Restoration of ruined Sun Temple

Surinder Kaul
On entering the premises of Martand Sun temple two kilometers up the plateau from Mattan, Anantnag, Kashmir one gets aghast on seeing such a huge temple structure, and most impressive in the very first look . Though, the destroyed and crumbled structure of Martand temple remained neglected , unprotected for five centuries to the vagaries of nature and is subject to all types of geographical phenomenon during this long period yet it still exhibits visible impression of that grandeur and splendour which it had in past, before it was burnt and dismantled by Sikhander Butshekan in fourteenth century, while spreading Islam in Kashmir.
The Martand temple is most important and famous for many reasons. Its architectural ideals and designs of 8th century were in no way less to other world renowned ancient designs of Rome and Greek civilizations. The stone images and carvings of Godly figures are elaborately chiselled and richly designed. The site of the temple and its court yard surrounded by volumes of colonnaded in Greek fashion shows that this structure was mix of many ancient building designs and art. The temple of Sun commands superb view over the valley since it is situated on a lofty Karewa .Its background of snow capped mountain peaks and blue sky makes it most attractive place for divinely grace. It reflects the ancient art and architecure and its development in Kashmir under most prosperous ruler and warrior King Lalitta Ditya Mukhtapadi, builder of this Sun temple at Martand in Kashmir. Of the three Sun temples in India , Martand is the oldest, where as the second one, Konark Sun temple, a colossal structure stands in majestic dignity on the sea shore on a vast stretch of sandy soil built in 13th century by King Narasimhadeva in Orissa and the third one is at Modhera ,Gujrat built in1026 by King Bhimdev. Oldest Sun temple, known as kashyapapur was in Multan, Pakistan, built by Samba son of Krishna in 515 BC, which was totally destroyed in 10th century.
From tourist point of view Martand Sun temple can be the spot worth visiting to understand and to acknowledge the past glory of Kashmir history. Because of its historical background, building structural craftsmanship and sculptural figures on stone slabs of deities, Martand ruins can attract both domestic and foreign tourists in most of the season in the year. But the State Tourism has to frame long term plan for drawing focus on the ancient ruins of Kashmir valley, just as in other parts of India like Nalanda, Konarak, Red Fort Agra or all over World.
On the contrary, World heritage sites in South American, Latin American, Egypt, Middl East, South East Asian countries and other parts of World have been preserved, protected and restored because of their outstanding universal informative value. Every year thousands of tourists throng these heritage sites in the season to know or to study the ancient culture and civilizations of that time around these historical remains. Many travellers are delighted to find so many sites with cultural, architectural designs, artistic values and information treasure about the past civilization of the particular region. Encouraging tourism to the ancient heritage sites have also generated sustainable employment chances to the unemployed youth of those region and had added substantial income to the state exchequer through foreign remittances
Therefore, it is most significant landmark in the history of Kashmir which needs to be well maintained, protected with expert opinions for restoring the damaged structure and taken care of by all means to preserve striking ancient Hindu architecture in the valley. Archaeological Survey Of India is the organization with its offices in all states of India are duty bound to repair and revamp the structures of all such heritage sites in the country. ASI has been undertaking reconstruction or repairs or polishing or revamping of Mughal places, palaces, forts, shrines and other sites of Muslim rulers in India. In past five years according to CAG report Rs 15.77 crores expenditure was incurred as per the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for the maintenance and repairs of 17th century monuments of India.
, ASI Kashmir office does not appear to be doing justices to their earmarked charter of protecting and preserving the Heritage sites in Kashmir. Heritage site in the valley are left at the mercy of God. J&K Govt. also seems least interested for the upkeep of these age old heritage sites which give deep insight about the past of Kashmir and its culture. Although these monumental sites could be tourist attraction for both domestic, foreigners and study groups from any part of the world. For that the State Govt. has to put sites like Martand temple in the perspective of tourism in their tourist brochures, books and other tourist literature or in some major advertisement from time to time, and have to make tourist aware about this Sun temple. It should not be set aside or ignored by the State governing body. It is an essential part of Kashmir’s heritage and every Kashmiri should be proud of such marvellous architectural achievements of Kashmiris in past. Kashmir does not have natural beauty only to attract World tourism, but its rich cultural heritage, literature, philosophy, poetry, music, dramas , art and craft for which Kashmir had reached to zenith once upon a time, could be absorbing for the tourist. Moreover, possibilities of new job avenues for the local people will brighten by introducing this chapter in Kashmir tourism.
ASI Kashmir office is only giving cosmetic touch by laying garden and flowers in the front of the ruined temple with barbed wire fencing fixed on six feet angle iron polls. A regular gardener is employed to look after the lawn and to plant flowers, shrubs. Beyond that ASI does not do any major work of repairs, restoration, replacing of stones and revamping of the standing walls or roofing to safeguard it from snow, rains and scorching sun.
ASI can erect a protective roof over the structure without disturbing the original columns of the main temple structure. Many stone images and their body contours are distinct but the dust over them and growth of moss on most of the stones has eclipsed the stone images. ASI can remove the moss and clean the dust with hard brush to make it more visible to naked eye. Some type of chemical cleaning of the stone images on the walls to make it more clear to the naked eye and green moss gathered on the side pillars could be done with the help of some experts within the country or from outside.
There is some inscription in Sharda script on a stone in the corner, which too has gone blurred due to utter negligence. It could have been translated in common language to enable tourist to understand what is written in Sharda. Atleast ASI could have put on a slab the meaning of the Sharda inscription in the English language. There are no comprehensive details written on some fixed slab / board for the information of the tourists visiting the site.
Kashmir tourism also does not give it that tourist importance. It does not have wide road and open space for parking of tourist vehicles. Entry point is circled by cluster of the local houses, thereby putting the temple site in background.
Why not make an appeal to the Chairman ASI, asking him for revamping all ancient heritage sites in Kashmir to this extent that its universal values are preserved and its further decay due to climatic changes is stopped.