Sunil Chandra Ray
Excerpts - 'EARLY
HISTORY AND CULTURE OF KASHMIR' by Dr. Sunil Chandra Ray
earliest inhabitants of Kashmir probably cherished some aboriginal beliefs, the
details of which are not traceable now. The snake-cult or Naga-worship seems to
have been established in the valley from a remote period and undoubtedly had
been one of the earliest religions of the land. In the third century B.C.,
Buddhism seems to have made some headway, converted a large number of people and
overshadowed the Naga cult which ultimately sunk into oblivion. Among Hindu
gods, Siva either originated or entered the valley sometime before the faith of
the Sakya prince made its entrance and was later followed by Visnu, Surya and
other Brahminical gods and goddesses. A brief history of the different types of
religious cults and beliefs of early Kashmir, may be sketched as follows.
Kashmir was one of the principal centres of
serpent-worship in India. Though detailed evidence is lacking, there is no doubt
that snake-worship prevailed in the valley from a very early period.
Regarding the exact date when the snake-cult was
prevalent in the land, no direct testimony is available. But there are reasons
to believe that in the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., it might have been the
principal religion of Kashmir. In the Mahavamsa, it is said that Asoka's
adviser Moggaliputta Tissa sent Majjhantika to preach Buddhism in Kashmir. When
the sramana reached the valley, he found that Aravala, the king of the
Nagas, was ruling over it. Aravala was destroying the corns of the country by
hail storm. Majjhantika, however, due to his divine powers remained unaffected
from rains and storms. This made the Naga king furious who sent lightning and
struck rocks against the Buddhist monk in herder to kill him. But all these went
in vain. Then convinced of the great powers of Majjhantika, the Naga king
Aravala together with his followers submitted before the monk and accepted
Buddhism. This was followed by the conversion into Buddhism a large number of
Naga worshippers of KasmiraGandhara.
Hiuen Tsang, who visited Kashmir in the 7th
century A.D. relates that according to the native records, Kashmir was
originally a dragon lake. A very detailed and vivid account of how the arhat
Madhyantika (apparently Majjhantika) rescued the valley of Kashmir from the
Nagas, established there the religion of Buddha and settled 500 arhats in
the country, has been preserved in the Chinese Vinaya of the
Mula-Sarvasti-vadin sect. The Tibetan scholar Bu-ston, who composed his famous
history of Buddhism in the 14th century A.D., points out that when Madhyanti
went to Kashmir to preach Buddhism, he found the Nagas presiding in the valley.
They at first gave a tough opposition to Madhyantika, but at the end, the
Buddhist monk succeeded in subduing the troublesome Nagas.
That Naga-worship prevailed in early Kashmir receives
confirmation not only from the accounts of Ceylon, China and Tibet but also from
The Nilamatapurana, probably a work of the 7th
or 8th century A.D., records at great length how Kashmir was created out of
water and left to the care of The Nagas of whom Nila, the son of Kasyapa, was
the chief. According to this work, in the beginning, human beings could dwell in
the valley for six months of the year, i.e., during the summer. In winter, the
land was occupied by the Pisacas and human beings had to leave the valley due to
excessive cold. Once Nila was satisfied with a Brahmana called Candradeva and
agreed at his prayer that men should be allowed to live in Kashmir during the
winter also. The Naga king also disclosed to him the rites which were to be
observed by the future human inhabitants if they were to live permanently in the
Most of the rites prescribed by Nila are concerned with
the nature of worship of popular deities. But there are some festivals which are
particularly connected with the worship of Naga or serpent. Thus Nila was
worshipped on the festival of the first snowfall. Nila and the Nagas were also
'propitiated on the Iramanjaripuja festivity which took place in the month of Caitra.
Another ceremony called Varunapancami was held on the fifth day of Bhadra
and was connected with the worship of serpent king Nila.
The Nilamatapurana also records the names of B
the principal Nagas worshipped in Kashmir, the total number of which was 527.
