Forgotten Temples of Kashmir Part-17

Shehjar Newsmagazine
Forgotten Temples of Kashmir
Photo series Part-17
An effort to preserve and record Hindu cultural and religios heritage of Kashmir
NARASTAN TEMPLE
Exclusive images and report from a remote village in Kashmir provided for Shehjarby
Chander M. Bhat
arastan Mandir, now in ruins, lies in the North-East of Avantipora, 16 km from Tral town towards famous Aripal. The place of Narastan is famous for its ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, standing against the backdrop of lofty mountains of the Brariaangan Range. The name Narastan is the deviation of the original Narayan Sthan (place of Narayan). Architecturally, the temple claims a place of pride among many ancient temples of Kashmir. Minor excavation work undertaken by Lawrence showed existence of specimens of old sculpture. This stone temple is distinguished for its architectural works; it is dissimilar from all the other temples in the Kashmir Valley. Dating back to more than 1400 years. The interior compound measures about 8.6 feet square. An interesting feature of the Narastan Temple is, it has no ceiling. The courtyard measures 70 feet square. From the outer wall, there is a small side entrance near the southwestern side. This circular shaped temple is wholly constructed with stones in Gandhara style of architecture. The temple is on a single base consisting of only four courses of stones. At the top of the pediment, there is a figure that resembles a Garuda, the king of birds, sacred vehicle to Lord Vishnu, who is half man and half eagle with the power to acquire any shape. The main draw of the temple is the trefoil arches on the peripheral of the shrine walls. Another remarkable feature is the absence of any circumambulatory path on top of the base. From the courtyard, a flight of four steps leads to the shrine of Narastan. There is a stream of water that gushes down near the front of the temple3. The main temple, except the roof, if very well preserved. The important features of the temple are:
  • The temple, built on a single base made of only four courses of stones, is in a courtyard.
  • The courtyard measures 70 feet square. It is surrounded by a wall, which is unornamented except for a plain-filleted stringcourse, at about 2 feet from the ground, a predimental trefoiled niche in the West wall and a recess 3 feet square.
  • The temple cell measures 8 feet 6 inches internally and contained a Shiv Linga.
  • The temple is at the centre of 5 feet thick and 8 feet high walled enclosure, parts of which are in ruins.
  • The temple has an entrance, 4.5 feet wide, inner and middle gateways, designed stone doors, a portico and outer portal supporting columns (8 feet high). It has also a chamber measuring 8.5 feet square, two vestibules (outer one 8 feet by 4 feet and the second one of larger dimensions), the flooring, blank arched recess on the walls and a small cell projecting into the enclosure.
  • The portico projects 4 feet from the wall.
  • The gateway is a double-chambered structure open on two sides, for entry and exit. A doorway connects the two chambers, each chamber measuring 7 feet by 4 feet.
  • To reach the sanctum sanctorum from the courtyard base, there is a flight of four steps.2

Notes and References:

1. Place Names in Kashmir by B.K.Raina & S.L.Sadhu, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai & Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, New Delhi, 2000.
2. Encyclopedia: Kashmiri Pandit: Culture & Heritage by C.L.Kaul, published by Ansh Publications, 2009.
3. Ancient Monuments of Kashmir by Ram Chand Kak, published by Aryan Books International, New Delhi, 2000.
4. Kalhan’s Rajatarangini….A Chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir, Vol: II by Stein, Aurel, published by Motilal Banarasi Dass, 1979.

Front Side of the temple


Inner Roof


Main Entrance


Narastan temple complex

Back side of the temple


Courtyard of the temple


aBase of a stone piller


Right side of the plinth


Temple Walls





Temple ruins


Author in the temple premises


Author with a Gujjar Boy at Narastan

*Born on 20th March, 1960 in Murran a village in North Kashmir, Chander M. Bhat is presently working as an Assistant Supdt. Posts, in Department of Posts, Govt. of India. His articles regarding Posts and of non-political nature stand widely published in various papers and magazines of the country. A booklet 'How to Collect Stamps" published by the Department of Posts, has earned him genuine accolades. He worked on the project of tracing the roots of his co-villagers and of the village Murran, resulting into the culmination of a widely acclaimed book "Murran -My Village". Man with depth, Chander M. Bhat has also another book, "Ocean by Drops" (collection of poems) in his vase having colorful poems. His book "Ancient History of Jammu and Kashmir", confirms his researching capability. Various research papers like "The Splendor that is Amarnath" and "Vitasta" The Sacred River of Kashmir" are valuable additions to his works that has proved very fruitful and guiding force in the exile period of Kashmiri Pandits community of which the author is also a member.

Presently the author is working on "OOL - THE NEST" a six volume project on all the 595 (each volume of about 2500 pages)Kashmiri Pandit villages of Kashmir.

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Comments
Very nice to have such articles and salute to the author for visiting such places and keeping the situation alive. Well done and keep it up.
Added By IK PANDIT
I highly appreciate ur efforts.
Added By Kamal Bagati
It is really nice to see the pics and refresh my memories that date back to 1981-82 when i visited the place. I am sure the author has visited the place in recent times and the temple has not been vandalised by the miscreants. Thanks to Chander ji
Added By Avtar Raina
I have an original 19th century photograph, circa 1870, of this temple. It shows two levels of steps leading up to the doorway. From your photographs it appears that a lot of mud has covered much of the courtyard surrounding the temple. Would you like me to email a scan of it to you? Anthony Davis U.S.A.
Added By Anthony Davis
I really appreciate your efforts and vision. My respectful salute to your hard work.
Added By Ramesh Kumar Raina
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