To search this blog

Monday, December 9, 2019

Kingdom of Avantipura ~ ruins of Hindu Temples at Kashmir

Hindu Temples are not simply places of worship ~ they are architecture wonders too !

5th Aug 2019 will remain a gold lettered day in the annals of Indian Nation.  Nothing mattered .. .. Sensex ended at 36,699.84 ,  there were  trade war concerns that  sent the Chinese yuan below a politically sensitive 7 a dollar level and PMI readings showed deeper weakness in the Chinese economy. .. everything else was dwarfed by a simple news of strong Govt will – “All the provisions of the Constitution shall apply in relation to the state of Jammu and Kashmir."  For the purpose, a clause 4 has been added to Article 367 which will introduced four changes. Bernier,  the first European to enter Kashmir, wrote  in 1665  : " In truth, the kingdom surpasses in beauty all that my warmest imagination had anticipated." This impression is not universally felt, for one of the very latest writers on Kashmir speaks of it as overrated, and calls the contour of the mountains commonplace and comparable to a second-rate Tyrolean valley

The most important document -  the Instrument of Accession is a legal document executed by Maharaja Hari Singh, ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, on 26 October 1947. By executing this document under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh agreed to accede to the Dominion of India.   .. .. sadly within few decades, it showed an ugly face to the World when the exodus started in Sept 1989, leaving only a few thousand of them behind in the Valley and about seven and a half lakh Kashmiri Pandits were left to live the life of refugees in their own country.  The act of losing something can ensure that you elicit great wisdom. For the hapless Pandit, this wisdom translates into pain.

First Kashmir, it not what it has all along been  portrayed it to be ~  it has a glorious history .. ..  Utpala dynasty, a Kashmiri Hindu kingdom, ruled over the Kashmir region from 8th to 10th century CE. The kingdom was established by Avanti Varman, ending the rule of Karkota dynasty in 855 CE.  The cities of Avantipur and Suyapur were founded during the reign and many Hindu temples dedicated to both Vishnu and Shiva.  Sadly the same Kashmir towards the end of last century became barren and devoid as Kashmiri pundits were driven out in pogrom.

The historical Avanti Kingdom of ancient India is described in the Mahabharata epic. Avanti was divided into north and south by river Vetravati. Initially, Mahissati (Sanskrit Mahishamati) was the capital of Southern Avanti, and Ujjaini (Sanskrit Ujjayini) was of northern Avanti,  the country of Avanti roughly corresponded to modern Malwa, Nimar and adjoining parts of the Madhya Pradesh. (not to get confused with Mahismati and Avanthika of Bahubali !) Both Mahishmati and Ujjaini stood on the southern high road called Dakshinapatha extending from Rajagriha to Pratishthana (modern Paithan).

This article in ‘Speaking Tree’ Times of India Sunday edition of 8.12.2019 was particularly attractive.

The Lidder flows along the road to Pahalgam from Srinagar. At dawn, we’re driving on it towards Avantipora, the ancient capital of Kashmir.  Also called Awantipur, the town is a notified area committee in Pulwama district of the new union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.Dense swards dripping with mist line the banks of the river, which is the second largest tributary of the Jhelum in the state. These are saffron fields intensively grown by the sides of highways. Further ahead, we find rows upon rows of willow bats neatly stacked on the riverbank.  These are made from the ‘weeping tree’ that brings joy to the lovers of cricket. Still ahead, we pass massive chinars and stately white poplars fringed with golden leaves.

Our guide says we shall soon be in the city named after King Avantivarman.The king founded the Utpala dynasty and built shrines to Vishnu and Shiva here during his reign from 853 to 883 CE.  Avanti links his name to the city in the plains, which later became known as Ujjain, famous for its Linga of Light. Even otherwise, the Kashmiri monarch was renowned as a great unifier and patron of arts. Before his ascension, however, Kashmir was convulsed by decades of bloodletting and war.