The four dikpalas of Kashmir, mentioned by the author of the Nilamatapurana
were four Nagas - Bindusara in the east, Srimadaka in the south, Elapatra in
the west and Uttaramanasa in the north. From a remote period, great importance
must have been attached to the worship of the Nagas as is shown by the long
account of them given in the Nilamatapurana. A large number of temples,
built near some of the famous springs and undoubtedly early origin of the
pilgrimages directed to them, clearly pointed out the popularity of the Naga-cult
in ancient Kashmir. The Nagas were supposed, according to the Nilamatapurana,
to reside in the lakes and springs of the valley. Even now names of places
like Vernag, Anantanag, Sernag, etc. show traces of ancient Naga beliefs. That
the Nagas were eminently popular deities in the happy valley, is also testified
to by Kalhana's Chronicle. According to the Rajatarangini, Kashmir was a
land protected by Nila, the lord of all Nagas. Even when Buddhism had undermined
the Naga beliefs, one of its early kings Gonanda III is said to have
reintroduced the pilgrimages, sacrifices and other worship in honour of the
Nagas, as they had been before. There is also a story of Susravas Naga, and his
alliance with a Brahmana is depicted with much details. King Durlabhavardhana
and his scions are ascribed to a family which, according to Kalhana, was Naga in
its origin. Naga Mahapadma, the tutelary deity of the Vular lake, is said to
have showed king Jayapida, a mountain which yielded copper. Another Naga called
Pindaraka deluded the Darad chieftain Acalamangala, who attacked the happy
valley during the reign of Ananta. Among the festivals connected with the Naga-cult,
Kalhana speaks of the annual festival in honour of the great serpent king
Taksaka 'frequented by dances and strolling players and thronged by crowds of
spectators' which was celebrated on the 12th day of the dark half of Jyaistha.
Ksemendra also refers to a Taksakavatra festival in his Samayamatrka (Samayamatrka,
That the Naga-cult prevailed in the valley throughout
the Hindu rule and even afterwards, seems to be corroborated by the account of
Abul Fazal. He tells us that during the reign of Akbar (A.D. 1556-1605) there
were in Kashmir 45 places dedicated to the worship of Siva, 64 to Visnu, 3 to
Brahma and 22 to Durga, but there were 700 places in the valley where there were
carved images of snakes which the inhabitants worshipped.
Buddhism seems to have obtained a footing in Kashmir as
early as the 3rd century B.C. The Ceylonese chronicle Mahavamsa preserves
an account of the introduction of Buddhism in the valley by Majjhantika which
has been already noted. That Buddhism was first preached in Kashmir by
Madhyantika and that he succeeded in making a large number of converts also
receives confirmation from traditions recorded in the Tibetan work Dul-va and
the account of Hiuen Tsang.
We learn from Kalhana that Kashmir formed a part of the
empire of Asoka, who was a follower of Jina, i.e., Buddha. The emperor built in
the valley numerous stupas, some of which were existing as late as the
time of the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang's visit. The great emperor, who was
zealous always in preaching and disseminating the religion of Buddha throughout
the length and breadth of his kingdom and even beyond, seems to have tried his
best to spread it in the secluded vale of Kashmir too.
What happened to the state of Buddhism in Kashmir,
after the death of Asoka, we do not know. Probably in the 1st century B.C.,
Kashmir came under the occupation of the Greek king Menander. He was first a lay
devotee of Buddha but afterwards left his throne, joined the Sangha and at last
became an arhant. He created a vihara for his co-religionists
which came to be known as Milindavihara, after the name of its founder.
The Buddhism of Kashmir entered its golden phase under
the patronage of the Kusana king Kaniska and his successors who came to occupy
the valley about the end of the 1st century A.D. Kalhana mentions that three
Turuska, i.e., Kusana kings, Huska, Juska and Kaniska ruled over Kashmir and
founded three towns called Huskapura (mod. Huskur), Juskapura (mod. Juskar) and
Kaniskapura (mod. Kanespur). These Kusana kings were given to acts of piety and
built many viharas, mathas, caityas and similar other structures. During
their powerful rule, the land of Kashmir was, to a great extent, under the
possession of the Bauddhas, who, by practicing the law of religious mendicancy,
had acquired great renown.
That Kashmir was a great centre of Buddhism under the
Kusanas receives further corroboration to from the fact that the fourth Buddhist
council took place in Kashmir under the auspices of Kaniska. At the end of the
council, Hiuen Tsang informs us, several expository commentaries were written on
the Sutra, Vinaya, and Abhidharma. The original text and its
explanation came to be known as Upadesa-sastra and Vibhasa-sastra. Kaniska
had these treatises engraved on copper plates and deposited them at a stupa, apparently
situated in Kashmir.
Many great Buddhist scholars resided in Kashmir during
the reign of the Kusanas. Of these, Kalhana mentions the name of Nagarjuna who
resided at Sadarhadvana, i.e. Harwan. According to Chinese evidence Asvaghosa,
Vasuvandhu, Vasumitra, Dharmatrata, Sanghabhadra, Jinatrata and many other
scholars lived in Kashmir from the time of Kaniska onwards.
The flourishing state of Buddhism in Kashmir at the end
of the Kusana period and afterwards is testified to by archaeological evidence.
