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Shankaracharya Temple

The sacred temple of Shankaracharya occupies the top of the hills known as Takht-I-Sulaiman in the south-east of Srinagar. The site dates back to 250BC. The philosopher Shankaracharya stayed at this place when he visited Kashmir ten centuries ago to revive Sanatan Dharma.

Before this date, the temple was known as Gopadri, as an earlier edifice on the same site was built by king Lalitaditya in the 6th century AD. In fact, the road below the hill, with residences of high- ranking State Government officials, is still known as Gupkar road. Built on a high octagonal plinth and approached by a flight of steps with side walls that once bore inscriptions, the main surviving shrine consists of a circular cell. It overlooks the Valley and can be approached by a motorable road. A modern ceiling covers the inner sanctum and an inscription in Persian traces its origin to the reign of Emperor Shah Jehan. The original ceiling was dome- shaped and the brick roof, it appears, is not more than a century old.

Rajtarangini states that it was first built by Jalauka, the son of great Emperor Ashoka, about 200 B.C. The temple was later rebuilt and dedicated to Jyesthesvara by Gopaditya, who ruled from 253 A.D. to 328. The hill was called Gopadri and the village at its foot on the south is still called Gopkar.
 

 

It is also said that once Shankaracharya, a famous Hindu saint, came to Kashmir from South India to revive Hinduism. He stayed on the top of the hill for sometime and the hill thus came to be known as Shankaracharya hill.


This temple stands on a solid rock and consists of an octagonal basement of 13 layers. Each of the four sides has two projections which terminate in pediment and agable, the latter intersecting the main roof half way up its slope.

Bamzai, the great historian, gives the following description of the temple:

"The body of the temple is surrounded by a terrace enclosed by a stone wall or parapet, 3.5 feet high. This in following the outline of the basement, preserves its octagonal shape. The surrounding of the temple is reached by three flights of stone steps, numbering respectively 6,7 and eighteen, the last being encased between two walls. From the terrace another flight often steps leads to the door of the temple. The interior is a chamber, circular in plan, with a basin containing a lingam. Its general shape is that of a cone with four sides formed by the rectangular adjustment of gable-shaped slabs of masonry .... The interior of the temple is 14 feet in diameter; the ceiling is flat and 11 feet high; the walls which are 7.5 feet thick, are covered with white plaster composed of gypsum, and the roof is supported by four octagonal limestone pillars. The whole of the building is of stone, which is laid throughout in horizontal courses, no cement appearing to have been used ".

The temple shows the early Kashmiri style. "It tries to introduce the early Sihara style and has still one-storeyed gable pediment which is evident even now. Here we find the early specimen of the horse shoe arch, prominent in the final stages of this architecture, as, for example, in Martand".

Leaving the Shankaracharya hill behind, we see, on the right side of the boulevard, a line of magnificent mansions, some of which contain hotels and some showrooms of the big business houses of Kashmir. There are also magnificent palatial buildings which have been converted into a hotel, known as Oberoi Palace Hotel. Above on the height, close to Shankaracharya, is Dr. Karan Singh's Palace, known as Karan Niwas.

 

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