Visiting any temple is always a soothing experience, filled with tranquility. When that experience comes nestled amid verdant trees and fresh mountain air against the gorgeous backdrop of snow-kissed mountains, it is not just enriching; it is divine. Perched at the top of the Shankaracharya Hill on the Zabarwan Mountain of Srinagar, this Shiva temple is a physical manifestation of that experience. So if you are touring Srinagar, and looking for a peaceful spot where you can not only appreciate a piece of history but also discover spirituality, you know where to head. Here is our report on current situation in Srinagar Tourism
Image Credits: Ajay Goyal.
The 9th-century temple boosts of a history as astounding as its architecture. For centuries, the holy site has attracted not only Hindu but also Jewish and Buddhist devotees, with a unique turn of events tying the three religions together. It is a reverence that is not only heart melting but rare to find- three followers hailing their god together.The serene beauty that envelops the temple is as auspicious as the purpose of visit. The magnificent edifice overlooks the city of Srinagar offering a spectacular, spell bounding view. The temple is considered a revered site among the devotees of Adi Sankara. The place has a great significance for the sect’s followers since the Soundarya Lahiri was penned here. Visit this temple to embrace its one-of-a-kind architecture infused with Persian symbolism, to immerse in its history or just experience the spiritual energy as it eases away all your worries.
One of the main reasons Shankaracharya temple is a tourist’s delight is its exotic history. Though it isn’t clear when it was established, people here believe the temple has been in use as early as 200 BC. Since then, the temple has been constructed and repaired by several people, over a stretch of centuries, adding fortifications, pillars and inscriptions- each adding a unique flavor of their own era to it. And thus the temple shaped up in all its magnificence and glory, the way we see it now. It is though believed the temple’s foundation was laid by King Sandiman (2629-2564 B.C.).
The temple derives its present name from Adi Shankara after the great saint paid it a visit to revive Sanatan Dharma. Before this, the place was a Buddhist temple, going by the name ‘Gopadari’. The Shivling was put to place in the 19th century, along with the upper roof. Set at the height of 1,000 feet (300 meters) above the plain, it is approachable only by a flight of 300 stone steps known to be built by Maharaja Gulab Singh.
Although the history of this temple remains vague, one of the bigger mysteries that cloud the site is whether Jesus visited the place or not. Several people here, are of the opinion that he in fact did. Although the theory is controversial and debatable, the inscriptions on the stairs leading up to the shrine tell a different theory. There are Scriptures and facts that prove Jesus might have paid the temple a visit with one of his disciples. Also, one can find hidden graves, near the temple, which are believed to be the graves of Hebrew artisans employed by a king, Sulaiman, to repair the temple.
In the year 1961, a white marble statue of Adi Shankaria was arranged and installed by the Dharmartha Department, near the temple. Today, the temple remains under the control of the Dharmartha Department.
If you have a spiritual bend of mind, then this place will delight you. But we promise whether you plan it or not, you will surely be left mesmerized upon witnessing its unique architecture. The temple is a blend of early Kashmiri style and Sihara style, with its entire structure resting on a solid rock with a tall octagonal base supporting it. One can reach the terrace around the top edifice by a flight of stone steps whose sidewalls once bore valuable inscriptions. It is said the stairs leading up here initially started right from the Jhelum River. They were, however, removed in the 16th century by Muslim rulers to construct a mosque.
The shrine rests in the inner, circular sanctum of the building, known as the ‘garbhagriha’. The ceiling is supported by four octagonal columns and houses the shivling that was brought here from the Narmada river valley in Madhya Pradesh. What makes the layout even more interesting is that its interior plan bears a marked resemblance to another large temple in the valley.
Today, one can find traces of modernity in and around the ancient temple that has seeped in for the sake of tourism. The temple is now electrified and benches have been installed in the lower terrace for the comfort of the tourists. Also, there are information boards acting as a guide and two small buildings have been constructed, within the premises, for the sadhus to live in.
One can get a spectacular, bird’s eye view of the whole city from here. It is an amazing experiencing to be standing at 1100 feet at night and witnessing the magic of colorful city lights playing out on the beautiful dal lake. Imagine being atop this centuries old temple, lost somewhere amidst the pristine snow-laden mountains. The feeling is almost surrealistic and other worldly.
The temple is noted not just for the auspicious values it holds, but also for its superior architecture that embodies a unique blend of cultures and eras. Visit the temple to witness a piece of preserved history that still stand formidable and tall.
Timings: 8 AM to 8 PM. The entry of cars, however, is not permitted after 5 PM
Time Required: 2 - 3 hours
There is no entrance fee to visit the temple.
The temple lies in the Srinagar district on the opposite side of the Boulevard road. One can hire an automobile to reach to the base of the mountain and then, can climb the stairs to reach the top. There are several car rental companies in Srinagar that offer their shuttle services for tourists. Check out Kashmir Travelport, one of these services, to land a good deal.
If you are an adrenaline junkie, however, you will find it more fun to take the trekking route to the temple starting from the Civil Lines area of the city. The nearest airport is 25 km or a 12-hour ride away from the temple, in the Badgam district. Also, read about Pari Mahal or about things to buy in Srinagar.
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