Primary Sanctum of Martand Sun Temple Kashmir

Kashmir’s Martand Sun Temple: Intriguing Ruins Of A Lost Dynasty

In early November 2011, I was fortunate to go on a 10-day trip to Kashmir, a state at the very north of India, that has since been overrun by terrorism and violence.

During our sightseeing tour of Kashmir, our guide, Parvaiz bhai, took us way off the usual tourist route to see some gems of Kashmiri architecture that very few people get to see. One of these was the Martand Sun Temple that lies 8 kilometres (5 miles) from Anantnag.

The kids roaming in the ancient ruins
The kids roaming in the ancient ruins

History Of The Martand Sun Temple In Kashmir

Martand is another Sanskrit name for the Hindu Sun-god, Surya. It was built during the 8th century A.D. by the third ruler of the Karkota Dynasty, Lalitaditya Muktapida, and destroyed by Sultan Sikandar Butshikan in the early 15th century.

Now only the ruins remain to tell the story of this excellent specimen of Kashmiri architecture, blended into the Gandharan, Gupta, Chinese, Roman, Syrian-Byzantine and Greek forms of architecture.

Greek style pillars line the smaller shrines surrounding the courtyard
Greek style pillars line the smaller shrines surrounding the courtyard

Situated on top of a plateau, one can view the whole of the Kashmir Valley from this temple. The courtyard has a primary shrine in its centre and is surrounded by 84 smaller shrines, incorporating a smaller temple that was previously built.

Primary Sanctum of Martand Sun Temple Kashmir
Primary Sanctum of Martand Sun Temple Kashmir

According to Wikipedia, the primary shrine is located in a centralized structure (the temple proper) that is thought to have had a pyramidal top – a common feature of the temples in Kashmir.

A number of wall carvings in the antechamber of the temple proper depict other gods, such as Vishnu, and river goddesses, such as Ganga and Yamuna, in addition to the sun-god Surya.

Hindu god and goddess carved into the walls
Hindu god and goddess carved into the walls

Many other carvings, like this one depicting a lone musician playing the flute, can be found among them.

Musician playing the flute
Musician playing the flute

In a straight line from the central shrine, was a carving of what looked like a flower, but is more likely the sun.

Carving of the sun in the floor of the temple
Carving of the sun in the floor of the temple

Strangely, this stone carving is no longer visible in any of the later images of the Martand Sun temple online. Was it destroyed or stolen by vandals? I would really love to know what happened to it.

Another carving that I have not seen anywhere else online is this Shivling (Shiva Lingam depicting Lord Shiva’s male organ) with a reddish, barely discernable Sanskrit ‘Om’ symbol painted on it long ago, that lies forlornly in the lawns of the ruins. Shivlings are worshipped all over India as a sacred Hindu symbol of creation.

Shivling in the temple grounds
Shivling in the temple grounds

There are some more fascinating relics of the ancient civilization that built the temple, like this motif displaying the ancient Śāradā script.

Motif displaying the ancient Sarada script
Motif displaying the ancient Sarada script

Although the Martand Sun Temple is a site of national importance and appears in the list of centrally protected monuments as Martanda (Sun Temple), these relics of a lost dynasty are lying in ruin today and there seems to be no motivation to restore them.

When we went, there was no security guarding the ruins. We could just walk in and out without anyone stopping us. I guess that’s why it’s so easy to vandalise these ancient sites.

I imagine that, with all the unrest in Kashmir, the Archaeological Survey of India can’t do much to preserve these ruins. However, they were recently in the news recently for a much more undesirable reason.

The Martand Sun temple was used as the backdrop for the song Bismil from the Bollywood movie, Haider, in which it was controversially shown as a place of evil. You can watch the video below.

As a lover of ancient ruins and architecture, I considered myself lucky to get a glimpse of this striking example of Kashmiri architecture in 2011,  at a time when the Kashmir valley was still relatively peaceful and tourism was flourishing.

How To Reach The Martand Sun Temple?

The best way to go here is to hire a taxi from Srinagar or Anantnag. On the way, you can visit a few other sights like the Kokernag Botanical Gardens and the Verinag Springs.

Watch the video below for more photos of our visit to Kashmir’s Martand Sun Temple.

Also, read:

Your Kashmir tour is incomplete without a visit to the Martand Sun TempleThe missing stone sculpture of sun in the floor of the temple

Summary
Kashmir’s Martand Sun Temple: Intriguing Ruins Of A Lost Dynasty
Article Name
Kashmir’s Martand Sun Temple: Intriguing Ruins Of A Lost Dynasty
Description
Your Kashmir tour is incomplete without a visit to the Martand Sun Temple, an ancient ruin that showcases early Kashmiri architecture.
Author
Publisher Name
Ahoy Matey
Publisher Logo

Priya Florence Shah

Priya Florence Shah is an author, blogger and travel writer.She loves vacations that involve peace and quiet but loves nature, wildlife, art, history and culture too. You can connect with her @PriyaFlorence

22 thoughts on “Kashmir’s Martand Sun Temple: Intriguing Ruins Of A Lost Dynasty”

  1. How lucky that you got to see this amazing site! Sad to hear that there isn’t much they can do to protect the ruins during the unrest there. The carvings are exquisite!

  2. Kashmir sounds like an interesting place. It is very unfortunate that it has been overrun by terrorism and violence but glad to hear you were able to visit before then.

  3. “Intriguing” is definitely the right word to describe these ruins, they look mystical 🙂 just a shame that they’re not able to preserve them – you’re lucky you got to see them when you did x

  4. Wow this looks like such a fascinating site to explore. There’s so much history and so many beautiful design details. Those paired with the religious significance makes it somewhere I’d definitely love to visit!

  5. You were lucky to have gone to Kashmir State before it became too dangerous. What a fascinating temple with such detailed scripts/motifs. It’s really a shame that we as the human race don’t always do our part to protect and preserve history. Glad you sharing this amazing article.

  6. Beautiful pictures! I didn’t really know much about Kashmir but the history looks so interesting and valuable to learn about! Awesome

  7. Amazing!

    At university I studied Archaeology and Prehistory, and I wrote an essay on Sun God worship, for which I had to do a lot of worship. Now, I really love studying, reading and exploring anything to do with sun worship and sun god worship. Finding out about new temples dedicated to it is always a joy for me. Thanks for sharing this.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *