Located in the heavenly state of Jammu and Kashmir surrounded by snow-clad hills, Martand Sun Temple is an exquisite shrine dedicated to Surya (Sun God) and lies over five miles away from Anantnag district in Jammu. The structure is a Kashmiri Hindu temple and is renowned as one of the most graceful structures constructed in India. Even though it is now in ruins, the temple, in its wrecked state shares its glorious story with the ones who genuinely want to listen. A walk across the courtyard will offer you a glimpse into the brilliantly fused designs and carvings on the structure, that stood the test of time and weather for centuries.
Martand, in Sanskrit, translates to other names for the Sun God in Hinduism. The temple was constructed between the 7th and the 8th century by Lalitaditya, who was the third ruler of the Karkota dynasty. The entire temple complex has been constructed over a plateau near Anantnag and is made of limestone. It was ordered to be demolished by a Muslim ruler named Sikandar Butshikan which took more than a year to destroy it. But the ruined temple site has been opened by the Government of India for tourist visits and is of national, historical, and cultural significance. Even after being in ruins, the temple complex is so mesmerizing with its surrounding landscape that many movies and songs have been shot here, making it even more appealing to make visit.
The Martand Sun Temple, also known as the Martanda or Marttand Temple, was built during the reign of King Lalitaditya Muktapida in the 8th century CE and is dedicated to the solar deity, Surya. The temple was constructed on top of a plateau overlooking the Kashmir Valley and was designed in the traditional Kashmiri style of temple architecture known as "Shilpkala". The temple complex originally consisted of a central shrine surrounded by a large courtyard, with numerous smaller shrines and pavilions arranged around it. The main shrine was built on a raised platform and was approached by a long flight of steps.
The Martand Sun Temple was considered one of the finest examples of Kashmiri architecture and was a major pilgrimage site for Hindus until it was destroyed by Muslim invaders in the 15th century. The exact circumstances of its destruction are unclear, but it is believed to have been sacked and looted by a Muslim ruler named Sikandar Butshikan, who ordered the destruction of many Hindu temples in the region. He did that to convert the Hindus of the valley to Islam and was successful in doing so by executing mass Hindus and converting others who were afraid. It is said that it took over a year to demolish the grand and sturdy temple complex during that time.
Despite the destruction of the temple, its ruins continue to be a popular tourist attraction and an important archaeological site. The main shrine, which once housed a statue of Surya, is now in ruins, but its distinctive architecture and intricate carvings can still be seen. The courtyard and surrounding structures are also partially preserved, providing a glimpse into the temple's former glory. The Martand Sun Temple has been recognized as a National Heritage Site by the Archaeological Survey of India, and efforts are underway to preserve and restore the remaining structures.
The Martand Sun Temple was built in the traditional Kashmiri style of temple architecture, known as "Shilpkala". The temple's design reflects a blend of Hindu and Buddhist influences, which were common in the region during the 8th century CE along with influences of the Gupta, Gandharan, Syrian, Chinese, Roman, and Greek architecture infused all over the temple complex. The temple's site is sprawled over an area of 32,000 square feet and has its entrance on the western side. The temple complex originally consisted of a central shrine surrounded by a large courtyard, with numerous smaller shrines and pavilions arranged around it. Archaeologists have tried to restore an impression of the structure that the shrine must have had before it was destroyed. The main shrine was built on a raised platform and was approached by a long flight of steps. It is believed that the main shrine had a pyramidal-shaped pinnacle which is commonly seen in the temples in Kashmir. The temple's architecture is characterized by its intricate carvings and ornate decorations. The walls and pillars of the temple were covered with elaborate sculptures depicting various Hindu deities, as well as scenes from Hindu mythology. The carvings were done in high relief, creating a sense of depth and realism. The main shrine, which was dedicated to the solar deity Surya, was a square structure with a pyramidal roof. The roof was supported by a series of intricately carved pillars, which were arranged in a circular pattern around the shrine. The pillars were decorated with images of deities, animals, and mythical creatures. The outer walls of the temple were also adorned with elaborate carvings, including rows of small niches that contained images of deities. The temple's entrance was marked by a large gateway, which was also decorated with intricate carvings.
Martand Sun Temple was considered one of the finest examples of Kashmiri architecture, and its intricate carvings and decorative elements continue to be admired by visitors and scholars alike. Despite its partial destruction, the temple's ruins remain a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of its builders.
Over the centuries, the Martand Sun Temple has undergone several cycles of destruction and restoration due to various reasons, including natural disasters and human conflict. However, some restoration and preservation work has been done on the temple in recent times to protect and conserve its remaining structure.
Timing – 6 am to 7 pm
Entry Fees – No fees
The best time to visit the temple is during the summer months from May to September when the weather is pleasant and the temperatures are moderate. During this time, the temple complex is open to visitors, and you can explore the beautiful ruins without worrying about the cold weather. However, it is important to note that the temple is located at an altitude of about 1,600 meters above sea level, and the weather can be quite unpredictable. It is advisable to carry warm clothing, especially during the winter months when the temperatures can drop below freezing.
The temple was constructed in the 8th century CE and is now more than 1200 years old.
The temple was built by Lalitaditya Muktapida, the third ruler of the Karkota Dynasty in the 8th century CE.
It was destroyed by a Muslim ruler named Sikandar Butshikan or Sikandar Shah Miri in a bid to Islamize society and to make people follow Islam in the valley.