Monday, February 15, 2010

Shankaracharya Temple

By A.K.Khanna

The temple of SHANKARACHARYA is located on the top of a detached ridge of an igneous rock, The conical hill rises behind the Boulevard beside the Dal Lake. The temple is situated at a height 1100 ft above the Srinagar city. The temple could be reached by two hundred forty three steps with twenty-three landing and the approximate height is 550ft or 167.68 meters from the end of the road to hill, before one reaches the temple platform.This hill is known as Shankaracharya Hill. A temple is said to have been first built here by the son of the Mauryan King Asoka, the great in 2nd century BC. It also serves as a landmark of Srinagar city on the summit of the Gopadari. According to renowned Archaeologist, R. C. Kak, “Neither the hill nor the Temple preserves its ancient name”.A Hindu Temple is an aggregate of different symbols. It is ritually invested human personality or Vastu purusha which is conceived in terms of human body. The names of various parts of human body from the foot to head are applied in Indian Temple architectural texts or Shilpa sasatra to correspond with the various parts of the Temple. The most perfect body is lifeless without the resident soul. So, the temple has been considered as the abode of God whose spirit is immanent in the Universe. The Sunrise and the Sunset, birth and death etc. are controlled by a Universal power regulating the earth and living species. The temple, therefore, is known in such terms as devalaya, sivalaya and devayatana. The life installed in the form of the deity in the sanctum is known as grabhagriha or the house of the womb. It is here that regeneration is effected and higher self of the devotee is attained through worship, which leads to perception and realization of the power in the Universe manifested in various forms in the Indian religious ethos.The temple consists of a circular sanctum built on a high octagonal plinth approached by a long flight of steps flanked by two-side wall. A parapet wall surrounds the plinth. The inner face of which is embellished with a range of actuate recess enclosed in rectangular panels. The upper part of the original Shikhara has disappeared. The present structure of temple is datable to circa 7th century A. D.Thirteen steps with a railing leads to the dwarf wall at the plinth level, enclosing the parapet wall which acts as the circumambulatory passage or paridiksanapath. The dwarf parapet wall with sloping coping stones has rectangular niches with circular top opens on the inner side. The plinth of the temple has torus and fillet moulding all-around upto the level of the main structure of the temple.The terrace surrounding the temple is reached by three flights of stone steps numbering respectively six, seven and eighteen, the last encased between two walls. From the terrace another flight of 10 steps leads to the door of the temple, the interior of which has a chamber, circular in plan, in the center, a modern multi coloured lingam of probably Dogra period, as it resembles the stone of Ranbireshwar and Rughunath Temples of Jammu. The main shrine consists of a circular Cella . The interior of the sanctum is covered by a ply board ceiling concealing the flat sandstone slabs which are supported by two lintels bearing the load on four eight sided column of stone in the centre. The lower course of the ceiling is still extant in its original shape. There is a large oval shaped Shiva Lingam with reddish black stone probably brought from the Naramada River valley in Madhya Pradesh of Central India. The south-west column bears two inscriptions of Mughal Period. The temple resembles the interior plan of a large temple at Ladhuv (District Pulwama) in the ValleyThe brick roof supporting the slopping stone slabs probably has been added in the 19th century. The lower courtyard has an octagonal precast ornamental iron rain shelter shed with some benches for tourists comfrot. There are some modern structures added on the right side in Dogra period for the benefits of the priests of the temple. The shrine is under the religious control of the Dharmarth Trust for conducting ceremonies. The temple is a nationally Protected Monument under the Archaeological Monument, Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The temple is located in the valley under high security zone and hence no camera and mobile is permitted on the top. The night view from terrace of the Temple is mesmerizing and enchanting, with yellow, white and saffron lights twinkling city below. The view is a wonderful experience with white snow clad mountain ranges in the background, yellow & white light of Houseboats reflecting in water of Dal Lake, in a series of rows. The valley below provides an enchanting view in moon light from the temple equally of the same enthralling experience as the sight of The Taj Mahal at Agra.

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