Natural greenery, gentle slopes, snow-peaked mountains and icy glaciers – and somewhere amidst them exists the high resting points of many ancient temples of Kashmir. A few functional and others lying in their magnificent ruins, the architectural marvel of these Hindu temples in Kashmir speaks of a flourishing and culturally rich civilization.
Standing the test of time are the ancient temples of Baba Amarnath and Maa Vaishno Devi. With faith intact and total surrender of will, they are still fervently worshipped by devotees in the present time. The longest route and the highest peak don’t matter to these brave hearts as long as the eternal bell for Lord Shiva & Shakti rings in their mind & soul.
The temples in Kashmir mentioned above are well-known. However, there are others little known and obscure ancient temples dedicated to the form of Shiva & Shakti and the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu. These temples reflect the glorious Kashmiri history and how artistically rich the region has always been. Let’s see how many of them are known to you.
1. Payar Temple, Pulwama District, J&K
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple in the Payar village is located 45 km from Srinagar and dates back to the 11th century C.E. The sanctum houses a Shivling and is open to all sides. The temple’s structure is simple, small yet elaborative of all the interior and exterior details such as geese, bulls, and the decorative square shapes on its double pyramidal roof. The gables(triangular shape) on all the four sides enclose a trefoil arch(3 overlapping circles) with a sculpted image of Lakulisa on its recesses. This temple has been classified as a monument of National Importance by the Archaeological Survey of India(ASI).
2. Narang Temple, Ganderbal District, J&K
Built in the 8th century, Narang Temple, nestled in the lap of the Harmuk Mountains, lies 50 km from Srinagar. According to historians, the Shiva temple was built by the then ruler of the Karkota dynasty, Lalithdatiya Muktadiya. The site hints at having a cluster of other temples at a distance of 100 metres from each other. At present, it is in ruins yet makes up for the famous tourist attractions in Narang. For its stunning setting and the sight it has to offer, peace is guaranteed here as if the divinity never left. Now an important archaeological site in India, the temple is mainly reached by trekkers and photographers. Apart from Mount Harmukh, Wangnath, a tributary of River Sindh, flows through the place, and the village serves as a base camp for Gangabal & Satsar lakes.
3. Buniyar Temple
Formerly known as Bhawaniyaar, this temple, on the banks of the River Jhelum, lies 80 km from Srinagar. The name Bhawaniyaar refers to the Maa Bhawani. However, the images found in the temple are dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The origin of the temple is obscure, for it is not known who constructed it. As per the local folks, this temple is built by Pandavas. James Fergusson, a Scottish architectural historian, established that the temple’s colonnade is Gandhara inspired. Indubitably, this ancient temple presents the best case of ancient Kashmiri architecture. The existence of this temple has been traced back to the 8th to 12th century AD.
Another outstanding and most distinctive feature of this temple is the material used to construct this. Where other temples are made up of limestone, Buniyar Temple is made of granite rocks.
4. Narastan Mandir, Pulwama District, J&K
Another ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is Narastan Mandir, located 60.5 km away from Srinagar in Kashmir. The name Narastan comes from Nayan Sthan(place of Narayan). The temple is more than 1400 years old and showcases the unique style of Gandhara inspired architecture owing to its circular shape. On the temple’s pediment is the sculpted image of Garuda(vehicle of Lord Vishnu). The temple has no ceiling and in the backdrop stands the majestic Brariaangan Range.
5. Awantishwar Temple, Pulwama District, J&K
Awantishwar Temple, also known as Awantiswami, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Located 31 km away from Srinagar, this ancient temple was built by Raja AvantiVarman, the first Utpala king in the 9th century A.D. Once a magnificent temple, as can be ascertained from its ruins, you can find this ASI protected site on your way to Pahalgam from Srinagar. The frontispieces of the temple illustrate the engraving of Vaikunta Vishnu. The temple is small, but it is heavily ornate both inside and outside.
6. Martand Temple, Anantnag District, J&K
Martand Surya Temple, located 66 km from Srinagar, is the Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Bhaskar, the Sun God. This ancient and forgotten temple was built by King Lalitaditya of the Karkota dynasty during the 8th century. Historical sources suggest this temple is much older than the Konark Sun Temple, Orissa, and Modhera Sun Temple, Gujarat. The brilliant architectural design is such that the sunlight is meant to fall on the idol no matter where the sun is. This exhibits the rare skill of artisans in world history. Although in a demolished state, Martand Temple’s grandeur is still reflected in its ruins. The temple sits atop a plateau and offers an incredible view of the surroundings.
7. Mamleshwar(Mamal) Temple, Pahalgam, J&K
Mamleshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is an ancient temple located 90 km away from Srinagar. While guarding the door on Maa Parvati’s order, Ganesha denied the entry inside to Lord Shiva. Furious, Lord Shiva beheaded Ganesha’s head, unbeknownst to the fact that he was his son. Mammal, as it is also known, means ‘Don’t go’. The temple that stands here is just a mile from Pahalgam. Kolahoi stream flows near the temple, beautifying the mythical spot.
8. Nand Babor Temple, Jammu
The Babor temple, located 67 km from Jammu, is unique for its intricately carved images of several Hindu gods and goddesses. Anyone interested in Hindu mythical God & Goddesses stories and temple architecture needs to visit this place abundant with minute detailing. With the impressive design on slabs and beams, one may notice the figures of elephants, lions, Goddess Ganga and the finest sculpture of three-headed Shiva and Parvati. And the rest, well, you can tell us which deities are recognizable to you when you visit the place.
A travel lover and moody chef, Surbhi loves to read & write and doodle in her free time. For her, being able to write is a blessing, and to keep at it—a work-in-progress. When not working, you can find her swimming her worries away, dancing to the beats, or filling up her bucket list to tick them off.