artistic, traditional and natural heritage of this land, have to be preserved and such heritage has to be passed on to the future generations Apart from that, the land of Kashmir has multitudinous and ancient, large and exhilarating, intriguing and mystical temples with astounding and unique style and art, which are all of archaeological importance. These temples played multiple roles in the development of society. They are not only the places for worship, but also the places that exhibited extraordinary art in the form of sculptures, idols, paintings, murals and music, which also formed part of its heritage.

Kashmir temples depict 6,000 year old culture

Temples that have withstood the test of time are also to be treated as places of archaeological or historical importance as they are not only built with extraordinary skill, but also they reflect historical events termed as “legend” in common parlance and they are instrumental in the survival of the language of this land. It is necessary to describe the activities associated with the temples exhaustively, but objectively.

Every ancient temple was structured in such a way that specific places were allocated for the activities associated with the traditional method of worship that included recital of hymns in praise of deity, recital of vedic hymns, dance, drama or folklore, debates, conduct of festivals, etc. During festivals, folklore programs and dramas were conducted.

From time immemorial, music and art are closely associated with the culture and tradition of temples. Music in this land is mixed with every tradition and ritual. It is still a matter of pride for an artist to perform or give discourse in a temple. Legends speak about the Kashmir Sangams conducted, wherein the talents in music, art and debates were displayed. The temple artistes / musicians have dedicated their services to play musical instruments in an eminent manner, whenever pujas (worship) for the deities are performed and during festivals arranged by the authorities of the temples as per the rituals and customs. Some see it as a spiritual opportunity to unify and experience the bliss of the supreme. The classical “Kashmir literature” of our land was set to Shaivism & music.

Temples were the epicenters for philanthropic services ensuring to conduct various social welfare activities. Huge extent of lands, jewels, properties and even animals were donated to temples. Such donations were made not only of the love for the deity, but also considering the fact that the income derived from the lands would help the temples in the performance of every ritual perpetually. The stone inscriptions record that there were many charitable endowments, which provided both food and accommodation for students studying Kashmir literature and grammar. Though the land was administered by the Kings, the intervention of the Kings in spiritual and charitable matters was less.

The temples here have been centers for tourist attraction mainly because of its ancientness, some of which have legends dating it to before 6,000 years. Despite many storms in various forms, they stood tall reflecting not only the structural stability, but also the universal truth. Therefore, in order to save and safeguard the ancient heritage of this land, it is not only necessary to protect and resurrect the temples and its properties, but also to restore the age old Kashmir traditions and cultures followed in the temples and bring it to the knowledge of the public.

Our Kings adopted the ideology using scientific methods in constructing the temples for its future preservation. A monument, sculpture or scripture is not just a record of historical fact, but is a testimony to the knowledge, culture, tradition and lifestyle of the people. It exhibits in brief, the happenings of the yesteryears that is, to be imbibed, followed and carried forward by the present and future generations. It is now an accepted fact that the temples were not constructed as a mere place of worship, but also have some scientific significance based on their locations. The murals and paintings in the temples and caves demonstrate the knowledge of our people in chemistry and the prevalence of the same in many places of Kashmir speaks volumes on the natural intelligence of the people of this land.

(Author is a Kashmiri Pandit leader and chairman of the Reconciliation Return & Rehabilitations of migrants)