The site of Harwan yields Buddhist stupas, bases of chapels, inscriptions
containing the celebrated Buddhist creed Ye dharma, etc. From the
appearance of Kharosthi numerals on the brick tiles and from the Buddhist
inscriptions written in Brahmi characters of about the 4th century A.D., the
Buddhist antiquarian objects of Harwan may be assigned to a period round about
A.D. 300. A number of terracotta figures, mainly busts or heads of Buddha,
Bodhisattva and Buddhist monks have been recovered from another ancient site.
Uskur (Huviskapura) and are assignable stylistically to the 4th or 5th century
Not only the Kusana kings, but local rulers of Kashmir
also seem to have patronized the faith of Buddha in the early centuries of the
Christian era. One of its early kings, Meghavahana, prohibited the slaughter of
animals in his kingdom. He also stopped the killing of animals in sacrifices.
Amrtaprabha, the wife of the king, erected a vihara for Buddhist monks,
which was called Amrtabhavana. Many viharas of renown were built by other
queens. Kalhana compares the king with Jina, i.e., Buddha and also with
Bodhisattvas. All these probably indicate Meghavahana's attachment to the faith
of the Sakya prince.
During the reign of Pravarasena (c. 6th century A.D.)
his maternal uncle Jayendra built a vihara and erected a statue of the
'Great Buddha'. Pravarasena, according to Kalhana, was succeeded by his son
Yudhisthira II. Several ministers of his, who bore the names of Sarvaratna, Jaya
and Skandagupta obtained distinction by erecting vihara and caityas. In
the vihara built by a queen of king Meghavahana, a fine statue of Buddha
was placed by Amrtaprabha, the wife of king Ranaditya.
Inspite of the legendary character of the early
portions of the Rajatarangini, Kalhana's main contention that Buddhism
received patronage from the local rulers of Kashmir during the early centuries
of the Christian era, seems on the whole, to be based on facts. The
Jayendravihara, said to have been founded by Pravarasena's maternal uncle
Jayendra, was visited by Hiuen Tsang in the 7th century and Ou-kong about the
middle of the next century saw the vihara of Amrtabhavana, built by
Amrtaprabha, queen of Meghavahana, in a flourishing condition.
A fairly reliable account of the condition of Buddhism
in Kashmir from the 7th century onward has been furnished by the accounts of the
Chinese travellers Hiuen Tsang and Ou-kong, the Chronicle of Kalhana and some
archaeological discoveries made at Gilgit, Pandrethan and Paraspor.
Several Buddhist manuscripts were found out from a stupa
at Gilgit. The script used in the manuscripts may be assigned to the 6th or
7th century A.D. One of the manuscripts reveals the name of a Sahi king Srideva
Sahi Surendra Vikramaditya Nanda who was apparently ruling over the Gilgit
region when the manuscripts were deposited. Buddhism was thus flourishing on the
northern part of Kashmir sometime about the end of the 6th century A.D. or in
the early part of the next under the patronage of Sahi rulers.
To about the same period as the manuscripts of Gilgit,
may probably be assigned also a large number of Buddhist sculptures hailing from
the village of Pandrethan (ancient Puranadhisthana). Puranadhisthana was the
capital of Kashmir from a very early date. It enjoyed the privilege of being the
metropolis until about the end of the 6th century, A.D. when Pravarasena built a
new city called Pravarasenapura (mod. Srinagar), which henceforth became the new
capital of the valley. From stylistic consideration, the sculptural remains
discovered at Pandrethan seem to have belonged to a period when the old city was
finally abandoned in favour of the new. Besides two Buddhist stupas and
the courtyard of a monastery, the objects of Buddhist antiquities found at
Pandrethan include two standing figures of Buddha, a seated statue of Buddha,
one diademed and ornamented image of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, another
fragmentary sculptured relief of Buddha or Bodhisattiva and lastly a relief
representation of the birth of Siddhartha.
Hiuen Tsang paid a visit to Kashmir in A.D. 631. He saw
in the valley about one hundred sangharamas and five thousand Buddhist
priests. There were four stupas built by Asoka, each of which contained
relics of Tathagata. Among the Buddhist viharas visited by him specific
mention is made of the Juskavihara (mod. Uskur, near Baraarnula) and Jayendra
vihara (founded by Jayendra, the maternal uncle of Pravarasana II). The Chinese
pilgrim stayed in the court of Kashmir for a couple of years, during which
period (with the help of the local clerks) he took copies of a large number of
Buddhist scriptures. Evidently, Kashmir was a great centre of Buddhism when
Hiuen Tsang visited it.
