The earliest inhabitants of Kashmir probably cherished some aboriginal beliefs, the details of which are not traceable now. The snake-cult or Naga-worship seems to have been established in the valley from a remote period and undoubtedly had been one of the earliest religions of the land. In the third century B.C., Buddhism seems to have made some headway, converted a large number of people and overshadowed the Naga cult which ultimately sunk into oblivion. Among Hindu gods, Siva either originated or entered the valley sometime before the faith of the Sakya prince made its entrance and was later followed by Visnu, Surya and other Brahminical gods and goddesses. A brief history of the different types of religious cults and beliefs of early Kashmir, may be sketched as follows.
Kashmir was one of the principal centres of serpent-worship in India. Though detailed evidence is lacking, there is no doubt that snake-worship prevailed in the valley from a very early period.
Regarding the exact date when the snake-cult was prevalent in the land, no direct testimony is available. But there are reasons to believe that in the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., it might have been the principal religion of Kashmir. In the Mahavamsa, it is said that Asoka's adviser Moggaliputta Tissa sent Majjhantika to preach Buddhism in Kashmir. When the sramana reached the valley, he found that Aravala, the king of the Nagas, was ruling over it. Aravala was destroying the corns of the country by hail storm. Majjhantika, however, due to his divine powers remained unaffected from rains and storms. This made the Naga king furious who sent lightning and struck rocks against the Buddhist monk in herder to kill him. But all these went in vain. Then convinced of the great powers of Majjhantika, the Naga king Aravala together with his followers submitted before the monk and accepted Buddhism. This was followed by the conversion into Buddhism a large number of Naga worshippers of KasmiraGandhara.
Hiuen Tsang, who visited Kashmir in the 7th century A.D. relates that according to the native records, Kashmir was originally a dragon lake. A very detailed and vivid account of how the arhat Madhyantika (apparently Majjhantika) rescued the valley of Kashmir from the Nagas, established there the religion of Buddha and settled 500 arhats in the country, has been preserved in the Chinese Vinaya of the Mula-Sarvasti-vadin sect. The Tibetan scholar Bu-ston, who composed his famous history of Buddhism in the 14th century A.D., points out that when Madhyanti went to Kashmir to preach Buddhism, he found the Nagas presiding in the valley. They at first gave a tough opposition to Madhyantika, but at the end, the Buddhist monk succeeded in subduing the troublesome Nagas.
That Naga-worship prevailed in early Kashmir receives confirmation not only from the accounts of Ceylon, China and Tibet but also from native literatures.
The Nilamatapurana, probably a work of the 7th or 8th century A.D., records at great length how Kashmir was created out of water and left to the care of The Nagas of whom Nila, the son of Kasyapa, was the chief. According to this work, in the beginning, human beings could dwell in the valley for six months of the year, i.e., during the summer. In winter, the land was occupied by the Pisacas and human beings had to leave the valley due to excessive cold. Once Nila was satisfied with a Brahmana called Candradeva and agreed at his prayer that men should be allowed to live in Kashmir during the winter also. The Naga king also disclosed to him the rites which were to be observed by the future human inhabitants if they were to live permanently in the valley.
Most of the rites prescribed by Nila are concerned with the nature of worship of popular deities. But there are some festivals which are particularly connected with the worship of Naga or serpent. Thus Nila was worshipped on the festival of the first snowfall. Nila and the Nagas were also 'propitiated on the Iramanjaripuja festivity which took place in the month of Caitra. Another ceremony called Varunapancami was held on the fifth day of Bhadra and was connected with the worship of serpent king Nila.
