Shankaracharya Temple, Srinagar
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is blessed with some popular temples and one major temple in the state is the Shankaracharya Temple which is also called the Jyesteshwara Temple as well as the Pas-Pahar by the Buddhists who visit the temple. The Shankracharya Temple has been a highly revered temple situated on the Shankaracharya Hill that is commonly called the Takht-e-Suleiman in addition to the Gopadari Hill. The hill is located in the Zabarwan Mountain of Srinagar, Kashmir and the temple has been dedicated to the extremely popular and admired Lord Shiva. The Shankaracharya Temple is situated on a summit that has the same name and is at the height of 1,000 feet above ground level. The temple overlooks the beautiful city of Srinagar from the height.
Shankaracharya Temple History
- The Shankaracharya Temple was built in the 200 BC but the present structure is a little recent and it dates back to the 9th century AD. The temple is also popular as it was visited by Adi Shankara which has made the temple to be associated with him. Thus the temple came to be known as the Shankaracharya Temple and this temple is also regarded sacred by the Buddhist community. The temple has a Shiv Linga that was placed in the temple during period of the Sikh in the nineteenth century. It became one of the active Hindu temples when the priests started performing regular services in the temple. According to historians, this temple was originally a Buddhist temple that was extremely popular during the Buddhist era. The temple was then later on changed to a Hindu site and Adi Shankaracharya made it a Hindu place of worship. The Jews and Persians used to call it the Bagh-i-Sulaiman which means the Garden of King Solomon and the temple also has Persian engravings.
- Popular legends suggest that the Hindu king “Sandiman” governed in Kashmir from 2629 to 2564 BC and he was the one who built this temple. The temple was later on repaired by King Gopaditya (426–365 BC) and then by the King Lalitaditya (697–734 AD). One the temple had been damaged due to an earthquake and Zain-ul-Abidin had repaired its roof that had tumbled down due to the earthquake. Sheikh Ghulam Mohi-nu-ddin who was a Sikh Governor from 1841–46 had also repaired the dome of the temple.
- The Shankaracharya hill also has historical reference from the historian Kalhana who had earlier called this mountain as Gopadri. Kalhana had also said that King Gopaditya had granted the land that existed at the hill foot to Brahmins who had come from “Araya Versh.” This land grant had a religious term called the Gopa Agraharas. The same region is currently known as Gupkar. Kalhana had also mentioned another village that used to lie in the vicinity of this hill. The village is popular as it is believed that the King Gopaditya had accommodated some Brahmins who had eaten Garlic to a village next door. Kalhana has also mentioned the King Gopaditya who had built this temple on top of Shankaracharya Hill which has been built as a shrine to Lord Jyesthesvara who is a form of Lord Shiva somewhere around the era of 371 BC.
- Abul Fazal, a famous historian mentions that the King Lalitaditya Muktapida of the Karakote dynasty had helped with some major repairs in this temple. Srivara Budsah was a king who reigned in 1420-1470 AD and he also did some major patch-up work in the temple. He had also the temple’s spike and had repaired the roof of this structure that had fallen down due to an enormous earthquake.
Significance of the Shankaracharya Temple
- Shankaracharya Temple has a lot of history associated with it and it is also believe that Jesus Christ had visited Kashmir as well as the temple. This is also inscribed on the temple’s shrine as well as on its steps that lead to the main shrine and this has increased its popularity in the region. There were also Persian engravings on the temple and on its stairs. The historical reference to this temple also mentions the same and this has therefore become a belief of the region.
- The temple had derived many names and the name of Takht-e-Suleiman had persisted during the periods of the Mughal, Sikh, Afghan and Dogra periods. Most of the publications that existed during the periods had all referred to this hill by the same name. The temple as well as the hill derived the name Shankaracharaya when the Governor Sheikh Mohi-ud-Din had made the repairs during 19th century. Since then the temple was not used as a temple and later on it was consecrated as Shankaracharaya temple and this is when Shiv Lingam was placed in temple. During the period of the Sikh, people started prayer services inside the temple and then the festival of Shravan Poornima was also celebrated at this temple which became a custom.
- Gulab Singh who was a popular Dogra King of this region had also constructed the existing steps to reach the hill. The electrical installations that exist on the temple were made by the Maharaja of Mysore who had come to Kashmir region in 1925. The current statue of Adi Shankaracharaya was put in the temple in 1961 and in 1974 the J&K Government constructed the current road that takes the tourists to the TV antenna which is near the hill top.
- The temple of Jyoteshware rests on solid rock with a 20 something foot tall octagonal base that supports the square building on the top. There is a terrace around this square temple which is reached by stone staircases that are enclosed between two walls. There is a doorway which is on opposite side of staircase and it leads to interior. The interior is a small dark chamber, which is circular in the plan. It has a ceiling that is supported by octagonal columns and this surrounds a small basin that contains the Lingam which is encircled by a snake.
