The Martand Sun Temple of Kashmir is a grand and magnificent temple dedicated to Surya Dev, located in the Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir, India. It is one of the most significant historical and cultural monuments in the region and a testament to the architectural and artistic skills of the people of ancient Kashmir. According to historical records, Raja Ramdev of the Pandava dynasty built the original temple in 3007 BC, and subsequent monarchs repaired and renovated the temple complex. However, it was Maharaja Lalitaditya in the 8th century AD who gave the temple a complete face-lift and made it known all over the world.
The Martand Sun Temple was built on a plateau overlooking the Kashmir valley, with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. The temple complex consisted of a large central courtyard surrounded by 84 smaller shrines. The central courtyard was paved with large stones and was the place of religious gatherings and ceremonies. The smaller shrines were dedicated to various deities and served as individual prayer halls for devotees.
The main shrine of the Martand Sun Temple was a grand and imposing structure, with a pyramidal roof and a large entrance. It housed a statue of Surya Dev, who was worshipped by devotees from all over the region. The temple was also adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures, depicting various deities and scenes from Hindu mythology. The main temple was 63 feet long and 36 feet wide, situated in the center of the courtyard. The courtyard was 220 feet long by 142 feet broad and contained eighty-four fluted columns facing the courtyard. The whole structure was built on beautifully carved grey stones, each stone being a big boulder carved in such a way to give shape of squares and circles.
The peristyle was plain externally, except on the West side, which originally had a row of columns similar to that of the Avantipur temples. The temple was divided into three portions: Ardhamandapa, Autarala, and Garbhagriha. The Ardhamandapa was the outer portion, measuring 18 feet 10 inches square, the Autarala was the middle portion, measuring 18 feet by 4 ½ feet, and the Garbhagriha was the inner portion, measuring 18 feet and 5 inches by 13 feet 10 inches. It is believed that an idol of Sun-god was installed in Garbhagriha. The temple had three gates, indicating the Hindu philosophy of Aehlok, Parlok, and Pataallok.
The entrance, or gateway, stood in the middle of the Western side of the quadrangle and was the same width as the temple itself. The walls of the gateway were profusely decorated and indicated a welcome sign for the pilgrims who believed in the heavenly powers of Lord Martand. The outer periphery of the temple was 270 feet by 180 feet and had three main gates, indicating that Lord Martand had two eyes and the sixth sense to watch the world.The Martand Sun Temple was a perfect engineering marvel, and its grandeur can be seen in the meticulous details and the attention to the symbolism of Lord Martand.
The Martand Sun Temple was an important part of the religious and cultural landscape of ancient Kashmir. The temple was a symbol of the region's rich heritage and its devotion to Surya Dev. The temple was also a center of learning and scholarship, where scholars and students from all over the region came to study and learn. The temple was also an important economic center, with many merchants and traders setting up shops around the temple to cater to the needs of the pilgrims and visitors.
Unfortunately, the temple's fate took a turn for the worse when it fell under the control of the Muslim ruler Sikander Butshikan in the 14th century. Sikander Butshikan was known for his intolerance towards non-Islamic religions, and he targeted the Martand Sun Temple for destruction. According to historical accounts, Sikander Butshikan ordered his troops to destroy the temple as a symbol of his dominance over the Hindu population. The destruction of the temple is said to have taken many days, and the entire structure was systematically dismantled. The temple's idols and sculptures were also destroyed, and the rubble was left to lie in ruins.
The destruction of the Martand Sun Temple was a devastating blow to the Karkot Empire and the Hindu community of the region. The temple's ruins still stand today, and they serve as a reminder of the area's rich cultural and religious heritage. Despite the temple's destruction, it continues to hold a significant place in the hearts and minds of the local people.
The Martand Sun Temple in Kashmir was undoubtedly a marvel of ancient architecture and engineering. Its grandeur and significance as a religious and cultural center cannot be overstated. The temple was not only an important place of worship, but also a hub of intellectual and artistic activities, attracting scholars, poets, and artists alike. The temple is a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of Kashmir, and the need to preserve and protect it for future generations. Its ruins stand as a testimony to the ingenuity and creativity of ancient Kashmiri architects and craftsmen, and their unwavering devotion to the Surya Dev. The temple's legacy lives on, inspiring people to embrace the region's vibrant past and cultural traditions, and to celebrate its remarkable architectural achievements.