The Nilamatapurana also records the names of B the principal Nagas worshipped in Kashmir, the total number of which was 527. The four dikpalas of Kashmir, mentioned by the author of the Nilamatapurana were four Nagas - Bindusara in the east, Srimadaka in the south, Elapatra in the west and Uttaramanasa in the north. From a remote period, great importance must have been attached to the worship of the Nagas as is shown by the long account of them given in the Nilamatapurana. A large number of temples, built near some of the famous springs and undoubtedly early origin of the pilgrimages directed to them, clearly pointed out the popularity of the Naga-cult in ancient Kashmir. The Nagas were supposed, according to the Nilamatapurana, to reside in the lakes and springs of the valley. Even now names of places like Vernag, Anantanag, Sernag, etc. show traces of ancient Naga beliefs. That the Nagas were eminently popular deities in the happy valley, is also testified to by Kalhana's Chronicle. According to the Rajatarangini, Kashmir was a land protected by Nila, the lord of all Nagas. Even when Buddhism had undermined the Naga beliefs, one of its early kings Gonanda III is said to have reintroduced the pilgrimages, sacrifices and other worship in honour of the Nagas, as they had been before. There is also a story of Susravas Naga, and his alliance with a Brahmana is depicted with much details. King Durlabhavardhana and his scions are ascribed to a family which, according to Kalhana, was Naga in its origin. Naga Mahapadma, the tutelary deity of the Vular lake, is said to have showed king Jayapida, a mountain which yielded copper. Another Naga called Pindaraka deluded the Darad chieftain Acalamangala, who attacked the happy valley during the reign of Ananta. Among the festivals connected with the Naga-cult, Kalhana speaks of the annual festival in honour of the great serpent king Taksaka 'frequented by dances and strolling players and thronged by crowds of spectators' which was celebrated on the 12th day of the dark half of Jyaistha. Ksemendra also refers to a Taksakavatra festival in his Samayamatrka (Samayamatrka, ii, 88).
That the Naga-cult prevailed in the valley throughout the Hindu rule and even afterwards, seems to be corroborated by the account of Abul Fazal. He tells us that during the reign of Akbar (A.D. 1556-1605) there were in Kashmir 45 places dedicated to the worship of Siva, 64 to Visnu, 3 to Brahma and 22 to Durga, but there were 700 places in the valley where there were carved images of snakes which the inhabitants worshipped.
Buddhism seems to have obtained a footing in Kashmir as early as the 3rd century B.C. The Ceylonese chronicle Mahavamsa preserves an account of the introduction of Buddhism in the valley by Majjhantika which has been already noted. That Buddhism was first preached in Kashmir by Madhyantika and that he succeeded in making a large number of converts also receives confirmation from traditions recorded in the Tibetan work Dul-va and the account of Hiuen Tsang.
We learn from Kalhana that Kashmir formed a part of the empire of Asoka, who was a follower of Jina, i.e., Buddha. The emperor built in the valley numerous stupas, some of which were existing as late as the time of the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang's visit. The great emperor, who was zealous always in preaching and disseminating the religion of Buddha throughout the length and breadth of his kingdom and even beyond, seems to have tried his best to spread it in the secluded vale of Kashmir too.
What happened to the state of Buddhism in Kashmir, after the death of Asoka, we do not know. Probably in the 1st century B.C., Kashmir came under the occupation of the Greek king Menander. He was first a lay devotee of Buddha but afterwards left his throne, joined the Sangha and at last became an arhant. He created a vihara for his co-religionists which came to be known as Milindavihara, after the name of its founder.
The Buddhism of Kashmir entered its golden phase under the patronage of the Kusana king Kaniska and his successors who came to occupy the valley about the end of the 1st century A.D. Kalhana mentions that three Turuska, i.e., Kusana kings, Huska, Juska and Kaniska ruled over Kashmir and founded three towns called Huskapura (mod. Huskur), Juskapura (mod. Juskar) and Kaniskapura (mod. Kanespur). These Kusana kings were given to acts of piety and built many viharas, mathas, caityas and similar other structures. During their powerful rule, the land of Kashmir was, to a great extent, under the possession of the Bauddhas, who, by practicing the law of religious mendicancy, had acquired great renown.
That Kashmir was a great centre of Buddhism under the Kusanas receives further corroboration to from the fact that the fourth Buddhist council took place in Kashmir under the auspices of Kaniska. At the end of the council, Hiuen Tsang informs us, several expository commentaries were written on the Sutra, Vinaya, and Abhidharma. The original text and its explanation came to be known as Upadesa-sastra and Vibhasa-sastra. Kaniska had these treatises engraved on copper plates and deposited them at a stupa, apparently situated in Kashmir.