Hiuen Tsang entered Kashmir during the period of the
Karkotas. The kings of the Karkota dynasty were followers of Hinduism and
worshipped in general gods like Visnu, Siva and Surya, all belonging to the
Hindu pantheon. Nonetheless, some of the monarchs of the dynasty also gave
liberal patronage to the religion of Tathagata. Hiuen Tsang was received with
favour by one of its early kings, presumably Durlabhavardhana. Durlabha's queen
Anangalekha built a Buddhist vihara, which came to be known as
Anangabhavanavihara. Lalitaditya Muktapida founded one Rajavihara with a large
quadrangle and a large caitya at Parihasapura. At Huskapura, the noble
minded king built another large vihara with a stupa. A colossal
copper image of Buddha was made by him, which is said to have reached up to the
sky. At Parihasapura Cankuna, a Tukhara minister of the king erected the
Cankunavihara, built a stupa and placed there a golden image of Jina.
i.e., Buddha. A second vihara, together with a caitya was built by
the minister at adhisthanantare, evidently at Srinagara and in this vihara,
the minister put a brownish image of Buddha Sugata which was brought from
Magadha on the shoulders of an elephant. Jayapida Vinayaditya, another
celebrated monarch of the Karkota family, set up three images of Buddha and a
large vihara at his newly founded town Jayapura.
Archaeological excavations carried on at Parihasapura,
the city founded by Lalitaditya, have brought to light Buddhist structures - a stupa,
a mona$tery and a caitya. The stupa has been identified as the
stupa of Cankuna, the monastery with the Rajavihara built by Lalitaditya
and the caitya with a large caitya said to have been founded by
the same monarch. Among the sculptures discovered at Parihasapura, there are two
images of Bodhisattva and one of Buddha. All these, prove to the hilt the
popularity of Buddhism in the days of the Karkotas.
The thriving state of Buddhism during the reign of the
Karkotas, i.e., during the 7th or 8th centuries A.D. is also attested to by the
evidence of the Chinese traveller Ou-kong. Ou-kong came to Kashmir in A.D. 759.
He spent four years in the valley in pilgrimages to holy sites and in studying
Sanskrit. He learnt the Silas and the Vinayas of the
Mulasarvastivadins at the Moung-ti-vihara. The other viharas referred to
by him are Ngo-mi-to-po-wan, Ngo-nan-i, Ki-tche, Nago-ye-le, Je-je, Ye-li-te-le
and Ko-toan. While Hiuen Tsang saw about one hundred viharas, Oukong
noticed more than three hundred viharas in Kashmir and innumerable stupas
and sacred images. This undoubtedly indicates a rise in the popularity of
Buddhism in the valley during the Karkotas.
Buddhism seems to have been overshadowed by the growing
Vaisnava and Saiva faith which became predominant in the valley in the centuries
following the Karkota period. The dynasty of Utpala supplanted the Karkotas
about the middle of the 9th century A.D. The founder of this dynasty,
Avantivarman, (A.D. 855/56-883) was a staunch follower of Siva and Visnu and the
architectural remains which have been discovered from the site of Avantipura,
the town founded by the monarch, include some images of Visnu, Siva, and other
Brahminical gods, but not a single figure of Buddha or Bodhisattva. But though
Buddhism was in the background, the opinion cherished by some scholars that from
the middle of the 9th century on till the advent of the 11th century, the
Buddhists fell on evil days and all the kings were anti-Buddhistic in spirit
seems to be an extreme view yet to be established beyond doubt. Except
Ksemagupta (A.D. 950-958) and Harsa (A.D. 1089-1101), no king of this period is
known to have cherished any anti-Buddhistic feeling in their heart. As for
Ksemagupta, we learn from Kalhana that he burnt down a Buddhist monastery named
Jayendravihara. From this decaying vihara, he took away the brass image
of Buddha Sugata. The stones of the temple, he utilized for a Siva temple in his
own rame. Ksemagupta further confiscated thirty-two villages which belonged to
the burnt vihara and gave them to Khasa ruler. But the wrath of a cruel
eccentric king against a single particular Buddhist monastery should not be
taken as an instance of systematic policy of religious persecution adopted by
the State against the Buddhists. Moreover, it may be noted, that if Ksemagupta
had followed an anti-Buddhist policy, he would have destroyed many of the
Buddhist viharas of Kashmir. But as we learn from Kalhana, the king burnt only a
solitary Buddhist monastery; and this incident may suggest at most the king's
ill-feelings towards a particular monastery which might have been guilty of some
gross misdemeanour. It is unfair to infer from this single instance, that the
king pursued a policy of anti-Buddhism, when we have no other information to
support the view. A remarkably fine statue of the Bodhisattva Padmapani is now
preserved in the Pratap Singh Museum, Srinagar. An inscription engraved at the
base mentions its consecration in the reign of queen Didda (A.D. 980-1003). That
Buddha was not looked with disapproval in the 11th century A.D. receives further
corroboration from the writings of Ksemendra who says that during his time, the
birth day of Buddha was observed with great ceremony in the valley.
