Martand Sun Temple


  • Recently, some pilgrims offered prayers inside the Martand Sun Temple, an Archaeological Survey of India-protected (ASI) monument. The ASI objected to this, saying that permission was not granted for the ceremony.

What is the history of Martand sun temple?

  • Built by the Karkota dynasty king Lalitaditya Muktapida, who ruled Kashmir from 725 AD to 753 AD. Although some historians believe that an earlier temple existed here and was incorporated into Lalitaditya’s grander structure, others credit Lalitaditya entirely for it.
  • Lalitaditya built his capital at Parihaspora, the ruins of which also survive to this day.
  • Dedicated to Vishnu-Surya, the Martand Temple has three distinct chambers—the mandapa, the garbhagriha, and the antralaya—probably the only three-chambered temple in Kashmir.
  • This points to the position it enjoyed.
  • The temple is built in a unique Kashmiri style, though it has definite Gandhar influences.
  • A major historical source for Kashmir’s history remains Rajatarangini, written in the 12th century by Kalhana, and various translations of the work contain descriptions of Martand’s grandeur.
  • The celebrated temple of Martanda possesses far more imposing dimensions than any other existing temple, being 63 feet long. The stone carving is very fine indeed.
  • There is something of the rigidity and strength of the Egyptian temple and something of the grace of Greece.
  • Though Hindu, it differs from the usual Hindu types, and is known distinctively as Kashmirian and owes much to the influence of Gandhara the sculptures show a close connection with the typical Hindu work of the late Gupta period.

What are the architectural features of Martand temple?

  • It is evident that the complex originally consisted of a principle shrine at the centre of a quadrangular courtyard, flanked towards the north and south by two small structures it appears that the central courtyard was initially filled with water supplied by a canal from river Lidar to a level which immersed almost one foot of the base of the columns.
  • This courtyard was enclosed by a colonnade, which seem to have consisted of 84 pillars.
  • The temple walls are built of “huge blocks of evenly dressed grey limestone by making use of lime mortar.
  • The use of lime mortar “is encountered in north India generally after the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in the 13th century”, and points to Lalitaditya employing immigrant Byzantine architects.
  • The temple is influenced by Classical Greco-Roman, Buddhist-Gandharan, and North Indian styles.
  • Lalitaditya is known to have subjugated the king of Kannuaj, which can be one of the reasons for North Indian workers building his temple.

What History tells about destruction of Martand temple?

  • Many Historians believe Sultan Sikandar ‘Butshikan’ (iconoclast) was behind it, others blame earthquakes, faults in the temple’s masonry, and the simple passage of time in an area prone to weather excesses.

    Martand Temple
    Source: Wikipedia
  • For those who hold Sikandar responsible, one of the main sources is poet-historian Jonaraja—who wrote the ‘Dvitiya’, or second, Rajatarangini while in the employment of Sikandar’s son Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-1470)—though he is by no means the only one.
  • Three centuries after Lalitaditya and two centuries before Sikandar existed a Hindu king known for destroying and desecrating temples: King Harsha (1089 AD to 1101 AD) of the first Lohara dynasty.

What is the important source to study the early history of Kashmir?

  • The main source to study the history of Kashmir is the Rajatarangini written in A.D 1148-1150 by Kalhana in Sanskrit language.
  • It is considered as a reliable source of history of Kashmir especially for the period from about A.D 600 onwards perhaps with the foundation of Karkota dynasty by Durlabhavardhana early in the seventh century.
  • Rajatarangini provides reliable and comprehensive information on political, administrative, religious and economic condition during Kalhana’s times.

Who have been some famous rulers in the early history of Kashmir?

Karkota dynasty


  • Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang visited Kashmir and spent three years from A.D 631 to 633. He left a detailed account on Kashmir and its people, Buddhist monastries, Ashokan stupas containing relics of Buddha.
  • His territories extended beyond Kashmir and was the first king of Kashmir to issue coins, according to Chinese annals.


  • He was known for his military exploits and active patronge of arts and letters.
  • The most important exploit of his career was the defeat of Yasovarma of Kanauj and the annexation of his kingdom.
  • He founded many towns and settlements and bulits temples and mathas.
  • In Parihasapura he built four Vaishnava shrines with gold and silver images, a Buddhist temple enshrinig a brass image, and a monastery.
  • The most important religoius foundation laid by Lalitaditya was the Sun temple at Martanda.

Utpala dynasty


  • He is known for brought peace, prosperity and stability on Kashmir with the help of his loyal minister named Sura.
  • He founded Avantipura and built two great temples of Avantisvami and Avantisvara there.
  • His court consisted of authors and poets such as Bhatta Kallata, Muktakana, Sivasvami, Ratnakara and Anandavardhana.
  • His reign is also known for the engineering achivements of Suyya. Suyya devised technique of controlling the waters of the river Jhelum and increasing the amount of cultivable land. It involved the imrovement of facilities of irrigation.


  • His expeditions drained Sankaravarma’s treasury and forced him to impose heavy taxes. His extortions fell heavily on temple endowments, priestly corporations, and on the cultivators who were further opressed by forced labour.
  • He founded Sankaraputrapattana and adorned by three large shiva temples.


  • She was the wife of the ruler Kshemagupta and dominated the political scene in Kashmir for half a century- as a queen-cosort, regent and finally as sovereign.

I Lohara dynasty


  • He possessed both scholarly and musical talent. But lacked on military and administrative fronts. He is blamed for robbing temple-treasures and melting down ancient images in order to replenish his exchequer.

II Lohara dynasty


  • He is said to have ruled through a judicious combination of strength and cunning. He was the patron of Kalhana, author of the Rajatarangini.
  • After Jayasimha’s death, Kashmir continued to be ruled for about two centuries by a succession of weak Hindu princes until A.D 1337 when Hindu rule was terminated by Sultan Shamsuddin.

What does the early history of Kashmir tell about Religion?

  • Nilamatapurana, a work from Kashmir of seventh century A.D. informs that Kashmir has had a strong persistent tradition of Naga worship.
  • When Asoka’s missionary Majjhantika came to Kashmir to preach Buddhism in the third century B.C he had to contend with the Naga cult. Hsuan Tsang informs that Majjhantika achieved remarkable success.
  • Kaniska convened the fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir and at the end had the Tripitaka treatises engraved on copper plates and deposited in a stupa in the valley.
  • Hsuan Tsang who stayed in Kashmir saw in the valley about 5,000 Buddhist priests and viharas.
  • Ou-kong who visited Kashmir during the eighth century A.D. also found Buddhism in a flourishing state.
  • The Karkota kings whowere followers of Brahmanical religion but they extended liberal patronage to Buddhism.
  • Kashmir developed a stronghold of the Sarvastivada sect and played an important role in the spread of Buddhism and Buddhist art beyond India to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Tibet and China.
  • After eighth century, Buddhism was overshadowed by Shavism and Vaishnavism. Kashmir fostered a distictive four-faced Vaikuntha form of Vishnu. Utplala kings from Sankarvarma onwards were more inclined towards Shavism. Kashmir was a citadel of Pasupata sect.

Which are some of the other important temples in Kashmir?

  • Shankaracharya temple
  • Pandrethan temple
  • Sankara Guruvaram (Sugandesha) temple
  • Naranag Temple
  • Avantiswami (Avantipur) Temple
  • Loduv Temple
  • Mamaleshwar Temple

Source: IE

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