Many great Buddhist scholars resided in Kashmir during the reign of the Kusanas. Of these, Kalhana mentions the name of Nagarjuna who resided at Sadarhadvana, i.e. Harwan. According to Chinese evidence Asvaghosa, Vasuvandhu, Vasumitra, Dharmatrata, Sanghabhadra, Jinatrata and many other scholars lived in Kashmir from the time of Kaniska onwards.
The flourishing state of Buddhism in Kashmir at the end of the Kusana period and afterwards is testified to by archaeological evidence. The site of Harwan yields Buddhist stupas, bases of chapels, inscriptions containing the celebrated Buddhist creed Ye dharma, etc. From the appearance of Kharosthi numerals on the brick tiles and from the Buddhist inscriptions written in Brahmi characters of about the 4th century A.D., the Buddhist antiquarian objects of Harwan may be assigned to a period round about A.D. 300. A number of terracotta figures, mainly busts or heads of Buddha, Bodhisattva and Buddhist monks have been recovered from another ancient site. Uskur (Huviskapura) and are assignable stylistically to the 4th or 5th century A.D.
Not only the Kusana kings, but local rulers of Kashmir also seem to have patronized the faith of Buddha in the early centuries of the Christian era. One of its early kings, Meghavahana, prohibited the slaughter of animals in his kingdom. He also stopped the killing of animals in sacrifices. Amrtaprabha, the wife of the king, erected a vihara for Buddhist monks, which was called Amrtabhavana. Many viharas of renown were built by other queens. Kalhana compares the king with Jina, i.e., Buddha and also with Bodhisattvas. All these probably indicate Meghavahana's attachment to the faith of the Sakya prince.
During the reign of Pravarasena (c. 6th century A.D.) his maternal uncle Jayendra built a vihara and erected a statue of the 'Great Buddha'. Pravarasena, according to Kalhana, was succeeded by his son Yudhisthira II. Several ministers of his, who bore the names of Sarvaratna, Jaya and Skandagupta obtained distinction by erecting vihara and caityas. In the vihara built by a queen of king Meghavahana, a fine statue of Buddha was placed by Amrtaprabha, the wife of king Ranaditya.
Inspite of the legendary character of the early portions of the Rajatarangini, Kalhana's main contention that Buddhism received patronage from the local rulers of Kashmir during the early centuries of the Christian era, seems on the whole, to be based on facts. The Jayendravihara, said to have been founded by Pravarasena's maternal uncle Jayendra, was visited by Hiuen Tsang in the 7th century and Ou-kong about the middle of the next century saw the vihara of Amrtabhavana, built by Amrtaprabha, queen of Meghavahana, in a flourishing condition.
A fairly reliable account of the condition of Buddhism in Kashmir from the 7th century onward has been furnished by the accounts of the Chinese travellers Hiuen Tsang and Ou-kong, the Chronicle of Kalhana and some archaeological discoveries made at Gilgit, Pandrethan and Paraspor.
Several Buddhist manuscripts were found out from a stupa at Gilgit. The script used in the manuscripts may be assigned to the 6th or 7th century A.D. One of the manuscripts reveals the name of a Sahi king Srideva Sahi Surendra Vikramaditya Nanda who was apparently ruling over the Gilgit region when the manuscripts were deposited. Buddhism was thus flourishing on the northern part of Kashmir sometime about the end of the 6th century A.D. or in the early part of the next under the patronage of Sahi rulers.
To about the same period as the manuscripts of Gilgit, may probably be assigned also a large number of Buddhist sculptures hailing from the village of Pandrethan (ancient Puranadhisthana). Puranadhisthana was the capital of Kashmir from a very early date. It enjoyed the privilege of being the metropolis until about the end of the 6th century, A.D. when Pravarasena built a new city called Pravarasenapura (mod. Srinagar), which henceforth became the new capital of the valley. From stylistic consideration, the sculptural remains discovered at Pandrethan seem to have belonged to a period when the old city was finally abandoned in favour of the new. Besides two Buddhist stupas and the courtyard of a monastery, the objects of Buddhist antiquities found at Pandrethan include two standing figures of Buddha, a seated statue of Buddha, one diademed and ornamented image of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, another fragmentary sculptured relief of Buddha or Bodhisattiva and lastly a relief representation of the birth of Siddhartha.