As for Harsa, it may be said that the king was not
merely an anti-Buddhist, but a man having no sympathy, for any religion
whatsoever. If he plundered the statues of Buddha, he confiscated alike the
images of the Brahminical gods and goddesses. And for all these works of
plunder, spoliation and confiscation, the king was actuated not by his enmity
towards any particular sect, but by his greed or rather need for money.
Buddhism received patronage from king Jayasimha, who
ascended the throne of Kashmir in A.V. 1128. Many Buddhist viharas were
built or repaired during this period. Pie completed the construction of the
Sullavihara, which was started by his uncle, Uccala. Another vihara, built
by the queen Ratnadevi, also received the king's care. The king's minister
Rilhana constructed a vihara in memory of his deceased wife Sussala.
Sussala was indeed a sincere follower of Buddha, as she is said to have built at
the site of the Cankunavihara, of which nothing but the name remained, a stone
shrine, residences and other structures. Cinta, the wife of Jayasimha's
commander Udaya, built a vihara, which included within it, five
buildings. One of the ministers of Jayasimha, Dhanya by name, commenced the
construction of a vihara, but could not complete the structure, due to
his premature death. Then Jayasimha, the king himself, made arrangements for the
completion of the building and for a permanent endowment.
It is almost definite that Buddha was held in high
honour in Kashmir upto the last days of the Hindu rule. A stone inscription,
generally taken to have been dated A.D. 1197 has been discovered at Arigon (anc.
Hadigrama), about 15 miles south west of Srinagara. The inscription opens with a
salutation to Buddha Avalokitesvara and exalts him with glorious titles.
Marco Polo (13th century) states that in his time
Kashmir was pre-eminent among the idolatrous countries and it was the very
original source from which idolatry had spread around. There were also a number
of idolatrous abbeys and monasteries. The superiors who exercised the functions
of the abbots in these monasteries were held in great reverence by the mass of
the people. If Yule's interpretation that the word 'Idolatry' is an expression
meaning Buddhism be accepted, then, we are to admit that the Buddhism enjoyed
wide popularity in the valley as late as the end of the 13th century.
The place of Kashmir in the history of Buddhism was
great indeed. From the moment Buddhism was preached in the valley. Kashmir
became mistress of the Buddhist doctrine and particularly the citadel of the
Sarvastivada school. She played a great role in the spread of Buddhism beyond
India, to Kandahar and Kabul and Bactria and thence to Central Asia and China.
Tibetan Buddhism also drew its inspiration from Kashmir.
The cult of Visnu seems to have existed in Kashmir from
a very early period. Lack of material, however, prevents us from tracing its
origin and early character.
The earliest historical reference to the worship of
Visnu occurs in the pages of the Rajatarangini where it is said that an
image of Visnu Jayasvamin was consecrated by king Pravarasena II. Pravarasena II
might have lived about the end of the 6th century A.D. Another image of Visnu
Ranasvamin was consecrated by king Ranaditya at or near his capital Pravarapura.
Ranaditya, who is credited with a reign of three hundred years is undoubtedly a
legendary figure in Kalhana's Chronicle. But the historicity of the temple of
Visnu Ranasvamin is amply proved by Jayanta Bhatta's mention of it in the Agamadambara
and Kalhana's reference to it in his fifth book where he speaks of a visit
paid to Ranasvamin by Cakravarman's queen. Mankha (12th century A.D.) in his Srikanthacarita
refers to his father's worship of Ranasvamin. Jonaraja also mentions
Ranasvamin Visnu in his commentary and describes it as Sripravarapurapradhanadevata.
With the accession of the Karkotas to the throne of
Kashmir in the 7th century A.D., Visnu, the adored deity of the family, came to
occupy a prominent position in the Kashmir pantheon. A son of king
Durlabhavardhana, called Malhana, built the shrine of Visnu Malhanasvamin, while
the king himself consecrated at Srinagari the shrine of Visnu Durlabhasvamin.
Durlabhavardhana's grandson Candrapida, who lived in the early part of the 8th
century A.D., consecrated the shrine of Visnu Tribhuvanasvamin. His preceptor,
Mihiradatta, built a temple of Visnu Gambhirasvamin and his city-prefect
Calitaka founded a temple of Visnu Calitasvamin.
