Parihaspur – the forgotten capital of Kashmir

Vinod Kumar
In the year 2014 Srinagar city of Kashmir valley witnessed devastating floods. In earlier times too this city was facing frequent floods resulting in loss of lives and property.
Then in 8th century AD, Lalitaditiya Muktapida, the greatest ever Emperor of Kashmir region, decided to shift his capital from Srinagar to a new safer place. He founded a new Capital of Kashmir on a plateau above river Vitasta about 22kms away from Srinagar. He named this city as Parihaspur (a Sanskrit word meaning the City of Laughs or Smiling City).
The Karewas of Parihaspur are situated near the Baramulla road. They were chosen by King Lalitaditya for the erection of a new capital city. Given a sufficient supply of drinking water, the high and dry Plateaus of Parihasapur have every advantage over the low, swampy Srinagar as a building site.
Lalitaditya is believed to be a descendant of the mythical Naga King of Kashmir named as Karkotaka. Lalitaditiya ruled Kashmir from 724 to 760 A.D. He was the most powerful ruler of Kashmir region in the Indian subcontinent. He built his residence and four temples at Parihaspur. In one temple of Muktakeshva 84,000 tolas of gold were used to make the idol of Lord Vishnu. In another temple the same quantity of silver was used to make the idol of Parihaskesana. The main temple was much larger than the Martand Sun Temple. He also made a statue of Lord Buddha in copper that was high upto the sky. It was visible even from Srinagar city. It is claimed by the historians that there was a relic of Lord Budha in the temple of the Lord at Parihaspur Complex. Perhaps the arrangement to construct both Hindu and Budhist temples was intentional, to avoid possible friction between the two powerful religious faiths at that time.
Lalitaditiya was such a powerful ruler of Kashmir region that he extended his territory upto Karnataka by defeating the Central Indian King Yeshoverman. He is also called as Alexander of India. His conquered many new territories during his reign. He kingdom touched the banks of river Kauvery in South India and had control upto Bengal. Ladakh and part of Tibet were under his control. His empire included major parts of India (such as Punjab, Haryana, UP, etc.) as well as some parts of present day Afghanistan and Central Asia. During the period of Lalitaditiya, Arabs and Tibetians attacked India many times but everytime he himself led his forces from the front. He fought many battles and saved India from the invasions of Arabs and Tibetians many times during his reign. But unfortunately this great warrior has been ignored by the historians of India.
Lalitaditiya Muktapida can be called as builder of Kashmir. Apart from Parihaspur he established many cities and towns in Kashmir region. These include Bijbehara, Sunishchitpura, Darpitpura, Phalapura, Parnotsa (present day Poonchh), Lokapunya (present day Lokbhavan), Lethpora, Chakrapur, etc. He built many temples & shrines. These include Parihaspur Temples, Sharda Peeth (now in P.O.K.), Martand Sun Temple, Kootihar Temples, Wangath Temples, Ushkur, Lokbhawan, Buniyar Temples, etc. Kalhana states that Lalitaditya constructed a shrine in every town, village, river, sea and island. His wives, ministers and attendants dedicated hundreds of images in these temples. In these shrines the idols of deities were made of gold and silver. He also channelized water of Vitasta to many villages through waterwheels. He constructed many roads, bridges, water wells, water storage tanks, irrigation canals and flood channels, etc.
The Jhelum River is to the northeast of Parihaspur as it meets the Sindh Nallah at Shadipur Sangam. In the past this confluence of the rivers occurred closer to Parihaspur. The change in the course of the river is not natural but was engineered by famous Engineer Soya Pandit during Raja Avantiverman’s time (855-883 AD). With the river access gone, the city of Parihaspur suffered greatly. Parihaspur lost its status as a capital after Lalitaditya’s death. His son Kuvalayapida moved the royal residence to his dynasty’s traditional capital at Srinagar. The real destruction occurred when Avantiverman’s son Shankarverman moved his capital to the new city of Shankarpur (Pattan). According to Kalhan Pandit, the legendary historian of Kashmir, Shankarverman cannibalized all the good material from these temples and palaces. He shifted the stones of Parihaspur in boats to build his city of Shankarpur (Pattan). Parihaspur however survived the pillage because during the war between King Harsha and Uccala (1089-1101 AD), Uccala took refuge in Parihaspur. King Harsha believing that Uccala was in one of the buildings, he set the place on fire. The fire broke and melted down the statues of Parihaspur. That is why the stones look as burnt stones today. The final blow to the temples came when Sultan Sikandar (Sikander-i-Butshikan) destroyed them completely in the fourteenth century.
Parihaspur is now in ruins with huge piles of stones. That is why it is now called as ‘ Kanishehar ‘ (the city of stones). From the size of foundations, plinths, pedestals and stones one can imagine how huge the structures would have been in 8th century A.D. Some of the finest examples of the carved figures of seated and standing atlantes have been taken to SPS Museum Srinagar. M.A.Stein first visited the place in 1892. According to him the village Gurdan near Parihaspur comes from Govardhana. Govardhanadhara is one of the names of God Vishnu. It is also said that during Dogra rule, Maharaja of Kashmir was building the Jhelum Cart road by using the Parihaspur ruins as road material. M.A.Stein approached the British Govt. at that time for help. He was able to convince the Dogra king to stop further desecration of the historic temple ruins.
By visiting Parihaspur one can imagine the might of Lalitaditiya Muktapida, the greatest ever ruler of Kashmir region. But unfortunately he remained an unsung hero in our textbooks of history. He fought many battles and saved India from foreign invasions many times during his reign. But unfortunately this great warrior has been ignored by the historians of India. Parihaspur is now the forgotten capital of Kashmir. It is painful to see that this great place has been ignored by the historians of India. There is immediate need to protect and revive this heritage site of tremendous religious and historical importance.
(The author is an engineer)