Hiuen Tsang paid a visit to Kashmir in A.D. 631. He saw in the valley about one hundred sangharamas and five thousand Buddhist priests. There were four stupas built by Asoka, each of which contained relics of Tathagata. Among the Buddhist viharas visited by him specific mention is made of the Juskavihara (mod. Uskur, near Baraarnula) and Jayendra vihara (founded by Jayendra, the maternal uncle of Pravarasana II). The Chinese pilgrim stayed in the court of Kashmir for a couple of years, during which period (with the help of the local clerks) he took copies of a large number of Buddhist scriptures. Evidently, Kashmir was a great centre of Buddhism when Hiuen Tsang visited it.
Hiuen Tsang entered Kashmir during the period of the Karkotas. The kings of the Karkota dynasty were followers of Hinduism and worshipped in general gods like Visnu, Siva and Surya, all belonging to the Hindu pantheon. Nonetheless, some of the monarchs of the dynasty also gave liberal patronage to the religion of Tathagata. Hiuen Tsang was received with favour by one of its early kings, presumably Durlabhavardhana. Durlabha's queen Anangalekha built a Buddhist vihara, which came to be known as Anangabhavanavihara. Lalitaditya Muktapida founded one Rajavihara with a large quadrangle and a large caitya at Parihasapura. At Huskapura, the noble minded king built another large vihara with a stupa. A colossal copper image of Buddha was made by him, which is said to have reached up to the sky. At Parihasapura Cankuna, a Tukhara minister of the king erected the Cankunavihara, built a stupa and placed there a golden image of Jina. i.e., Buddha. A second vihara, together with a caitya was built by the minister at adhisthanantare, evidently at Srinagara and in this vihara, the minister put a brownish image of Buddha Sugata which was brought from Magadha on the shoulders of an elephant. Jayapida Vinayaditya, another celebrated monarch of the Karkota family, set up three images of Buddha and a large vihara at his newly founded town Jayapura.
Archaeological excavations carried on at Parihasapura, the city founded by Lalitaditya, have brought to light Buddhist structures - a stupa, a mona$tery and a caitya. The stupa has been identified as the stupa of Cankuna, the monastery with the Rajavihara built by Lalitaditya and the caitya with a large caitya said to have been founded by the same monarch. Among the sculptures discovered at Parihasapura, there are two images of Bodhisattva and one of Buddha. All these, prove to the hilt the popularity of Buddhism in the days of the Karkotas.
The thriving state of Buddhism during the reign of the Karkotas, i.e., during the 7th or 8th centuries A.D. is also attested to by the evidence of the Chinese traveller Ou-kong. Ou-kong came to Kashmir in A.D. 759. He spent four years in the valley in pilgrimages to holy sites and in studying Sanskrit. He learnt the Silas and the Vinayas of the Mulasarvastivadins at the Moung-ti-vihara. The other viharas referred to by him are Ngo-mi-to-po-wan, Ngo-nan-i, Ki-tche, Nago-ye-le, Je-je, Ye-li-te-le and Ko-toan. While Hiuen Tsang saw about one hundred viharas, Oukong noticed more than three hundred viharas in Kashmir and innumerable stupas and sacred images. This undoubtedly indicates a rise in the popularity of Buddhism in the valley during the Karkotas.
