|Sanskrit philologist, grammarian
|Charaka Samhita Bhashya
|Martand Sun Temple
When we had been to a holy trip to Amarnath the exemplary experience that amazed us was the very beauty of every inch of Kashmir. This trip includes the journey from Baltal to Leh. It reminded me of the shloka written by the one and only Kalidasa from one of his epics “Kumarasambhavam”.
अस्त्युत्तरस्यां दिशि देवतात्मा हिमालयो नाम नगाधिराजः।
पूर्वापरौ तोयनिधी विगाह्य स्थितः पृथिव्या इव मानदण्डः॥
On the northern frontier of this country that forms the heartland of gods, intercalating himself into eastern and western oceans like a measuring stick of earth, there stands the sovereign of snowy mountains renowned as Mt. Himalaya.
His words compare the magnificent Himalayas (the abode of Gurus (more about Guru Purnima Stories here), Sadhakas who renounced worldly pleasures to find the truth) to a measuring stick on earth. Such were the sizes of the mountains that gave shelter to the renounced beings. The most parts of this gigantic range cover Kashmir doubling its beauty. This is what everyone knows about Kashmir. Therefore it is seen to have had people claiming it as the last temptation.
In Puranas, Mount Meru also called Sumeru (the prefix ‘Su’ means good, indicates that the place is auspicious) and is the center of the whole cosmos, while the earth continents are formed in the shape of a Lotus. So, Sumeru is the center of the whole cosmos and the four continents mentioned in the Puranas. The following are the names of the four places that surround Sumeru.
Kurus were a set of tribes who lived in the Himalayas. So, the northern part of the Kurus, in other words, the place that is to the north to the place where Kuru tribes lived is Uttara Kuru. Central Asia including Tocharia, Ketumala, and lands beyond.
A verse from Varahapurana states: This region is Ketumāla with mighty men black in complexion and beautiful women lotus-like in complexion. Where we get big jack trees, and the son of Brahmā, called Ketumala is the lord there. The people here drink water, are free from decay and diseases and live for ten thousand years. This constitutes to the west of Sumeru.
Parākhyatantra states that “that excellent horse (bhadro ’śvaḥ) Uccaiḥśravas came forth from the churning of the ocean of milk; because the horse wanders in this landmass, therefore it is known as Bhadrāśva”. This is referred to in the real world to China and that which is Far-east.
This part of the place is towards the south of Sumeru. It is also called Bharatavarsha. It literally refers to “the land of Jambu trees” where jambu (also known as Jamun) is the Indian Blackberry (Syzygium cumini) and dvīpa has two meanings “island” or “continent” and “planets” situated in the ocean of outer space.
The meeting point of these continent islands is Sumeru. This is also the higher Himalayan region around Kashmir. So with Sumeru, Kashmir forms as a center of the Cosmos and Earth. Being in the center, it has contributed to the world in many ways. Great connectivity and rich trade routes made Kashmir a rich place. With the richness of both culture and business, Kashmir was recognized as a hub for many centuries. Moreover, Sanskrit being a logical language paved its way across the world by the Kashmiris who were the authority of its richness.
Furthermore, Kashmiris became the interpreters of civilization. They authored many fundamental synthesizing and expository works like scripting encyclopedias. One of the gems of such pedia is Kalhana’s Rajatarangini.
Jonas Mekas says, “In the end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets”.
This land listened and gave importance to the poets and has still remained close to its culture and heritage that it has gained from great poets. A great example is the work of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini.
Vedic period – Literature and Knowledge
The evident work from the books of Kalhana starts from the Mahabharata War. However, the history before Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, remains unclear, because of a lack of documentation. Let us remember one by one of the great people at the early age of Kashmir and their contributions.
1. Panini – Sanskrit philologist, grammarian
Panini lived in Punjab area which is very close to Kashmir. Though he was not directly associated or claimed that he was from Kashmir, he studied at Takshashila University (which is very similar to Nalanda University) which was again a neighborhood place of Kashmir.
2. Patanjali – Sanskrit Works
He is a sage who is attributed to be the author of a number of Sanskrit works. The main one being the Mahabhashya. It is a commentary on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi. He was a Kashmiri and was believed to have been born to Gorika. He was born in a place called Gonarda. He was also an alumnus of the great Takshashila University.
Though there are speculations on whether he was the person who also wrote the modern Yoga and Ayurveda, there are both ways that have been proven that both could be possible. But it is widely accepted that they were two different authors.
