Virendra Bangroo

Virendra Bangroo

Virendra Bangroo

Virendra Bangroo

Virendra Bangroo, Documentation Officer, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Janpath, New Delhi.


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Ancient Temples of Kashmir

By Verender Bangroo

Kashmir is bestowed with nature's bounties and the mystical environment has fascinated people irrespective of caste, creed and language. Scholars coming from far and wide have carried away with them, its immense spiritual wealth shedding the shackles of this materialistic work and merging with the ultimate.

The Kashmir valley, blessed with the natural bounties, is rightly celebrated as the Valley of Gods. Apart from its natural beauty, an added attraction is the ancient stone temples of Kashmir, noteworthy for unique architectural elements and fine stone carvings.

The Hindu temple represents the cosmological symbolism in an aesthetic garb. The Hindu temple is a symbol or rather an aggregate of various symbols. It is ritually invested with human personality (Vastupursha) and conceived in terms of human organism, which is the most evolved form. The scriptures say that the temple should be worshipped as Pursa. The names of the various limbs of the human body from the foot to the crown of the head are applied in Indian architectural texts to different parts of the temple structure.

The door of the temple is its mouth, the platform terminating the trunk to the superstructure, represents the shoulder of the Pursa; the projection, the arms and down to the wall, the leg and to the very bottom, to the lower most molding-the feet.

The temple is Pursa and conceived by means of Prakriti the feminine form.

We talked about the perfect body-the Vastupursha, but it is lifeless without the resident soul. The image in the temple, the Pratima is the very life of the temple. The sanctum called Garbhagriha is the house of the womb, it is here the regeneration is effected and the higher self of the devotee is reborn.

A similar purpose is served by the superstructure, which is frequently designed as the mystical, Meru, Mandara or Kailasa - the function of which is to lead from a broad base to a point where all lines converge the ultimate one.

The conceptualisation and development of Hindu temple architecture was the result of the churning of cosmic ideas in the microcosm of natural setting. The temple was not a four walled enclosure but an embodiment of the cosmos and the energy, which propels it. The main sanctum sanctorum, which houses the Garbagriha, the womb, is the personification of Pursha so as to define the relationship of cosmos and man. The image placed in the Garba Griha is the atman-the soul. The temples were laid according to a well-defined plan. The temple building was a ritual and every stone laid was consecrated to God by the holy chant of the Brahmins.

Buddhism was introduced in Kashmir soon after the Buddha's demise and king Ashoka is said to have built stupas in the 3rd CBC. The Buddhist remains at Harwan, Hoinar and Hutamer have revealed unique tiles, depicting the fine workmanship.

With the background of Buddhist artistic tradition, Kashmiri artisans evolved a style of Hindu temple architecture with a distinct characteristic of its own. Kashmir temple exhibits a unique blend of foreign sytle and indigenous creativity that resulted in a distinctive architecture which was more suited to their geographic and climatic conditions.

The temple builders of Kashmir were way ahead of their contemporaries of the plains and peninsular India. The 8th cent. Temples of Kashmir were constructed of evenly dressed ashlar masonry. Built of mammoth boulders, the joints were put together with lime mortar which is seen at Wangat and also using steel dowels, used in the Martand temple. These engineering developments were in vague in the neighbouring Western region of Kashmir.

These refined techniques could not stand up the rigorous climate of the region and human vandalism and only a few of the vast number of temples described eloquently by Pandit Kalhana in Rajatarangni have survived.

Kashmir lies in the heart of Asian continent, its geographic location has been of decisive importance for trade and cultural exchange. All the main trade routes connecting eastern and central Asia with Eastern Europe countries of near-east lay across the territory. There was exchange on the cultural and religious fronts as it was meeting place of the cultural waves. The caraven routes from China, Central Asia and Tibet met and this led to the great impact on their political, social and cultural structure.

The temple at Lodhu situated 20 kms from Srinagar is in midst of a spring. The springs are considered to be sacred sites. This temple is said to be the earliest remaining stone structure.