Buddhism seems to have been overshadowed by the growing Vaisnava and Saiva faith which became predominant in the valley in the centuries following the Karkota period. The dynasty of Utpala supplanted the Karkotas about the middle of the 9th century A.D. The founder of this dynasty, Avantivarman, (A.D. 855/56-883) was a staunch follower of Siva and Visnu and the architectural remains which have been discovered from the site of Avantipura, the town founded by the monarch, include some images of Visnu, Siva, and other Brahminical gods, but not a single figure of Buddha or Bodhisattva. But though Buddhism was in the background, the opinion cherished by some scholars that from the middle of the 9th century on till the advent of the 11th century, the Buddhists fell on evil days and all the kings were anti-Buddhistic in spirit seems to be an extreme view yet to be established beyond doubt. Except Ksemagupta (A.D. 950-958) and Harsa (A.D. 1089-1101), no king of this period is known to have cherished any anti-Buddhistic feeling in their heart. As for Ksemagupta, we learn from Kalhana that he burnt down a Buddhist monastery named Jayendravihara. From this decaying vihara, he took away the brass image of Buddha Sugata. The stones of the temple, he utilized for a Siva temple in his own rame. Ksemagupta further confiscated thirty-two villages which belonged to the burnt vihara and gave them to Khasa ruler. But the wrath of a cruel eccentric king against a single particular Buddhist monastery should not be taken as an instance of systematic policy of religious persecution adopted by the State against the Buddhists. Moreover, it may be noted, that if Ksemagupta had followed an anti-Buddhist policy, he would have destroyed many of the Buddhist viharas of Kashmir. But as we learn from Kalhana, the king burnt only a solitary Buddhist monastery; and this incident may suggest at most the king's ill-feelings towards a particular monastery which might have been guilty of some gross misdemeanour. It is unfair to infer from this single instance, that the king pursued a policy of anti-Buddhism, when we have no other information to support the view. A remarkably fine statue of the Bodhisattva Padmapani is now preserved in the Pratap Singh Museum, Srinagar. An inscription engraved at the base mentions its consecration in the reign of queen Didda (A.D. 980-1003). That Buddha was not looked with disapproval in the 11th century A.D. receives further corroboration from the writings of Ksemendra who says that during his time, the birth day of Buddha was observed with great ceremony in the valley.
As for Harsa, it may be said that the king was not merely an anti-Buddhist, but a man having no sympathy, for any religion whatsoever. If he plundered the statues of Buddha, he confiscated alike the images of the Brahminical gods and goddesses. And for all these works of plunder, spoliation and confiscation, the king was actuated not by his enmity towards any particular sect, but by his greed or rather need for money.
Buddhism received patronage from king Jayasimha, who ascended the throne of Kashmir in A.V. 1128. Many Buddhist viharas were built or repaired during this period. Pie completed the construction of the Sullavihara, which was started by his uncle, Uccala. Another vihara, built by the queen Ratnadevi, also received the king's care. The king's minister Rilhana constructed a vihara in memory of his deceased wife Sussala. Sussala was indeed a sincere follower of Buddha, as she is said to have built at the site of the Cankunavihara, of which nothing but the name remained, a stone shrine, residences and other structures. Cinta, the wife of Jayasimha's commander Udaya, built a vihara, which included within it, five buildings. One of the ministers of Jayasimha, Dhanya by name, commenced the construction of a vihara, but could not complete the structure, due to his premature death. Then Jayasimha, the king himself, made arrangements for the completion of the building and for a permanent endowment.
It is almost definite that Buddha was held in high honour in Kashmir upto the last days of the Hindu rule. A stone inscription, generally taken to have been dated A.D. 1197 has been discovered at Arigon (anc. Hadigrama), about 15 miles south west of Srinagara. The inscription opens with a salutation to Buddha Avalokitesvara and exalts him with glorious titles.
Marco Polo (13th century) states that in his time Kashmir was pre-eminent among the idolatrous countries and it was the very original source from which idolatry had spread around. There were also a number of idolatrous abbeys and monasteries. The superiors who exercised the functions of the abbots in these monasteries were held in great reverence by the mass of the people. If Yule's interpretation that the word 'Idolatry' is an expression meaning Buddhism be accepted, then, we are to admit that the Buddhism enjoyed wide popularity in the valley as late as the end of the 13th century.
The place of Kashmir in the history of Buddhism was great indeed. From the moment Buddhism was preached in the valley. Kashmir became mistress of the Buddhist doctrine and particularly the citadel of the Sarvastivada school. She played a great role in the spread of Buddhism beyond India, to Kandahar and Kabul and Bactria and thence to Central Asia and China. Tibetan Buddhism also drew its inspiration from Kashmir.
The cult of Visnu seems to have existed in Kashmir from a very early period. Lack of material, however, prevents us from tracing its origin and early character.
The earliest historical reference to the worship of Visnu occurs in the pages of the Rajatarangini where it is said that an image of Visnu Jayasvamin was consecrated by king Pravarasena II. Pravarasena II might have lived about the end of the 6th century A.D. Another image of Visnu Ranasvamin was consecrated by king Ranaditya at or near his capital Pravarapura. Ranaditya, who is credited with a reign of three hundred years is undoubtedly a legendary figure in Kalhana's Chronicle. But the historicity of the temple of Visnu Ranasvamin is amply proved by Jayanta Bhatta's mention of it in the Agamadambara and Kalhana's reference to it in his fifth book where he speaks of a visit paid to Ranasvamin by Cakravarman's queen. Mankha (12th century A.D.) in his Srikanthacarita refers to his father's worship of Ranasvamin. Jonaraja also mentions Ranasvamin Visnu in his commentary and describes it as Sripravarapurapradhanadevata.
