Talking of Kashmir, everyone heaps praise on its postcard-worthy scenery, its houseboats and apple trees, but not much is known about its syncretic traditions of sacred architecture. The region has long been a melting pot of cultural practices that include Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.
- Ancient Temple Architecture
- Medieval Architecture
- Unique Features
Ancient Temple Architecture:
- A network of Hindu Temples spread across the length and breadth of the Kashmir Valley during the ancient period.
- Some of the important ones among them include: Shankaracharya Temple, Payar Temple, Martand Temple, Buniyar Temples, Laduv Temple, Avantisvara Temple, Avantiswami Temple, Taper Temple, Manasbal Temple, Mamal Temple, Devsar Temple, Garur Temple, Sugandesha Temple, Narag Temples, Narasthan Temple etc
- The ancient Hindu temples of Kashmir possess some unique features in many aspects.
- Ancient temple architecture of Kashmir was greatly influenced by the art of these foreign countries very much.
- Kashmir since antiquity has been functioning as a cultural bridge between India on the one hand and central Asia, China and Tibet
- This is a reason that the great ancient Kashmiri architects created a distinct temple architectural style which possesses its own features but affected by both Indian as well as Central Asian art styles
- The European art also imposed some influence on it because of close contact of Kashmir with Gandhara Kingdom in the early centuries.
- The ancient Kashmiri temple architecture is greatly affected by many foreign art styles like Bactro-Gandhra, Graeco- Egyptian and Tibetan elements than the art styles of other parts of ancient India.
- The region has long been a melting pot of cultural practices that include Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.
- The 14th century, in particular, is considered a watershed in Kashmir’s history.
- During this time, different traditions of art and architecture came together — this can be seen, for example, in the ubiquitous pagoda-style construction of mosques such as Khanqah-i-Maulla (Great Khanqah) or Madin Sahab.
Example of Traditional Kashmiri Wooden Architecture:
- The khanqah, for instance, is one of the best examples of traditional Kashmiri wooden architectural forms.
- INTACH literature describes it as being made entirely of solid wooden blocks used as headers and stretchers with brick infill.
- The central space on the ground floor of this 14th-century shrine has a double-height hall with a series of seven small cloisters on both sides, meant for spiritual retreats.
- The layout resembles a Buddhist chaitya hall.
- The ceiling of the central chamber is supported by four wooden columns — also seen in the temples of medieval Kashmir.
- The whole structure is surmounted by a multi-tiered pyramidal roof with an open square pavilion (brangh) in the centre.
- The brangh is crowned by a spire, formally establishing the continuity of the Hindu and Buddhist building traditions.
- This architectural style can be seen in all the Sufi/ Reshi shrines that dot Kashmir’s cultural landscape.
The Jamia Masjid in Srinagar:
- While it was originally built in 1402, the mosque was damaged by fires in 1479, 1620 and 1674.
- The mosque does not visually “resemble any of the great mosques of the larger Islamic world”.
- This is because the domes have been replaced by multi-tiered pyramidal roofs with a central pavilion and spire, a uniquely Kashmiri addition.
The mausoleum-shrine complex of Shaikh Hamza Makhdum:
- Shaikh Hamza Makhdum, who was a leading Suharwardi saint of Kashmir during the 16th century.
- The mausoleum shrine is considered a unique combination of vernacular design with Mughal elements.
- It was commissioned during the reign of Akbar in 1600 and was renovated in 1703.
- The shrine incorporates building techniques like taq and ornamental devices like naqashi, and the main chamber is surmounted by a three-tiered pyramidal roof.
- However, in a clear Mughal borrowing, the roof is topped by a chhatri surmounted by a small open wooden dome. .
The unique features of ancient Hindu temple architecture of Kashmir differ from the other parts of India in the following ways:
- During ancient Kashmir the architects invariably chose the most natural spots for their sanctuaries than other parts of Indian.
- Martand Temple, Shankaracharya Temple, Payar Temple, Avantipora Temples etc. were built on superb natural sites, which are gentle slopes of grasslands, with snow mountains as a background and closer to fine trees and streams of cold water.
- They choose high grounds as much as possible so as to avoid big floods.
Rectangular Quadrangle Build
- In plan, the ancient Hindu Kashmiri temple is a rectangular quadrangle built in the centre of an open courtyard surrounded by a range of cells on all the sides .
- This plan is absent in other parts of India
- The main gate, which is always equal in dimensions to the main shrine, is double chambered and is always built in the middle of the shorter side of the Peristyle, it consists of a double flight of steps one external and the other facing the temple with a pyramidal roof.
- As compared to the other monuments of India the internal surface of the cella of Kashmiri temple is generally kept plain and externally the walls of Peristyle are also plain.
- All the ancient Hindu temples of Kashmir are built of limestone – except Wangath and
- Buniyar Temples which use granite.
- These limestones were brought from Zewan and Dachigam nala.
- Bricks and wood was not used. However, Mortar was used in less quantity.
Absence of Windows:
- There exist no traces of any windows or sky light in any of the known ancient temples of the Valley.
- The only openings that are found in the walls of these ancient temples are the doorways.
Sculptures in Erect Position:
- The figures or sculptures in all the ancient Hindu temples of Kashmir are almost always in an erect position, without any inscription.
- Mostly, figures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses are engraved like: Shiva, Vishnu, Ganga, Yamana and Kamdev.
- Whereas only in two temples of Awantipora figures of King Avantivarman and his family members were engraved on some stones.
Unity of design:
- All these ancient temples are similar in terms of material, style, techniques etc.
- This is another unique feature of ancient Hindu Kashmiri temples as compared to other parts of India is the unity of design.
Smaller and Single Storeyed Structures:
- The ancient Hindu temples of Kashmir are simple, attractive and impressive but smaller in size than other parts of India.
- All the ancient temples of Kashmir have a single storied elevation and the double storey was never used.
- Thetemple was conceived as a single whole and after its construction afforded no scope for subsequent additions.
Mould your thought: How does Kashmir’s sacred architecture combine Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic influences? Give examples.
Approach to the answer:
- Discuss Ancient Temple Architecture and Hindu influence
- Discuss the medieval architecture and the Buddhist and Islamic Influence in them
- Write about the influence of Indian and Central Asian art styles