The next stage in the temple architecture development may be studied in the Sankaracharya temple. In the Temple at Narastan in district Pulwama, the pediment and arch motif are a further step in the process of development. Triangular canopies, sunken Trefoin niches and the enclosure wall around with prominent gateway is an approach to the final form of Hindu temple architecture of Kashmir.

7th and 8th century marked the culmination of art during the reign of Karakota rulers. Laltaditya Muktapida 724-71 AD) ushered in an era of glory and prosperity in the kingdom. After gaining victories over Punjab, Kananuj and Bihar, he turned his attention to the bordering territories of Kashmir. He led the victorious army to Dardistan, Ladakh and Tibet. During the Karakota rule there was a cris cross which brought an improvised style into being. We see a profound influence of Chinese, apparent from faces and dresses, which are typically Mongoloid. Building art was a product of influences from diferent classical schools viz. Greeko-Roman, Gandharan, while as the sculpture iconography reflects the tremendous central Asian impact.

Laltaditya built the famous and elegant Sun temple at Martand and Parihaskesva at his capital Parihasspura.

The Sun temple of Martand stands in the middle of a large courtyard having 86 fluted columns. The temple proper contains garbhagraha, antarala and mandapa, approached by a grand flight of steps. The pliant supporting the central shrine has two tiers, both with niches having 37 divine figures.

The second golden age of temple building was brought into being by the patronage of King Avantivarman the founder of Utpla dynasty. The king built two temples one dedicated to Shiva and other dedicated to Vishnu.

The final refinement of form and a more polished look may be seen in a group of temples erected by Sankaravarman who succeeded Avantivarman.

During subsequent years due to constant wars between the weak kings and kingdoms, temple activity gradually started receding. By the beginning of the 10th century the growth of style had come to an end but small shrines continued to be raised without any notable architectural development.

The off shoot of the Kashmir style of architecture is found in Northern Punjab and North West frontier. The temples at Amb, Malot, Bilot, Kafirkot (sites presently in Pakistan) exhibit some of the architectural elements like enclosed courtyard, pyramidal roof, and trefoil arches, fluted columns showing strong affinity with that of Kashmir. The influences are also found in the Western Himalayan architecture from Ladakh to Nepal.

The tradition never die. The elements of ancient Hindu architecture of Kashmir which were buried a millennium ago resurfaced in the form of Muslim shrines and residential houses in succeeding periods. The traditions together with the geographical conditions have played vital role in shaping the Kashmir character.

Bala Devi of Balahama, Srinagar

Isht Devi of Dogra Rulers

By Virendra Bangroo


Ancient Hindu Shrines in Kashmir are under constant threat of oblivion either due to neglect or destruction.

The village Balhama named after the Goddess Bala Devi is thirteen kilometers from Srinagar and is surrounded by the village Wuyan in the east, Khanmoh and Zewan in the north and Pampore in the west. The shrine of Bala Devi is connected with link roads from the National Highway IA via Sempore and Pampore town. From Sempore the Shrine is at a distance of 4 kms and from Pampore at a distance of two kilometers.


The shrine of Bala Devi has Jagir has thirty kanals of land attached to it. Around the shrine proper are twelve brick pillars covered with the galvanised iron sheets. The space in between the pillars is fenced with grills. This sort of renovation was undertaken in 1975. Earlier the shrine was open on all sides. Around the five sacred devdar trees in the shrine are twenty stone idols of gods and goddesses. Painted with Vermillion these are of ancient date. There is also a Shiv Linga in the Shrine.


Bata Devi is mentioned in Mahakala-Samhita, Mantra Mahodadhi, Sri Lalitopakhyan and Haritayan Samhita or Tripura-Rahasya.

The three eyed Bala Devi has the moon crescent above her forehead and she has in her hands the book and beads, and the other two hands are in Abhay and Dhyan Mudra. She is of red complexion and wears red clothes. Sometimes she is depicted holding Ankus a and Pasa in addition to beads and the book. She is bedecked with the necklace of gems and pearls.

