Saving Jammu Kashmir’s heritage is as important as defence

Tarun Vijay
A nation lives on the strength of its memory and it is a fact that invaders and terrorists target to destroy all signs of it to make the subjugated people respect their tormentors. Terrorism hits humans and stones alike as the memorials are the memory books of a nation and a society and the worst fears of a terrorist-invader is the people with alive memories of their past.
People with lost memory form a large part of the colonised world during Islamic and European Jihads and crusades. When Portuguese invaded Goa they burnt libraries, so were the Islamic barbaric invaders who burnt libraries and universities of Taxila and Nalanda.
The strong and sovereign nations always try to preserve their monuments as each monument is a book of national memory that tells the future generations about the ups and downs of a people and a society.
One can’t understand the glory and the pinnacles of a knowledge- society that thrived in Kashmir during Emperor Lalitaditya’s time unless we visit Martand temple nor the bravery and courage of Dogras be understood without visiting monuments related to their life and times.
Sadly, terrorism has taken its toll on such monuments also and we see them in utter neglect and on the verge of destruction.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands that erasing the memory of a people and a nation is a bigger blow to its soul than the physical subjugation. Defending memory is as important as defending territorial boundaries. Hence in a speech delivered recently he said-“”These irregularities and injustice against the makers of Indian history by the writers of Indian history are now being corrected as we are entering the 75th year of Independence.”
It can be done only with the active participation of the people and a mass knowledge-heritage movement that aims to re-tell correct history to the new generation that has been fed so far on the British colonial education system and text books that simply ignore the truths of the history.
It is the Modi government that has undertaken several such major steps to preserve heritage. It declared grand sites of archaeological importance like Dholavira, Rakhigarhi, Hastinapur , Shivasagar as iconic . Minister for Culture Shri Kishen Reddy had declared during his Kashmir visit last year as MoS Home Affairs that Martand temple can be rebuilt. Jammu Kashmir’s Lt Governor Manoj Sinha became the first head of the state to pay a visit to great warrior saint Baba Banda Singh Bahadur’s Tapasthali in Reasi last year and he ordered building a Ghat on Chenab in his memory. He has also instructed a museum on the life and times of Baba Banda Singh as well as to begin preservation work on the Zorawar Singh Fort which had been lying in utter neglect. The dynamism of inimitable leader from Jammu Dr Jitendra Singh in helping these monuments preserved and also providing funds for the Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Gurudwara area roads are highly recognised .
National Monuments Authority has been working relentlessly to preserve national monuments and create awareness about the memorials . From preserving Jammu Kashmir monuments to the pre-Christian and Pre-Islamic era monuments in Northeast, Uttarakhand, Himachal, Tamilnadu and several other states NMA has been pioneering the movement to preserve national memory. In one major step National Monuments Authority has chosen the Martand temple as its official logo .
One grand achievement was to have the Rakhigarhi ‘s Harappan site put on the top of agenda for preservation and excavation. Several meetings with the Chief Minister of Haryana Shri Manohar Lal and the leading role played by the dynamic and visionary minister for culture Kishen Reddy saw creation of a high level committee to have the world’s largest Harappan site saved.
Simliarly saving and facilitating the ancient Ashwanedh site at Dehradun, resurrecting the glory of Mahakavi Kamban’s birthplace in Tamilnadu, re-discovering the founder king of Delhi Anangpal and having his monument in the form of Anangtal declared as national monument are some of the things that NMA take credit for.
Jammu Kashmir is the crown of Mother India and hence the temples and ancient monuments here must receive top attention by the govt. I have seen how the statue of Zorawar Singh was shabbily treated and a Dogra memorial in the heart of Jammu city was turned into a trash ground with no descriptive plaque about its history or the reason behind erecting it.
We must not forget that a people with lost memory and a disinterested attitude towards their legacy find no place in future. The atrocities of the foreign invaders and their marks must not be forgotten and people must know who destroyed Martand temple or looted India.
Will Durant, the renowned British historian wrote-“The British conquest of India was the invasion and destruction of a high civilization by a trading company utterly without scruple or principle […] bribing and murdering, annexing and stealing, and beginning that career of illegal and legal plunder.” Britain profited enormously from what Durant calls the “rape of a continent,” so much so that on the eve of independence, the vast majority of Indians were living in poverty. It was, as Durant put it, “the most sordid and criminal exploitation of one nation by another in all recorded history.”
But how many of our children read in their text books about it or the grandeur of Martand temple ?
The Martand temple or Sun temple was built in the 8th Century CE by Lalitaditya Muktapida, the 3rd ruler in the Karkota Dynasty. The Shankara Gaurishvara temple was built in dedication to Lord Shiva, and is located at Patan, close to Baramulla. The two Avantipora temples are located at the small but historic town of Avantipora approximately 30 kms from Srinagar. Located just 6 kms from the city of Srinagar, the Pandrethan temple is a testament to Kashmiri architectural mastery. Pandrethan temple, locally known as ‘Paani Mandir’ is about 5 kms from Srinagar city. This ancient temple was said to be built around 921 AD and is a great example of Kashmiri temple architecture. Pandrethan Temple was built by Meru Vardhana (minister to King Partha who ruled Kashmir from 921-931 AD) and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple is surrounded by a pond and is known for the geometry and symmetry used in the construction of the temple.
A visitor Snehal Manjarekar posted on website about the grand Avantiswami temple, erected sometime between AD 855-AD883 AD by the Utpala dynasty ruler, Avantivarman. The temples were dedicated to Lord Vishnu called Avantisvamin and the other to Lord Siva called Avantisvara. That sense of ancientness was grossly overwhelming. I was disconnected from the world. While photographing the ruins I felt as if every stone was eagerly expressing the story of its glorious erection and the poignant devastation of the dazzling edifice of the rich Hindu heritage in the Pre-Islamic Kashmir.
The writer said-The ruins seemed to have freed me from the rule of time. As I walked from stone to stone touching and feeling their ancientness I forgot about my trip to Pahalgam. It was already over an hour and the army personnel outside started quizzing Mr Ashraf on my whereabouts. There was a loud call from Mr Ashraf from the entrance of the ruined temples that eventually transported me back into Circa 2015 from AD 855 J.
One can hope that Jammu Kashmir is finally awakening to the need to preserve its priceless ancient heritage.
(The writer is a senior columnist and former MP)