The illustrious Lalitaditya came to the throne of
Kashmir not long after the death of Candrapida Vajraditya. He too was a great
devotee of lord Visnu. Resolved upon the conquest of the world, he built a
shrine of KesavaVisnu in the early part of his reign. At Huskapura, he built a
splendid shrine of Visnu Muktasvamin and of the town of Lokapunya with some
villages he made an offering to Visnu. In the town of Parihasapura, which the
monarch constructed in honour of his adored deity, he built the glorious silver
statue of Visnu Parihasakesava. At Huskapura, another famous image of Visnu
Muktakesava, was made out of gold. A fourth one, that of boar incarnation of
Lord Visnu, was founded by him under the name of Visnu Mahavaraha. Lalitaditya
consecrated two other silver images of his beloved god, one under the title of
Govardhanadhara, and the other under the name of Ramasvamin. The latter image
was placed in a stone temple which stood by the temple of Visnu Parihasakesava.
Garuda, the vahana of Visnu was also a great favourite of Lalitaditya.
Lalitaditya's zeal for Vaisnavism must have shed its
light upon those who were near him and who were driven to the same spiritual
inclinations. His queen Kamalavati put up a large silver image of Kamalakesava
and the king of Lata, named Kayya who was probably a feudatory of Lalitaditya,
founded a shrine of Visnu Kayyasvamin.
Some of the later Karkota kings also adhered to the
faith of Visnu. Jayapida, the grandson of Lalitaditya built the town of Jayapura,
where as Kalhana poetically describes, Kesava showing his quadruple form as well
as reclining on the serpent Sesa, has truly taken up his abode, abandoning his
residence in Visnu's world. Jayapida's mother Amrtaprabha built a temple of
Amrtakesava for the deliverance of her dead son. During the reign of Ajitapida,
the ministers Utpala, Padma, Dharma, Kalyana and Mamma built temples of Visnu
under the names of Utpalasvamin, Padmasvamin, Dharmasvamin, Kalyanasvamin and
Visnu was also worshipped by the members of the Utpala
dynasty who succeeded the Karkotas. Avantivarman (A.D. 855/56-883), the first
king of the dynasty built the shrines of Visnu Avantisvamin, even before he
became a king. His brother, Suravarman founded a temple of Suravarmasvamin and a
gakula. Another brother of the king, Samara founded for Kesava in his
quadruple form a temple called Samarasvamin. Mahodaya, the chief door keeper of
Sura consecrated a shrine of Visnu Mahodayasvamin, while the king's minister
Prabhakaravarman built a temple of Visnu Prabhakarasvamin. Lastly, Suyya, the
irrigation minister of Avantivarman built at the new confluence of Sindhu and
Vitasta a temple of Hrsikesa Yogasayin.
The popularity of the cult of Visnu in the happy valley
during the 8th and 9th centuries is further attested to by a number of images
discovered from various ancient ruins. These include a few busts and heads of
Visnu which have been recovered from Vijabror, three-faced Visnu figures carved
on the walls of the Martanda temple, relief sculptures of Caturbhuja Visnu and
Visnu seated between consorts hailing from the.ruins of Andarkoth and
four-headed Visnu images from Avantipura and the surroundings.
The development of Vaisnavism in Kashmir, from the 10th
century onwards, is evidenced from Kalhana's Rajatarangini. Queen
Sugandha (a.d. 904-906) built a temple of Visnu Gopala Kesava and her
daughter-in-law Nanda founded a temple of Nandikesava. A temple of Visnu
Meruvardhandasvami was built by Partha's (A.D. 906-921) minister, Meruvardhana.
Yasaskara (A.D. 939-948) started the construction of a temple of Visnu
Yasaskarasvamin, which when he died, was left incomplete. The construction,
however, was completed by Parvagupta (A.D. 949-950). Bhatta Phalguna, a
councillor of Ksemagupta (A.D. 950-958), founded the shrine of Visnu
Phalgunasvamin. About the same time, Bhima, the illustrious monarch of the Sahi
dynasty, who was the maternal grandfather of Ksemagupta's queen Didda, built a
high temple of Bhimakesava. About the end of the third quarter of the 10th
century A.D. queen Didda, founded a series of Visnu shrines. The temple of
Abhimanyusvamin, she built to increase her deceased son Abhimanyu's merit, while
the shrine of Visnu Simhasvamin was erected by her, under the name of her father
Simharaja. The queen further built two temples under the name of Visnu
The iconoclast Harsa (A.D. 1089-1101) destroyed a large
number of Hindu and Buddhist images. The Visnu images desecrated by the
dissolute king included the famous Parihasakesava. But king Uccala, who stepped
into his shoes in the early years of the 12th century A.D., put up a new image
of Parihasakesava. He also adorned the shrine of Visnu Tribhuvanasvamin with sukavali,
which Harsa had carried off. Lastly, he restored the decayed temple of the
ancient shrine of Visnu Cakradhara. All these are indications enough of the
king's love and admiration for Vaisnavism.