The account of Sri Bala Devi is given in the 22nd chapter of Sri Lali Topakhyan which forms part of Brahmand Purana. According to this text Sri Bala Devi is said to be the daughter of Sri Lalitmaha Tripura Sundari. A the age of nine years she become ternibly angry after seeing the Bandasura and his thirty sons who were marching ahead for a war. Bala Devi requested her mother Maha Bhatarika Sri Lalita Tripura Sundari to allow her to fight with the Bandasura. Permission for which was not allowed by her mother because of her tender age. On her daughter's insistence she not only gave her the permission but also one of her shields and number of her attributes. With this preparation she proceeded on a chariot towards the battle field. After an intense fight she was able to kill the thirty sons of Bandasura.

In Haritayan Samhita or Tripura-Rahasya, (Chapter 63), Bala Devi at the age of eight years is said to have fought directly with Bandasura. Knowing that her mother won't give her the permission she quietly proceeded towards the battle field on a chariot followed by Mantrani and Dandani.

Bala Devi was able to pierce the mighty forces of Bandasura with her rain of arrows and then confronted the Kutilaksh, riding on a mighty elephant, the commander of the forces of Bandasura. Bala Devi showered the arrows on the elephant and thereafter killed Kutilaksh. Bala Devi alone destroyed the army of Bandasura and then directly confronted the Asura. Instead of attacking Bala Devi, Bandasura showered flowery arrows on the Devi. Seeing this the charioteer of Devi was astonished and asked the Devi the reason for the same. Bala Devi said, “In the last incarnation Bandasura was Mahadoot of Srilakshmi and his name was Manik Shekhar. He was an ardent devotee of Bagvati Lalita Maha Tripura Sundar. Because of the curse on him he became Asura and he was told to earn salvation only by being killed by me. Knowing that I am the daughter of Sri Lalita Amba he is worshipping me.” The war was destined and both began to fight. After defeating the opponents Bala Devi returned to her abode, Sripuri.


According to the local folk lore the original abode of Bala Devi is in the South India. It is said that the saint of the temple had a dream in which she told him to visit Kashmir where he could have her darshana. The saint along with his devotees as per the divine blessing visited the village of Balahama which was a dense forest at that time. The goddess gave darshana to the saint in a spring. In order to keep the sanctity of the shrine she directed him to plant trees around the spring. The saint planted fine saplings of Devdar trees around the spring which in the course of time grew to full size and covered the entire spring. The spring is no more visible today. The five Devdar trees are believed to be more than five thousand years old and are the principle object of veneration.

Bala Devi is the family deity of the Dogra rulers in the Valley. Dogra ruler, Pratap Singh used to walk bare foot for about a kilometer to reach this shrine as a matter of respect and devotion towards this shrine. Devotees used to worship by reciting the hyms in the praise of goddess and the milk was offered.

Every year havan was performed in the month of Magh on the day of Tikchorum. Havan was also performed on other auspicious days especially on Haar Chorum. Late Pandit Jai Lal of Balahama was priest of this temple till his death in 1993.


Till 1947 the Shrine was maintained by the Dogra regime and later it was taken over by the Dharmarth Trust. But it was not taken proper care of by the Trust authorities on the pretext that there was no income from this Shrine. The local body named Bala Devi Asthapan Committee was formed in 1973 with Pandit Niranjan Nath as President, Pandit Omkar Nath as Secretary, Pandit Prithvinath and Pandit Radha Krishan as members. The first task the committee undertook was to fence the land around the shrine to prempt encroachment. Seeing the initiative taken by the villagers the Dharmarth Trust also came into to action and sanctioned one chowkidar for the shrine. The committee played a great role in renovating the temple and arranging the religious functions from time to time.

Under the present circumstances one can only hope that powers of Bala Devi will act as a shield against the forces of evil, ignorance and darkness till the dawn of a new era of peace and prosperity.

Five families are still living in the village, Pt. Niranjan Nath expired in January 1999.