With his wise rule,  Avantivarman brought peace and prosperity to the land, says poet Kalhana in Rajatarangini, his 12th century history of kings. He adds that the king believed that regal dignity could inspire ambition in great minds; but it could also lead men to crime.  “Do not expect fickle fortune to be faithful to just one person,” he warned his subjects. He said only wealth bestowed on proper persons is ‘purified’.  Avantivarman focused on irrigation; desilted the Jhelum, and even changed the course of the mighty river with the help of an engineering genius called Suyya.  The Jhelum is revered today as the life-line of the Valley.  Kashmiri Pandits knew it as Vyeth (from the Sanskrit Vitasta); Greek historians turned that into Hydaspes. The Roman naturalist Ptolemy called it Bidaspu, which became Bihat, Wihat, or Bihtab in Mughal times. Alberuni calls it Jailum, meaning ‘slowness’. However, the etymology is more plausibly linked to the Sanskrit jal, water and ham/hima, snow, by another historian.

With Avantivarman’s reforms,  a khari of rice that used to be sold before his coronation at 200 dinars, even after a bumper crop, began to sell for 36 dinars. Due to his support for Ahimsa, even the shad from the cold waters of the Wular Lake became so fearless, Kalhana says, that the fish often came out in droves to bask on the sunlit shores. The poet grandiloquently goes on to assert that in one birth, Suyya accumulated as much religious merit as equals the holy work accomplished by Vishnu in his first four incarnations! The minister’s memory was preserved in the town of Suryapur set up in 880 CE, 45 km north-west of Srinagar. Later it became Sopore.

Although he was a staunch Vaishnavite, out of deep respect for Sura, his loyal prime minister and a devotee of Shiva,  Avantivarman built a superb shrine to the great god nearby. Among Avantivarman’s court jewels was Bhatta Kallata, a pupil of Vasugupta, the author of Shiva Sutras and founder of Kashmir Shaivism.Another was Anandvardhana who wrote Dhvanyaloka, a treatise on dhvani, suggestion in the field of aesthetics. The Bharat Ratna-winning Indologist P V Kane said Anandvardhana’s book merited the same stature in India’s cultural history as the one enjoyed by Panini’s grammar or Adi Shankara’s commentaries on Vedanta.

The Avantiswamin shrine stands right next to the highway. Fleecy clouds are scudding in the bright blue skies above.The scent of apple blossoms wafts across the sun-lit field dominated by the ruins of what were once superbly proportioned pillars and arches of a great sandstone temple. It does look somewhat like a scene out of Paradise Lost. At Avantipora, Vaikuntha Vishnu was the principal deity of the Panchayatana complex of shrines.The temple is constructed on a two-tiered base in the centre of a paved courtyard enclosed by a colonnaded peristyle.The entrance on the western side is approached by an imposing flight of steps. Vaikuntha, which also stands for Vishnu’s paradise, happens to be the name of a four-faced form of Vishnu endemic to Kashmir. Pauranic texts describe the four faces as that of the man-faced Vaikuntha in front and the lion-faced Narasimha on one side with the boar-faced Varaha on the other. The unseen face at the back is that of wrathful Kapila.

The god’s four arms bear the usual attributes namely,conch,discus,mace and lotus.The boar represents the creator who rescues Earth from the cosmic waters at the beginnings of Time. The man-lion stands for destruction of demonic forces while the human centre of the Trinity stands for Vishnu/Krishna the preserver of the universe. Raudra Kapila is the reverse. Locally called Avanti Shora, the shrine is believed to have been damaged first in a massive earthquake and it deteriorated further during Moghul and British rule. In his epic poem, Kalhana also talks about damage during internecine warfare after Avantivarman’s rule, and the melting down of its great gold icon during the Lohara dispensation.

Later, we meet the locals at a dhaba on the highway and they tell us about a great silver idol of Vaikuntha Vishnu that the Brits allegedly spirited away. However, what all those depredations have not been able to erase is the superb Vishnu and his two Shaktis carved on the front wall of the main entrance. To its right of this frontispiece are images of the nine planets, all looking in one direction.The guide explains that Avantivarman’s rule was so peaceful that even otherwise inimical planets started facing each other in the same direction. That’s what Kashmir needs today!

Interesting ! ~ and at this place occurred the genocide, the wiping out of Kashmiri hindus.  Life came to a standstill for those brahmins and the valley changed forever.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
9th Dec 2o19

No comments:

Post a Comment