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Location : Near Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
Century : Ninth century
Built By : Avantivarman
Built between the periods of 855 to 883 AD, Avantipur is the place of twin Hindu temples. Located at a distance of about 29 kilometer from Srinagar, this excavation site carries with itself immense historical importance. Overlooking Jhelum Valley, the place is situated at the foothills of Wastarwan Mountains.
Attractions of the Place :
The foundation of the excavation site was laid by the first Utpala King, Avantivarman. The excavation site of Avantipur is known for the presence of two temples. Shiva-Avantishvara is the bigger of the two temples. This sacred place is notable for the massive walls that form its boundary. Though the original grandeur of the place has been lost to time, the ruins are no less magnificent. The deities of the temples have been depicted in various positions and forms. The walls of the temple are highly reliefed and are coated with a covering of plaster. The king himself was a staunch worshipper of Lord Vishnu.
The second temple which is a dedication to Lord Vishnu is known by the name Avantisvamin. The construction work was done under the supervision of D.R.Sahni who played an important role in the restoration work of the site. Apart from temples, the archeologists found countless number of antiquities and coins belonging to Indian, Chinese and Muslim dynasties.
The temples are an embodiment of peace and tranquility. The king hired best artists available at that time to build these abodes of serenity. The aesthetic sense is reflected from the decoration of the interiors. The temple is surrounded by a high-leveled ground area. The perfection and the skill of the artists who build these magnificent structures can be seen even from the ruins.
Layout of the Temples :
The temple complex comprises of a big courtyard that lies in the center and is surrounded by four shrines standing at the four corners of the complex. Another prominent feature of the complex is a Peristyle that is adorned with a numerous cells arranged around a courtyard. The temples are made with sandstone and its walls are carved excessively. The reliefs depicted on these walls consist of images of apasaras (fairies), members of the royal family, and Kinnara, a demigod. In addition, nine planets have also been carved and illustrated beautifully. Kinnara is shown with a body of a bird and head of a man. The temples resemble the Sun temple of Martrand. The influence of Greek architecture on these structures is also notable. At present, both the temples are in ruins as they have suffered the brunt of nature from many centuries.
In addition to the four shrines, there are two sub-shrines that are present in the premises of the complex. These shrines are accessible by stairs that lead one to the three sides of the platform on which these shrines rest. These additions to the temple were made so that people could gain access to the images of other deities. Presence of a manadapa which is square-shaped and dotted with four columns is also indicated from the ruins.
The images of the deities that have been recovered from Avantipur mainly consist of four-headed Vishnu; most of these images are now worn out. Another interesting image that is present belongs to Lord Shiva in the form of Ardhnarishwer. The image is adorned with an anklet on the left side, a garland, and bangles on the wrist. This image is backed with figures of Lord Ganesha and Karttieya.
Causes of Destruction :
The superstructure of the temple was under attack by forces of Sultan Sikandar who looted the shrine many times. As the outer walls crumbled, the interior of the temples remained exposed to nature's severities. As the building material used in the temple-construction was not very durable, the process of disintegration was accelerated. As the structure is made of massive stones which fell one after the other owing to poor quality, the temples finally fell to the forces of nature.
Avantivarman, son of Sukhvarman, was a mighty ruler. His grandfather Utpalaka, along with his brothers snatched the power from the king Lalitapida. This laid to the foundation of Utpal dynasty. Avantivarman was a great connoisseur of arts who consolidated his kingdom by controlling uprisings of the opponents. He made Avantipur a place of peace and prosperity. The king did strenuous efforts to make the kingdom economically strong and self-dependent. The periodic floods of river Vitasta that used to create much destruction were controlled efficiently by unique engineering methods. This led to the increase in crop-production. The majestic court of Avnativarman was adorned with jewels like Ratnakar, Shivasvamin, and Anadvardhana. The temples built by the king had to undergo a siege when they provided shelter to a handful of royal personalities.