Hindu Shrines in the district Pulwama, Kashmir

The origin of civilized society originates in the villages, where people of different identities interact for mutual benefit, self sufficiency and autonomy. All villages outwardly appear to be similar but each has its core a soul which is as distinct as one finger print from the other. There are what are called artist villages, epic villages, shrine villages fringe villages and forsaken villages distinguished by their inhabitants and their traditions. Of these, in Kashmir the most distinctive are the Shrine villages. In every such village there is a presiding deity recognised by people of all religions on the basis of faith alone.

By Virendra Bangroo

Co-ordinates of the village:

Pulwama, is situated 32 kms from Srinagar and is surrounded in the North by Srinagar, in the West by Poonch and Budgam and in the east by Anantnag. The district Pulwama came into being in 1979 and is divided into four tehsils - Tral, Pulwama, Shopian and Pampore. There are 554 villages in the four tehsils of Pulwama. The district has a rich, cultural and historical background. The ancient temples at Awantipur, Jawbrar, Payar, Malangpora, Koil, Kakapora, Narasthan and at other places signify the rich cultural past. The famous love legend, Hemal-Nagrai is believed to have taken birth near Shopian and the legendary mystic poetess, Lal Ded was born at Padmanpora, now Pampore. The district has some beautiful tourist spots and some of the famous places are Aharbal, Kungwattan, Nagberan, Shikargah, Hurpore, Tarsar Marsar etc.

There are number of shrines associated with different villages. These shrines which are there since times immemorial, have shaped cultural and ethical identity of the villagers. Some of the well known shrines in the District are Batuknath temple Tahab; Mangleshwar Bhairav, Serun; Jagarnath Bhairav, Achhan, Serun, Jagarnath Bhairav Inder Raj Shrine, Inder.

Batuknath temple and Spring-Tahab, Pulwama

Swami Batuknath temple is situated in the village Tahab, district Pulwama. There is a spring in the village known as Vatuk Nag and is in the custody of the Muslims. The spring is 40 feet square and Muslims of that area call it Vatuksar Nag.

The temple of Batuknath is situated away from the spring within an enclosure of 60'x80'. The temple consists of a cella (Garb Griha) and a Pradikshana(circumbulatory path) covered with a conical slopping roof. In the cella is a 1.25 meters high Shivlinga. A small Dharmashala is also attached to the temple.

According to Sh. Amarnath Tikoo resident of Tahab, age 56, some 115 years back in the village of Kaed Chak was found a Shivlinga in a spring. Kaed Chak village is 1 km from Tahab and is a Muslim inhabited village. Those days there was a lone Hindu family. Head of the family was Pandit Gokul Nath son of Pandit Maheshwar Nath. He too shifted to Srinagar city. When the news spread about the finding of Shivlinga the villagers of Trisal came forward to acquire it but the Pandits of Tahab came in their way and there was confrontation between the villagers. Pandit Ramju of Tahab some how brought it from the Kaedchak village and installed the Shivlinga in the Swami Batuknath temple.

The temple was renovated in 1982 and the temple is under the Batuknath Mandir Committee. The Brother of Batuknath is said to be the Jagarnath Bhairav and his abode is at Achan village, Pulwama.

The temple of Batuknath is under active worship and still some Pandit families are living in the village.

Jagarnath Bhairav temple, Achhan, Pulwama

Village Achhan is about 7 kms from the district headquarter Pulwama on the Pulwama - Litr road. In the village is the sacred shrine of Jagarnathjee Bhairav. The shrine complex is spread on four kanals of land and consists of a temple, a spring and two Dharmashalas.

The temple proper consists of a curvilinear structure and enshrines a Shiv Linga. Besides it in the stone lined spring is an idol of Jagarnath Bhairav.

The temple was renovated in 1980's. Pandit Nathjee Pandita son of Pandit Dharshan Lal Pandita, resident of Achhan was the priest of temple till 1990's. Besides the daily puja, bhajans were sung on Tuesday and Saturdays.

