Destruction of Martand Temple in Kashmir

© Amit Agarwal

Kashmiri historian Jonaraja recorded the destruction of temples in Kashmir by Sultan Sikandar Butshikan in the

There was no city, no town, no village, no wood, where the temples of the gods were unbroken. When
Sureshavari, varaha and others were broken, the world trembled, but not so the mind of the wicked
king. He forgot his kingly duties and took delight day and night in breaking images.

The most prominent among such broken temples was the Martand temple in Anantnag, Kashmir, dedicated to
the god Surya. It was built by the third and most famous ruler of the Karkota Dynasty, Lalitaditya Muktapida,
during 725-756 and was the epitome of Hindu architecture in Kashmir. Being the Sun Temple, it faced east so
that the first rays of the sun would bathe the idol of Surya. The opulence and artistic designs made it the most
celebrated in the region. It had three distinct chambers—the mandapa, the garbhagriha, and the antralaya—and
lines of pillars, 84 to be precise, surrounding the whole temple. It had 365 idols, one for each day of the year and
was bigger than the other prominent Sun temples: Modhera in Gujarat, Multan in Sindh, and Konark in Orissa.
It had Greek-style pillars, reflecting the influence of Greece. It may also be an offshoot of the Kushan Gandhara
style. It had strong stone walls and a courtyard filled with water supplied by a canal from the river Lidar that
glinted and sparkled in the sun. Once, it had “the magnanimity of the Egyptian temple and the grace of the
Greek temple.”

The temple stood with his shikhar high for around six centuries and then things started to change suddenly.

Indian plains had already been subjugated by Islam by the late 12th century and Kashmir could not be left far
behind. A particularly fanatical Sufi “saint,” Sayyid Muhammad Hamadani, arrived from central Asia and
became the mentor of Sultan Sikandar. The Sufi was angry at the prevalent Hindu culture in Kashmir and started
influencing the Sultan for implementing Sharia. Soon, the Sultan was on an “Islamification” mission, and his
rule saw the unprecedented persecution of Hindus and the destruction of temples. Even the other ‘but-shikan’
Mahmud Ghaznavi and Aurangzeb, must not have broken so many temples as Sikander did. His chief minister,
Suhabhatta, who had converted to Islam and took the name Malik Saif-ud-Din, remained involved in such

Since it was the biggest temple in Kashmir, Sikandar chose it first for destruction. He formed a dedicated team
of fanatic jihadis to bring down the temple. It still took him one year to destroy it. To demolish it completely, he
filled the temple with wood and set it on fire. Even then, he could not demolish it totally, such was the strength
of the temple. He left it as it was, in a half-demolished condition.

Legend has it that after destroying the temple, a copper plate was discovered on which the following inscription
was written:

Having built this temple, was desirous of ascertaining from his astrologers how long it would last, and was
informed by them that after eleven hundred years, a king named Sikandar would destroy it, as well as the other
temples in Kashmir.

The king was very amazed to know that a Hindu could have predicted such a thing with such accuracy. He
contemptuously declared, “Had they pasted the plate on the wall, I would have left the temple alone just to
prove a Hindu astrologer wrong!”

The temples of Bijbehara, Isna, Chakrabhrit, Tripeshwar, Vijeshwar and others met with the same gruesome

Historian Sayed Ali wrote in his memoirs Tarikah-i-Kashmir about the immense destruction in Kashmir
(translated by Dr. Abdul Qayum Rafiqi):

A huge temple in Sikanderpora was demolished to pave way for setting up of Jamia Masjid. In fact, in every
village and town, where a temple existed, it was demolished, at the behest of Sayyid Muhammad Hamadani and
a mosque built in its place. Thus, Kashmir became like a paradise.

The Hindus are trying to reclaim their temples. In May 2022, some pilgrims offered prayers inside the Martand
Temple, an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) monument. Soon after, Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj
Sinha participated in a “Navgrah Ashtamangalam Puja.” The ASI, a government agency and leftist to the core,
objected, saying no permission was granted for the ceremony. Two months later, in July, another group of people
entered the temple and held an hour-long prayer session.

Even though there is clear evidence about its demolition by Muslim sultans, many secular people are now
defending the act by stating that it was ruined by earthquakes. Another set of such people stated that as more
people converted to Islam, the character of existing temples was changed by removing idols and making a niche
toward the Kaaba. They are even thankful to Muslims that they did not build a mosque over it. Dr. Syed
Gazanfar Farooq, who has a PhD in Kashmiri architecture from Aligarh Muslim University and now works in
the J&K Education Department, questioned the shoddy architecture of the temple and even opined that the
foundation and structure were weak from the start, completely negating the demolition by his ancestors.

However, the cake for whitewashing goes to a Hindu, as usual. Not to be left behind in such a narrative, the
2014 Hindi film ‘Haidar’ picturized a song, Bismil, wherein the temple was portrayed as “Shaitan ki Gufa.”

Even after demolition and attendant ridicule, its formidable grey walls still make an impressive sight against the
crystal-clear blue sky, with broken rubble strewn around the wild grass. The ruins are still the most striking
object of ancient Hindu architecture in the valley. Even in their present state of decay, some of its walls still
have carvings of deities, and the temple’s beauty and symmetry evident.

Many of the ancient Hindu temples have been restored and repaired in Cambodia and even in a Muslim country,
Indonesia. Even in India, after much hullaballoo, Somnath and Ram Temples have been restored. In a similar
way, the case can be made for the Martand temple’s restoration, but ASI would have none of it as it wants to
preserve violent Islamic history.

As if it wants the broken temple to remind Hindus: “You have been butchered by the invaders, and hence,

About the Author:

Amit Agarwal is the author of several bestseller books. He mainly writes books based on History and Historical facts, which are mainly remained neglected by the secular Eco-System. Some of his bestseller books are: – “Swift Horses Sharp Swords“, “A Never Ending Conflict“.

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