With the accession of the Karkotas to the throne of Kashmir in the 7th century A.D., Visnu, the adored deity of the family, came to occupy a prominent position in the Kashmir pantheon. A son of king Durlabhavardhana, called Malhana, built the shrine of Visnu Malhanasvamin, while the king himself consecrated at Srinagari the shrine of Visnu Durlabhasvamin. Durlabhavardhana's grandson Candrapida, who lived in the early part of the 8th century A.D., consecrated the shrine of Visnu Tribhuvanasvamin. His preceptor, Mihiradatta, built a temple of Visnu Gambhirasvamin and his city-prefect Calitaka founded a temple of Visnu Calitasvamin.
The illustrious Lalitaditya came to the throne of Kashmir not long after the death of Candrapida Vajraditya. He too was a great devotee of lord Visnu. Resolved upon the conquest of the world, he built a shrine of KesavaVisnu in the early part of his reign. At Huskapura, he built a splendid shrine of Visnu Muktasvamin and of the town of Lokapunya with some villages he made an offering to Visnu. In the town of Parihasapura, which the monarch constructed in honour of his adored deity, he built the glorious silver statue of Visnu Parihasakesava. At Huskapura, another famous image of Visnu Muktakesava, was made out of gold. A fourth one, that of boar incarnation of Lord Visnu, was founded by him under the name of Visnu Mahavaraha. Lalitaditya consecrated two other silver images of his beloved god, one under the title of Govardhanadhara, and the other under the name of Ramasvamin. The latter image was placed in a stone temple which stood by the temple of Visnu Parihasakesava. Garuda, the vahana of Visnu was also a great favourite of Lalitaditya.
Lalitaditya's zeal for Vaisnavism must have shed its light upon those who were near him and who were driven to the same spiritual inclinations. His queen Kamalavati put up a large silver image of Kamalakesava and the king of Lata, named Kayya who was probably a feudatory of Lalitaditya, founded a shrine of Visnu Kayyasvamin.
Some of the later Karkota kings also adhered to the faith of Visnu. Jayapida, the grandson of Lalitaditya built the town of Jayapura, where as Kalhana poetically describes, Kesava showing his quadruple form as well as reclining on the serpent Sesa, has truly taken up his abode, abandoning his residence in Visnu's world. Jayapida's mother Amrtaprabha built a temple of Amrtakesava for the deliverance of her dead son. During the reign of Ajitapida, the ministers Utpala, Padma, Dharma, Kalyana and Mamma built temples of Visnu under the names of Utpalasvamin, Padmasvamin, Dharmasvamin, Kalyanasvamin and Mammasvamin, respectively.
Visnu was also worshipped by the members of the Utpala dynasty who succeeded the Karkotas. Avantivarman (A.D. 855/56-883), the first king of the dynasty built the shrines of Visnu Avantisvamin, even before he became a king. His brother, Suravarman founded a temple of Suravarmasvamin and a gakula. Another brother of the king, Samara founded for Kesava in his quadruple form a temple called Samarasvamin. Mahodaya, the chief door keeper of Sura consecrated a shrine of Visnu Mahodayasvamin, while the king's minister Prabhakaravarman built a temple of Visnu Prabhakarasvamin. Lastly, Suyya, the irrigation minister of Avantivarman built at the new confluence of Sindhu and Vitasta a temple of Hrsikesa Yogasayin.
The popularity of the cult of Visnu in the happy valley during the 8th and 9th centuries is further attested to by a number of images discovered from various ancient ruins. These include a few busts and heads of Visnu which have been recovered from Vijabror, three-faced Visnu figures carved on the walls of the Martanda temple, relief sculptures of Caturbhuja Visnu and Visnu seated between consorts hailing from the.ruins of Andarkoth and four-headed Visnu images from Avantipura and the surroundings.