People from far off places used to come here to perform Razkath (sacrifice given to the presiding deity). One who used to take daughter of this village was supposed to perform Razkath in the temple after marriage.

The temple is still under active worship because of the some Pandit families who are having faith on the shrine and decided to stay back whatever the consequences be.

Mangleshwar Bhairav Ashtapan, Serun, Pulwama

The village Serun is one kilometer from the district headquarter Pulwama. The village is surrounded by Monghama, Pulwama, Aashmandir and Wachapora.

In the village is the Ashtapan of Mangleshwar Bhairav. The Shrine has about 1½ kanal of land. In the shrine is a stone lined circular spring, having the diameter of thirty feet. There are four mighty Chinar trees and a Bran tree which is the sacred spot and the abode of Mangleshwar Bhairav. Name of the spring is Mong-Nag. Adjacent to the spring is a Dharamshala where many idols are kept including Shivalinga, Ganesh and photographs of Gods and Goddesses. In the centre of the spring is also a Shivlinga.

The Dharmashala was renovated in 1947 and couple of rooms added to it. Pandit Nand Lal Sharma, resident of Rohmu village used to run Pathshala in one of the rooms of the Dharmshala. He expired  in 1980's.

Bhat's, Raina's, Koul and Razdan's resided in the village of Serun and Mangleshwar Bhairav was the presiding deity of the whole area. In 1980's a mosque was built adjacent to the shrine and its land grabbed. A dispute arose and there was confrontation between the two groups. Even though there was large scale protest by the Pandits but nobody could stop them to encroach upon the land of the shrine.

In 1994 the Shivlinga was taken by the local Muslims and used for thrashing paddy. It was later on recovered and installed at its place.

Mangleshwar Bhairav Asthapan Committee, Serun was taking care of the shrine till 1990. President of the committee was Pandit Dwarkanath Koul, presently residing at Muthi, Jammu, age 70 and the secretary was Pandit Jagarnath Bhat presently residing at Muthi.

Hindus and Muslims equally had faith on this shrine till 1980's. The first milk of the cow was offered to the spring by both Hindus and Muslims. The situation changed after 1980's and the Muslims started parting away from their Hindu counterparts.

The Shrine was the Centre stage of the Hindu religious activities and people used to assemble here to worship and also to greet each other on festive occasions.

There are still four Hindu families left in the village Serun and in one of the Dharmashalas of the temple, J&K police is stationed.

*Virendra Bangroo, Documentation Officer, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Janpath, New Delhi.

The sacred shrine of Shiva Vijayeshvara, Bijbehara, Kashmir

By Virendra Bangroo

THE town of Bijbehara or Vijbror is 28 miles from Srinagar and two and a half miles from district headquarters Anantnag. Vijbhor is derived from Vijayeshwar and was the site of an ancient sacred shrine of Shiva Vijayeshvara. The site was one of the famous tirthas of Kashmir.

The place has a hoary past and king Ashoka, as per the account of Kalhana, replaced the stuccoes enclosure of the Shiva Vijayeshvara temple with that of stone. The king built two temples within this enclosure called Ashokeshvara.

Being a famous tirtha of Kashmir the temple must have gone through a number of additions and alterations. During the time of Raja Susala (1112-1120) the rebels used the temple premises as fortification. The temple and the town were burnt down during the reign of king Ananta. King Ananta at that time was residing in the tirth of Vijayeshwara. Raja Kalasha (1163-1189) restored this shrine and embellished the temple with a golden Kalasha.

The temple and the ancient linga of Vijayeshvara were completely destroyed by Sultan Sikander.

Aurel Stein visited the place in 1889 and found some ancient slabs and architectural fragments on the bank of vitasta. According to him the local Purohits also confirmed to him about the ancient site which was 15 feet below the surrounding terrain. General Cunningham visited this place in 1847 and found the ruins of an ancient temple, which he attributes the temple of Vijayesha. The story of the ancient site mentioned in Mahatmyas and the historical accounts of Kalhana and Jonaraja does not end here. The sanctity of the area remained alive in the oral traditions (shruti).