Vaisnavism was popular even after Uccala's death.
Ratnavali, the queen of Jayasimha established Vaikuntllamatlla and other pious
buildings. The gok'`la, erected by her, far excelled the gakulas erected
previously. Alamkara, the superintendent of Jayasimba's great treasury (vrhadganja)
was also a worshipper of Visnu. Amont the later Hindu kings who professed
Vainavism, Jonaraja mentions Ramadeva, who renewed the Visnu temple at
Utpalapura and Udayanadeva who gave all golden armaments in his treasury to
In the Vaisnavism of Kashmir, we find a synthesis of
the different Vaisnava cults, which were current in ancient India. In it seems
to have mingled, the faith of the Vedic Visnu, the system of the Pancaratra
school, the religion of the Satvats and the faith in the cowherd god Gopala
Krsna. Rama was worshipped as an incarnation of Visnu, but there is no definite
evidence of the existence of Rama-cult in early Kashmir.
Among the various incarnations of Visnu, Varaha (boar),
Krsna and Nrsimha (man-lion) were most popular. Lalitaditya built a temple of
Mahavaraha ~lnd iconograhic representations of boar, man and lion-faced Visnu
come from the temple of Martanda (8th century A.D.) as well as from the ruins of
Avantipira (9th century A.D.). Rama, as an incarnation of Visnu seems to have
been worshipped in the 8th century A.D. The Nilamatapurana refers to the
celebration of Buddha's birthday festival, and this was a step towards the
Buddha becoming an avatara of Visnu. The avataravada of Kashmir
was, however, thoroughly systematised by the 11th century A.D. and in
Ksemendra's Dasavataracarita, we find a list of the ten incarnations of
Visnu under the names of Matsya, Kurma, Buddha and Karkya.
Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Srirama,
Minor gods and goddesses of the Hindu Religion
Besides Visnu and Siva, there were many other minor
Hindu gods and goddesses in the early Kashmirian pantheon. The most important of
them include Surya, Karttikeya, Ganesa, Agni, Laksmi, Durga, Ganga, Yamuna and
Kamadeva, of whose worship we have real literary evidence; some of their images
too have survived.
The worship of Surya was probably brought into the
valley from Iran at an early period. The Sakas and the Kusanas who ruled over
Kashmir in the early centuries of the Christian era, seem to have been
responsible for its introduction. Paucity of evidence, however, prevents us from
making any definite assertion on the point or from tracing the early character
of the cult.
Ranaditya, a king of ancient Kashmir, is said in the Rajatarangini
to have built at the village of Simharotsika a temple of Martanda, which
became famous everywhere under the name of Ranapurasvamin. But Ranaditya is a
legendary character in the ancient history of Kashmir and the village
Simharotsika or the Martanda temple, said to have been founded by him, cannot be
located. In the 8th century A.D., Lalitaditya erected the shrine of Aditya at
the town of Lalitapura. He built another massive stone temple of Surya under the
name of Martanda, the ruins of which have survived.
The sun worship continued to be in vogue in Kashmir
long after the death of Lalitaditya. King Suravarman II (A.D. 939) paid homage
to the temple of the Sun-god Jayasvamin. The copper image of Surya, called
Tamrasvamin, was one of the most celebrated shrines of the valley in the 11th
century A.D. Kalhana's remarks that Kashmirian king Kalasa (A.D. 1063-1089)
sought refuge with Martanda to have his life and presented a gold statue at the
god's feet, prove the popularity of Sun-worship at that time. Kalasa's son Harsa
(A.D. 1089-1101), who destroyed a large number of divine images, spared the
image of Martanda, either out of respect or out of fear.
The ruins of the temple of Martanda clearly show with
what grandeur and pomp, love and devotion, the god was worshipped. No image of
the Sun-god has yet been recovered from any part of the valley. There is
however, in the right panel of the eastern wall of the ante-chamber of the
temple of Martanda, a representation of Aruna, the charioteer of Surya, holding
the reins of his seven horses.