- Shankaracharya Temple is regularly worshipped by the pilgrims who visit the region during the popular Amarnath Yatra. The 243 steps that lead up to this temple area are not very steep and can be easily climbed. The temple overlooks the beautiful Srinagar town and the temple is located at height of about 1100 feet. This sacred site also offers splendid views of Kashmir valley and the splendid snow covered mountains can also be seen from here especially the Pir Panjal range. The shrine is one of the oldest in the region and in the Kashmir valley.
- The shrine also has a circular cell which provides views of the valley below and the innermost chamber of this temple was renovated and is now covered with modern ceilings. This temple also is a very well known spot amongst the religious tourists and it is also known to have a lot of religious as well as architectural importance in the region.
Shankaracharya Temple Timings
The temple opens in morning 6 AM and the cars are allowed inside from then onwards. It is under the protection of the Army and hence the entrance is guarded by the army personnel. Cars aren’t permitted inside the temple after 5 PM but the temple does remain open till 8 PM.
Festivals Celebrated at the Shankaracharya Temple
Kashmir has been a popular seat of Shaivism. The Himalayas and the Mount Kailash are nearby and it is believed that the devotion of Shiva spread in the entire India from here, by spiritual work of great saints like Adi Shankaracharya. The Soundarya Lahari is a rich text and lyrical constructed and composed by Adi Shankara at the top of the Gopadari Hill. He had composed the same after accepting that the union of Shiva and Shakti had happened here. It is believed that when Shiva unites with Shakti, he gets the power of creating. Thus the temple has a lot of significance among Shaivaites and they celebrate Shivratri with great vigor here.
Poojas and Rituals at Shankaracharya Temple
The Lingam is offered milk and fruits and flowers by the devotees and they sing songs in praise of the Lord here.
How to reach by Rail, Road and Air
Tourists have to take special permission from the army department to visit this temple. Jammu and Srinagar are major cities of India and both are well connected to all parts of the country by trains, airways and road. Following are the major roadways, railways and airways of the city of Srinagar:
By Bus: Shankaracharya Temple is easy to access by roadways. There are several private bus service providers who run deluxe bus packages from nearby cities to Srinagar is connected to Chandigarh and Jammu etc. The package tours expense around Rs. 4/- to Rs. 5/- per km.
By Rail: Jammu is the nearby railway station to Srinagar, found at 290 km away. The Railway station of Jammu is well linked to different main cities of the country by rail services. There are direct train services available from Chennai, Delhi, Trivandrum and Bangalore.
By Air: The Srinagar airport connected to major cities of the country. There are effective flights between Srinagar and Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai and Shimla. The frequency is generally once or two times a day which is standard amongst all the airlines
Hotels in Srinagar
Srinagar is a major Indian city and thus has many 3-Star, 4-Star, 5-Star hotels as well as many luxurious resorts like Hotel Akbar, the Lalit Grand Palace and Vivanta Dal View by Taj. The city has a major attraction in the form of the houseboats that are dwelled by many tourists and many Inns, cottages and private residences are also present in the city.
Nearby Temples and Attractions
Srinagar is a wonderful city in the Kashmir valley that has a lot of natural beauty and the city is nestled among mountains. The city is situated on the banks of the holy River Jhelum and has many diverse temples that have great architectural grandeur and history associated with them. The city also has beautiful gardens and lakes. Some of the major tourist attractions of Srinagar are the Dal Lake, Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bag and Jami Masjid.
Following are some major temples in Srinagar:
- Pandrethan Temple, Srinagar: An old stone structure, the Pandrethan temple is a major temple that is associated with the Emperor Ashoka and is one of the major attractions of the city.
- Bhuteshwara Temple, Srinagar: The temple was constructed in the 12th century and is blessed with great architecture and thus holds great importance among the locals.
- Sharika Devi Temple, Hari Parbat, Srinagar: This is a temple laced with many mystical theories from the ancient Hindu mythology. The temple’s presiding deity is Sharika Devi who is also the major deity of the Srinagar city.
- JwalaMukhi Temple, Khru, Srinagar: The picturesquely placed temple is atop a hillock and is a popular draw for the tourists.
- Rameshwaram Shiva Temple, Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar: The popular Shiva Temple has religious significance and has associations with Hinduism, but also Sikhism.
- Martand Sun Temple, Anantnag, Srinagar: The Anantnag temple is popular among the devotees who visit the Amarnath temple and the temple is a work of genius architectural labour. This temple was built by the King Lalitaditya of the Surya (Solar) dynasty.
- Mamal Shiva Temple, Pahalgam, Srinagar: The popular Shiva Temple is one that has exceptional popularity amongst the faithful devotees and the devotees throng the temple in spite of its ruined condition.
The Adi Shankaracharya Temple of Srinagar has been a significant and historical temple and it thus carries special importance among the locals as well as the tourists. The temple being dedicated to Lord Shiva is visited by many people and the city of Srinagar is also an important destination for many people and is visited by many tourists. The temple is a place with immense natural beauty in and around the temple and so the place is worth a visit.