The traditions never die and the same is true about the sanctity of the Vijayeshvara shrine. The local Purohits, as stated by Kalhana, were aware of its exact location: the river bank, opposite the bridge, though the site was destroyed hundreds of years ago by the Muslim fundamentalists.

The temple being situated on the pilgrim route to Martand and Amarnath never lost its importance. In 1859 Dogra ruler Ranbir Singh built a temple a furlong away from the old site on the National Highway. The temple is presently known as Harischandir temple but Stein refers it as the new temple of Vijayeshvara. It is said to be built of the stone materials of the ancient temple.

The temple is made up of stone and stands on an 8 feet high adhistana. Instead of the pyramidal roof, the stylized ancient architecture of Kashmir, it has a curvilinear roof, which was adopted by the Dogras from the temple architecture of north Indian plains. Three golden Kalsas and a pointed spire surmount the temple. The temple has a circumulatory path. Inside the temple there is a pitha having eleven lingas called Ekadash Rudr, which is the main pitha for worship. Besides it, there is an idol of Ganesha, which is of 2-ft height.

There are three huge Chinar trees in the compound of the temple. There is a sculpture of Nandi or Vrashab in the temple compound besides many fragmented sculptures of ancient date. A peculiar stone called Kah-Kah pal is a curiosity for the pilgrims and tourists alike. As per the local belief the stone could be only lifted by eleven individuals using only index finger. In Kashmiri the Kah-Kah pal means a boulder lifted by eleven individuals. Nothing is known about the origin and historicity of this boulder but it has been there since times immemorial, fascinating the public and also issued a message that unity is strength.

Pandit Harijilal was looking after the temple till 1990. Dogra ruler Pratap Singh gave his forefathers the charge of temple maintenance. 160 canals of land were also attached to the temple as Jagir. The land is located in the nearby Pazalpora village. The revenue collected from the land was used for the upkeep and maintenance of this temple and also to arrange food and accommodation for the pilgrims and sadhus on their way to holy cave, Amarnath. The Chari Mubarak used to reach the temple on the sixth of Shravan Shakul Paksh.

In the close vicinity of the temple is the Mughal garden. Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru is said to have visited the Mughal garden a number of times and relaxed under the shade of the Chinar tree. The place as mentioned earlier gives boons. Bathing in the river vitasta one gets rid of crores of sins and attain salvation in the either world. By dispersing ashes of the departed souls, one could achieve moksha. Smt. Vijayalakshmi Pandit as per the wishes of her friend Ms. Naidu dispersed her ashes at the Gath of the temple and performed her last rites. The state government made the arrangement for her visit and a priest and friends accompanied her.

As per Sh. Trilokinath Tikoo, age 62, resident of Bijbehara, he along with his three friends. Sh. Ved Lal Tikoo, Sh. Bansi Lal Tikoo and Sh. Dwarka Nath Raina were the first to visit the temple around 4 AM and offer worship regularly till the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990.

In 1986 there was widespread violence against the Kashmiri Pandits. The fundamentalist mob of the nearby villages damaged and desecreated the temple and broke the sacred linga and threw it in the river. It was only after the repeated appeals by the locals the government came into action and ordered the restoration of the temple. Professional divers were called and the lingas were collected from the riverbed and restored back in the temple. Till 1986 the temple was covered with a mud compound wall and later on it was replaced by a concrete one with iron grills and barbed wire.

In the aftermath of exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 these abodes of god were left unattended. Pandit Harjilal and his family also left the place in March 1990 to an unknown destination.

*Pandit Trilokinath Tikoo presently resides at Laxmipuram Colony, Jammu; Pandit Vedlal Tikoo expired in 1998 at Bijbehara; Pandit Bansilal Tikoo presently stays at Burnai, Jammu; Pandit Dwarka Nath Raina is presently residing in Udhampur.

*Virendra Bangroo, Documentation Officer, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Janpath, New Delhi.

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