3. Dridhabala – Charaka Samhita Bhashya
Maharshi Atreya was the one who first taught the content of the book Charaka Samhita. This was then codified by Rishi Agnivesha who was incidentally a pupil of Maharshi Athryea. This was in turn revised extensively by Charaka, hence the name Charaka Samhita. What we now read about the book is the modern version of the book that is edited by Dridhabala who hails from Kashmir.
It is said that Dridhabala added seventeen chapters to the sixth section and the whole of the eighth section. Kashmir was not yet an isolated place at this age and did not have anything distinct from what the other places had.
Natya Shastra – Dance, Drama, Music
4. Bharata Muni – Natya Shastra
The birth of Natya Shastra, subsequently Music is attributed to Bharata Muni. Bharata Muni is the first person to have known to have contributed to Kashmir. The idea of Rasa to an extent proves that he was from Kashmir and the fact that there are thirty-six chapters in Natya Shastras gives us a clue that this is derived from the thirty-six Tattvas of Shaivism from the same place.
In addition to that, the solo performances in Natyashastra is called Bhana. This closely matches the Bhand Pather, a familiar kind of drama that is still played in Kashmir.
The word Natya is also synonymous with Drama. Bharata himself claims that Natya Shastra was created by a combination of elements from each of the four Vedas.
Pathya or Recitation
Rigveda is the oldest of the Vedas and comes with complex Swaras. This recitation is not easy and the same has been adopted in Natyashastra
Gita or Music
If you observe or just listen to Samaveda, you will understand how musical the Veda it is. This quality is adopted into the Shastra from Samaveda
Abhinaya or Representation
The technique of representation is said to have been borrowed from the Yajurveda. This Veda has quite an amount of historic representation
Rasa or Sentiments
Rasa is referred to in Rig Veda, but it is detailed more in Atharvaveda, which talks about Rasa as taste. This, in an aesthetic sense, is nothing but the emotions or sentiments that are possessed
Natyashastra has also said to have given birth to the complex and well-structured music. The algorithmic approach of music is said to have emerged from Natyashastra. Five of the thirty-six chapters of Natyashastra are dedicated to music. Bharata speaks about twenty-two Shrutis, seven notes and the total number of Shrutis in each one of them.
Yoga Vasishta – Cosmic Science
This is a philosophical novel that is from the sources of Kashmir. It is said to have written by Valmiki who was also the composer of Ramayana. The contents of this book date back to Ramas time when Maharshi Vasishta was called by Rama’s father Dasharatha when Rama took to vairagya. Counseling was done to Rama by Maharshi Vasishta at that time, sources the origin of the book Yoga Vasishta.
This book talks about various aspects of life, especially the
- Cyclic and recursively defined universes
- Nature of space
- Nature of time
- The reality in a unitary manner
- Triples in Category
- All pervasive knowledge base – Brahman
- Mind tuning into Brahman
- The connection between the outer and inner
- The topography of the mindscape
- Relativity of time and space
- Time flowing at different rates
While the above-mentioned points are just a part of the book, there are many more topics subtly spoken and only meant for the spiritually oriented people.
5. Yoga Vasishta – Cosmology
Though it is traditionally attributed to Valmiki, scholars believe that this has been composed in the early centuries in Kashmir. This is considered due to the fact that there are verses used by Kalidasa in his works. These verses present in the Yoga Vasistha states that this was composed after Kalidasa. However, from recent research, Kalidasa’s life has been traced back to fifty BC. So, even if it were verses written by Kalidasa, this could date back to two-thousand years.
These concepts that are written in this book don’t isolate Kashmir from the rest of the word. They have been written in the oldest scripts in India, the Vedas. So, Kashmir has always been an integral part of India with great contributions across the fields.
Artistic – Architecture and Painting
When it comes to architecture, the Kashmiris have built great places in history. It includes, but not limited to temples. But the most beautiful architecture, some of which are a class apart is worth sharing when we are talking about Kashmiri’s contributions.
6. Martand Sun Temple
Being very popular across the world for its aesthetics, architecture, and ruins, this temple is situated in Anantnag, Kashmir. A lot of people visit this place. It has taken Jammu and Kashmir tourism to the world. Situated at a distance of eight km. from Anantnag, it can be found at a latitude of thirty-three degrees and forty-five minutes and longitude of seventy-five degrees and sixteen minutes. It is at an altitude of 5817 feet from the sea level.
According to mythology, the Sun god also called Surya was born from Aditi from a lifeless egg. Lifeless egg in Sanskrit translates into Martanda. Aditi was the wife of Kashyap Maharshi who is a sage. From Kashyap Maharshi, Kashmir got its name. Martand is made up of two words, Mart and Anda. Mart is a word derived from another word Mrit, which means Dead. Anda, as everyone knows, is an egg. Therefore it literally translates to a lifeless egg.