Karttikeya worship in early Kashmir is borne out by the
discovery of a fine six armed image of the generallisimo. Though the image can
not be ascribed to any definite chronological setting, its bold execution
indicates a Deriod round about the
9th century A.D. Another standing figure of Kumara,
along with an Ardhanarisvara image, has been found among the ruins of Avantipura
and may be dated to the period of Avantivarman's rule (A.D. 855/56-883). The Nilamatapurana,
which was probably composed in the 8th century A.D. refers that the worship
of Karttikeya was performed on the 6th of lunar Caitra every year and this was
supposed to ensure the welfare and safety of the children of Kashmir. In the Rajatarangini,
there is mention of the foundation of one Skandabhavanavihara by a
Kashmirian minister Skandagupta. Though at a comparatively modern period the
place was associated with the worship of Karrtikeya. Stein is probably correct
In nits assumption that in early times it was a Buddhist vihara, seems to
suggest his personal association with the god.
Ganesa, the brother of Skanda according to the Hindu
mythology, was one of the popular gods of the valley of Kashmir. According to
Kalhana an image of Vinayaka Bhimasvamin existed as early as the days of
Pravarasena II (c. 6th century A.D.) and received regular worship. A stone image
of Ganesa, along with an Ardhanarisvara image, mention of which has already been
made, was found amidst the ruins of Avantipura and may be dated to the second
half of the 9th century A.D. Several terracotta plaques, containing the figure
of the elephantheaded god, evidently works of local craftsmanship have also been
recovered from the site of Avantipura. That Avantipura was a centre of Ganesa-worship
receives further corroboration from Ksemendra who says that bowls of sweets
offered to Lord Ganesa were resold in the town of Avantipura. We learn from the Nilamatapurana
that the 8th of the darker Asadha of every year was dedicated to the worship
of Ganesa and went by the name of Vinayaka-Astami. The worship of Vinayaka had
also to be performed on the eve of the anointing ceremony of the king.
No sculptural representation of Agni or Fire god has
yet been discovered from Kashmir. A passage from the Rajatarangini, however,
refers to the worship of the Fire god and records that king Uccala's father
Malla, observed from his earliest time the cult of a sacred fire. As Stein has
pointed out, there was probably a shrine of the god of Fire SvayambLu at Suyam,
a place situated about half a mile from the present village of Nichhom. The
temple of fire god Svayambhu was destroyed, it may be presumed, by Harsa and the
decayed building was restored by Uccala. King Uccala is also said to have
started once on a pilgrimage to Svayambhu.
Laksmi, the goddess of wealth, was quite a popular
deity. King Pravarasena II (6th century A.D.) is credited with the establishment
of five shrines of the goddess Sri. An image of Laksmi has come from the
historic town of Vijabror, modern Brar. From stylistic consideration, the
sculpture may be assigned to about the 6th century A.D. Another beautiful stone
figure of the goddess seated on a throne, supported by a pair of lions, with
elephants on each side pouring water over her head, has been discovered from the
Avantisvami temple, and is apparently of the 9th century A.D. Kalhana records
that during the reign of Unmattavanti (A.D. 937-939), a Brahmana of well-known
velour, named Rakka, raised an image of the goddess Sri under the appellation of
Worship of Sakti, the energetic principle, seems to
have been widely prevalent. In the worship of goddess Durga, who is but an
embodiment of Sakti, animal sacrifices played an important part. Goddess Sarada
was one of the most celebrated deities of the valley in early times and she was
nothing but Sakti embodying three separate manifestations. References to 'Matrcakra'
are frequently met with in the Rajatarangini and sculptured images of sapta
matrkas, such as Brahmani, Mahesvar, Kaumari, Indrani, Vaisnavi, Varahi and
Camundi have been recovered from Pandrethan. A lifesize separate sculpture of
Varahi, representing a young woman with the face of Varahi, discovered among the
ruins of Kashmir, is now preserved in the Lalmandi Museum, Srinagara. Though the
sapta matrkas were originally Sivaite in origin, there is no doubt that
afterwards they became the actual cult emblems of the devout Saktas.
Representations of the goddess Ganga, sometimes
accompanied by the goddess Yamuna, are found among the old sculptures of the
valley, but they do not seem to have any particular cult associated with them.
Two similarly sculptured relief found in the
Avantisvami temple have been generally interpreted as representations of the god
Visnu accompanied by Laksmi and another goddess (Bhumi?). But according to
Vogel, the amorons attitude of the central personage and his attributes, a bow
and an arrow ending in a flower, indicate that here we have an inconographic
representation of Kamadeva seated between his wives Rati and Priti. There is
literary evidence to Kamadeva's popularity in ancient Kashmir. According to the Nilamatapurana
the 13th of lunar Caitra was devoted to the worship of Kamadeva.