Jammu and Kashmir has always captured the imagination of people across the world because of its beauty which, surrounded by unspoiled nature, presents a rare spectacle of it--a paradise on earth.

Jammu and Kashmir has always captured the imagination of people across the world because of its beauty which, surrounded by unspoiled nature, presents a rare spectacle of it--a paradise on earth.

While abundance of nature and natural resources has made the Union Territory a part of several literary works and films over the years, there is hardly any place in Srinagar and other areas of the region that could go unnoticed by even a common people.

Amid this beauty and charm of Jammu and Kashmir, there lies a 1394 AD built Jama Masjid in Srinagar; it is known for its architectural marvel. Representing a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture—a blend of Indian and Mughal styles, the mosque consists of 370 wooden pillars which support the roof.

There are three entrance gates on the northern, southern and eastern sides of the mosque with three turrets standing on the tall columns of deodar wood. Uniquely designed, it is quadrangle in shape with four minarets; one in the middle of each side covered with a series of pyramidal roofs which terminate in an open turret crowned by a high pinnacle.

The minarets are connected by spacious halls which can accommodate around 33,333 people for prayers at one time. Built in an area of 384x381 feet, the mosque has a square garden in the middle and is surrounded by wide lanes on all the four sides.

Its large entrance gate is covered with a pyramidal roof surmounted by a square open pavilion with a spire on the top. In all, the mosque has had an eventful past; it got destroyed by fire thrice and each time, it was rebuilt.

Representitive Image Adding to the exceptional identity of Srinagar is a Shankaracharya temple, believed to be built around 371 BC. As per ‘Rajatrangni’ which presents an account of royal dynasties that ruled the ancient kingdom of Kashmir and written in Sanskrit by Kalhana in 1148, the temple was built by King Gopaditya.

Kashmiri Pandits believe that Adi Shankaracharya, an Indian Vedic scholar, and preacher, had visited the temple built on a hill which is 335 metre above the level of the Srinagar city in the 8th century BC. Adi Shankaracharya, it is said, had spent a long time in the temple and composed some of the greatest works and meditated in silence. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is accessible by a staircase of 243 steps.

From the architectural point of view, this temple holds a huge significance. It rests on a solid rock --a 6.1-metre-tall octagonal base, supporting a square building on the top. The front and back flanks of the base are plain while the other sides have a minimal design but of noticeable angles.

The centre of the temple is made up of a circle, which is 6.6 metre in diameter with an entrance 1.1 metre wide. The walls of the temple are 2.4 metre long. The terrace around it is reached by a stone staircase enclosed between two walls. A doorway on the opposite side of the staircase leads to the interior, which is a small and dark chamber.

The ceiling of the temple is supported by four octagonal columns, which surround a basin containing a Lingam encircled by a snake. It is the nationally protected temple under the Archaeological Monument, Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

Representitive Image History of Jammu and Kashmir will not be complete without highlighting the significance of Harwan Buddhist monastery, situated in the outskirts of Srinagar. Currently in ruins, the Buddhist monastery was first excavated in 1923. It tells the story of its grand past.

It is said that the 4th Buddhist Council took place in this monastery which was called upon by Kanishka, one of the rulers of the Kushana Dynasty, between the 1st and 2nd century BCE. According to historians, about 500 monks had participated in the Buddhist Council where doctrine of Buddhism was discussed. Some historians say the Mahayana school of Buddhism was conceived in Kashmir, which was later propagated in Central Asia and Tibet.

As regarding the monastery’s structure, researchers maintain that it appears that there stood a grand complex, divided into two main terraces: while the first terrace includes a main stupa standing in a typical Gandhara style, another structure lying next to it appears to be some kind of an assembly hall. The monastery complex also includes a raised structure, a set of four residential rooms with a corridor running in between. Researchers say these rooms could be Viharas—a resting place for monks.

The second terrace of the monastery includes a structure identified as an apsidal shrine made in diaper pebble masonry. In the courtyard of the structure was laid with moulded and plain tiles which bear motifs of flora and fauna, ram fighting, cows suckling their calves, archers on the horseback chasing deer and shooting an arrow at them, dancing girls, men and women conversing in a balcony. The art is considered to be typical of Kashmir and Central Asia.

In his book ‘Ancient Monuments of Kashmir,’ Ram Chandra Kak, who was the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir during 1945-1947, said “With the spread of Buddhism, crafts and craftsmen associated with the same, travelled from Kashmir to the other parts of Asia. Many were patronized by the rulers of the time with the mission to propagate the message of Dharma. There are records of Kashmiri craftsmen going to the ancient kingdom of Guge in Central Tibet to decorate the Buddhist monasteries being built there. A Tibetan source mentions Rinchen Sangpo, who visited Kashmir and took craftsmen along to revive the Buddhist art in Tibet. Tradition says he built one hundred and fifty temples with the help of 75 Kashmiri craftsmen.”

Effectively, these structures of historical and religious significance speak volumes of the composite culture of the Union Territory. In the past, it used to serve as one of the highest learning centres of Sanskrit and Persian. Though with the passage of time, Jammu and Kashmir has seen many ups and down—politically, economically and socially, yet the rich and deep-rooted ancient tradition of Indian culture retains its place in the heart of the region.