Kalhana himself has credited two kings, both as the founders of this great temple, that is now in ruins.
By Kalhana’s mentions, we have assumed that this would have been started at the time of Ranaditya. He would have laid the stones and started building the first phase of the temple.
This emperor was also a warrior king who after defeating another king called Yashovarman, the king of Kanauj, led to the founding of the Marthand Temple. King Lalitaditya was a worshiper of Sun as an all-pervading phenomenon.
It is said to have been believed that the structure must have been started somewhere between 370 to 500 CE and completed during the reign of Lalitaditya Muktapida.
The beautiful architecture of the remains of the building can be a treat to the eyes.
- Occupies the finest position in Kashmir
- Most striking in size and situation of all existing remains of Kashmir
- Solid walls and bold outlines that tower over till the roof
- Fluted pillars of the surrounding colonnade give it an astounding appearance
- Kalhana praises the wonderful shrine of Martanda with its massive walls of stone within a lofty enclosure
- This is a very impressive ancient architecture
- The town was mentioned by Kalhana as “swelling with grapes” which Lalitaditya founded near the temple
- It stands on an open plain, where it can be seen to full advantage with a background of snowy mountain ranges
- A great example of Kashmirian style of architecture
- The material used to build the temple is strong and square limestone
7. Awantipora Temple
This is a beautiful place where both the gods Shiva and Vishnu can be seen within just a span of 1 km. They are both addressed by very similar names that start with Avanti. While Vishnu is called by the name – Avantiswami, Shiva is called by the name – Avantishwar. The place was founded by a king called Avantivarman, who was also the founder of the Utpala Dynasty in the ninth century. This settlement was also known as Vishwasara.
These two temples were built at two different times by the same ruler. Avantishwar temple is a little smaller than Avantiswami temple. The former was built before the king was crowned and the latter, once he ascended the throne. However, according to the locals, Avantivarman was a devotee of Vishnu and that the temple of Vishnu was first built. One of his ministers who was a Shiva devotee persuaded the king to build the Shiva temple and then it was built.
The below points explain the architecture and the stunning pieces of information about the two temples.
- The temples were built using sandstone due to which they have eroded over a period of time
- They are inspired by the Gandharva style of architecture
- The central shrine in the temple is built in a spacious courtyard
- Four smaller shrines are built in the corners
- A pillared mandapam stands in front of the shrine in the center
- Excavations made on these temples have yielded coins of different metals
- Beautiful carvings and sculptures make the monuments more and more beautiful
- One of the sculptures represent the king himself
- Some carvings represent demigods and mythical creatures
- This temple speaks about the glorious past of the country
8. Pandrethan Temple
An ancient temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva that is located about 9 km from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
The temple, in history, was also known as Meruvardhana Swami and was built by a minister to King Partha called Meru. It was built around 921 CE. According to Rajatarangini, Pravarasena in the sixth century CE made it his capital and called it Puranadishthana, which means “an Old Town” in Sanskrit. A wildfire devastated Padrethan destroying the whole city. Fortunately, this very temple survived the fire letting us see the beauty of Kashmiri style architecture. King Ashoka is credited for beautifying this place.
- Lord Shiva lies within a square-shaped tank to the north of river Jhelum
- It is now called Paani Mandir by the people living in nearby places
- The ceilings of the temple have been the finest interior ceiling of any surviving temple
- The temple is a classical example of Kashmiri Architecture
- The domed roof of this temple is a piece of one of the finest architectures
- The retaining wall is beautified by a series of arches
- The Chinar trees surround this temple that is presently present in a water pond
9. Mamleshwar Temple
A very small temple that is barely under eight square feet from inside. A porch supported by two columns is evident. A Shivalinga is mounted on a piece that supports the idol from not falling. In addition, surprisingly, a stream emerges out from under the temple site.
It is said that Ganesha got his elephant at this very place. This is where Parvati asked Ganesha to secure the place by not allowing anyone to come inside. When Shiva came and wanted to go in, Ganesha obstructs him from entering the place. This made Shiva furious when he cut Ganesha’s head. Only after Parvati came out that she realized that Ganesha was killed by Shiva. They both then bring Ganesha back to life by placing an elephants head on Ganesha. This is the place where the above incident happened.
- The temple dates back to 400 CE
- A km away from Pahalgam
- Resting amidst the covered mountains
- Situated across the Kolahoi Stream, another beautiful attraction of this region
In summary, even when Kashmir had certain creative aspects unique to its beauty, it has always been an integral part of the nation. Though a lot of differences have been a diversified part of the nation, Sanskrit (some shlokas are here in this link) and Culture have united them into one.