Quick Bytes :
Location : Near Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
Century : 10th century
Built By : Meruvardhana
Pandrethan, the ancient capital of Kashmir which was founded by mighty emperor Ashoka is situated at a distance of four miles from Srinagar. The word is derived from the corrupted "Puarana" which means old and "adhisthan" meaning capital. The magnificent stone temple is the major tourist attraction of the place. Founded by a minister of the ruler Partha, Meruvarman, the temple is a piece of excellence and showcase of skilled labor that is involved in building this masterpiece.
Pandrethan temple is one of the heritages of India that are known for their unique symmetrical designs and geometry involved in construction. A single stone was used to build the entire roof. A dedication to Lord Vishnu, the temple has been the center of attraction for the tourists.
History of the Place :
It is speculated that there was a reason behind choosing Pandrethan as the capital of the state; it is believed that in order to control the floods that raged the city every year, King Avnativarman devised a way. For the proper drainage of flood waters of the river Vitasata, the new capital, owing to high altitude, helped in diverting water to south and west sides.
The historical background of this site of excavation can be read from the description of the famous book Rajtaringini by Kalhan. The author has given meticulous descriptions of the chronology of the events and ruling dynasties. According to his description, Srinagari was the home to more than 96 lakh houses that were quite prosperous. The capital of Puranadishthana had a whole lot of buildings. King Meghvahana built a Praveravara temple and a number of shrines. As Srinagar was chosen the new capital under the rule of Pravarasena II, the old capital of Puranaadishthana lost its grandeur.
Cultural History :
The cultural amalgamation took place in the 7th century when Kashmir was visited by the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang. He visited the court of Durlabh Vardhan who was the then ruler of Kashmir. He was treated with great hospitability and offered the translations of the major literary works of that time. Hieun Tsang wrote a vivid description of both the capitals. He also wrote about a Buddhist monastery that was inhabited by about 300 monks.
Other descriptions of Kalhan about Pandrethan are related to Rilhana who was an able minister in the court of Jayasimha. According to the author, the minister was responsible for construction of several bridges and a Shiva Temple that was named after him. Other literary references indicate that the magnificent city saw the construction of several religious monuments that were particularly linked to Shiavism and Vaishnavism. The temple houses a number of deities. Most of the images that are present in temple premises belong to Lord Shiva. Some images are three-headed out of which two symbolize male and the third represents female.
The images of the female deities include Ganga, Chamunda, Vaishnavi, Varahi, and Indrani. Most of these images are multi-armed and are presented in various forms and postures. There is a Greek influence on the costumes of these goddesses
Architecture of the Temple :
Built in Kashmiri style, the temple is known for the presence of two Shiva lingams, one of which is as high as 6 feet. The second one is fragmented into three parts; the lowermost part is polygon in shape. The total height of this lingam is 16 feet. The two structures are separated by a colossal Buddhist Image. A Chaumukhi, i.e. a pillar with figures on four sides is also present in the temple complex. The roof is made in stone and is built in the shape of a pyramid; it has four small openings that act as windows. With the passage of time, the structure got tilted at an angle of five degrees.
According to the description of John Burke, who photographed Pandrethan temple. According to his description, the temple was situated amidst a water tank. The roof was carved with bas reliefs. The roof, pyramidal in shape, was divided into two parts by a narrow strip. There were nine blocks of stones that formed a part of the ceiling. The four stones were present at the cornices. A single block decorated with lotus carving was present in the center.
Destruction of the Place :
The demolition of the place can be attributed to Sultan Sikander who was infamous for his "Butshikan" image. He was the destructor of idols and played a major role in desecration of Hindu images. It is believed that Pandrethan got destructed by placing fire in a heap of wood placed inside the temple's premises. After the demolition was completed, the denudation took place which involved carrying the building blocks of the temple to a nearby quarry. This process continued for centuries and the remaining ruins got covered by the building of new structures at the site.
Pandrethan was an important religious monument of ancient times and today, it stands in complete ruins.