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Martand Sun Temple: Obscured By Neglect

22/07/2015 8:21 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Sameer Mushtaq

Built in the 8th century, the Martand Sun Temple should be a marvellous testament to the architectural achievements of Kashmir's ancient Karkota Dynasty. Instead it lies forgotten and in shambles 8km from Anantnag in south Kashmir.

According to the Tareekh-e-Hassan (The Oldest History of Kashmir) there was a city named Babul in the Karewas of south Kashmir built by Raja Ranadatiya. In front of his royal palace he built Martandeshwari temple around 370 t0 400 C.E; this temple it is believed was completed by Lalitadatiya Muktapida and was dedicated to Surya Bhagwan. Within a year the temple was the temple is now in ruins. Much of the temple was destroyed by Islamic ruler Sikandar Butshikan in the early 15th century, and it has stood in ruins ever since.

Of course, it's not as if the right noises haven't been made. The government has made some half-hearted attempts to develop the site, with facilities for tourists, but it isn't nearly enough. The department of archaeology is responsible for the temple today, but nothing has been done to develop the destination as a place of pilgrimage.

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A handful of schoolchildren saunter amid the neglected and unprotected temple ruins.

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Large, square blocks of limestone form the foundation and Greek-style pillars of the temple.

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The Sun Temple faces west, so that the shrine would be lit by the rays of the sun.

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Intricate carvings can still be seen on what remains of the structure.

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The imposing pillars and arches provide an indication of the temple's former grandeur.

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The architects built this magnificent edifice in a unique way so that the sunlight would fall on the idol of Surya throughout the day.

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Martand Sun Temple's religious importance among Hindus could face a resurgence if efforts are undertaken to restore it.

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A schoolboy scrambles over the limestone blocks of the temple.

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A carving, weathered away by time and neglect.

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Martand is second only to Konark in its significance as a sun temple.

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A teenage boy lost in thoughts. The picturesque Sun Temple last year served as the backdrop for the dramatic "Bismal" song in the Bollywood movie Haider. There was controversy over portraying the site as the "den of the devil".

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Detail of a musician playing the flute.

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The building blocks of the temple lie strewn haphazardly on the site.

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The remnants of the temple stand in a square field that is better maintained than the structure.

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At present, only the plinth and few pillars survive but the beautiful facade, rich panellings and intricate stone carvings showcase the expertise of the 8th-century craftsmen.

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In the words of British architect and scholar, Sir Alexander Cunningham: "The architectural remains of Kashmir are perhaps the most remarkable of the existing monuments of India."

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