The development of Vaisnavism in Kashmir, from the 10th century onwards, is evidenced from Kalhana's Rajatarangini. Queen Sugandha (a.d. 904-906) built a temple of Visnu Gopala Kesava and her daughter-in-law Nanda founded a temple of Nandikesava. A temple of Visnu Meruvardhandasvami was built by Partha's (A.D. 906-921) minister, Meruvardhana. Yasaskara (A.D. 939-948) started the construction of a temple of Visnu Yasaskarasvamin, which when he died, was left incomplete. The construction, however, was completed by Parvagupta (A.D. 949-950). Bhatta Phalguna, a councillor of Ksemagupta (A.D. 950-958), founded the shrine of Visnu Phalgunasvamin. About the same time, Bhima, the illustrious monarch of the Sahi dynasty, who was the maternal grandfather of Ksemagupta's queen Didda, built a high temple of Bhimakesava. About the end of the third quarter of the 10th century A.D. queen Didda, founded a series of Visnu shrines. The temple of Abhimanyusvamin, she built to increase her deceased son Abhimanyu's merit, while the shrine of Visnu Simhasvamin was erected by her, under the name of her father Simharaja. The queen further built two temples under the name of Visnu Diddasvamin.
The iconoclast Harsa (A.D. 1089-1101) destroyed a large number of Hindu and Buddhist images. The Visnu images desecrated by the dissolute king included the famous Parihasakesava. But king Uccala, who stepped into his shoes in the early years of the 12th century A.D., put up a new image of Parihasakesava. He also adorned the shrine of Visnu Tribhuvanasvamin with sukavali, which Harsa had carried off. Lastly, he restored the decayed temple of the ancient shrine of Visnu Cakradhara. All these are indications enough of the king's love and admiration for Vaisnavism.
Vaisnavism was popular even after Uccala's death. Ratnavali, the queen of Jayasimha established Vaikuntllamatlla and other pious buildings. The gok'`la, erected by her, far excelled the gakulas erected previously. Alamkara, the superintendent of Jayasimba's great treasury (vrhadganja) was also a worshipper of Visnu. Amont the later Hindu kings who professed Vainavism, Jonaraja mentions Ramadeva, who renewed the Visnu temple at Utpalapura and Udayanadeva who gave all golden armaments in his treasury to Visnu.
In the Vaisnavism of Kashmir, we find a synthesis of the different Vaisnava cults, which were current in ancient India. In it seems to have mingled, the faith of the Vedic Visnu, the system of the Pancaratra school, the religion of the Satvats and the faith in the cowherd god Gopala Krsna. Rama was worshipped as an incarnation of Visnu, but there is no definite evidence of the existence of Rama-cult in early Kashmir.
Among the various incarnations of Visnu, Varaha (boar), Krsna and Nrsimha (man-lion) were most popular. Lalitaditya built a temple of Mahavaraha ~lnd iconograhic representations of boar, man and lion-faced Visnu come from the temple of Martanda (8th century A.D.) as well as from the ruins of Avantipira (9th century A.D.). Rama, as an incarnation of Visnu seems to have been worshipped in the 8th century A.D. The Nilamatapurana refers to the celebration of Buddha's birthday festival, and this was a step towards the Buddha becoming an avatara of Visnu. The avataravada of Kashmir was, however, thoroughly systematised by the 11th century A.D. and in Ksemendra's Dasavataracarita, we find a list of the ten incarnations of Visnu under the names of Matsya, Kurma, Buddha and Karkya.
Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Srirama, Srikrsna.
Minor gods and goddesses of the Hindu Religion
Besides Visnu and Siva, there were many other minor Hindu gods and goddesses in the early Kashmirian pantheon. The most important of them include Surya, Karttikeya, Ganesa, Agni, Laksmi, Durga, Ganga, Yamuna and Kamadeva, of whose worship we have real literary evidence; some of their images too have survived.
The worship of Surya was probably brought into the valley from Iran at an early period. The Sakas and the Kusanas who ruled over Kashmir in the early centuries of the Christian era, seem to have been responsible for its introduction. Paucity of evidence, however, prevents us from making any definite assertion on the point or from tracing the early character of the cult.
Ranaditya, a king of ancient Kashmir, is said in the Rajatarangini to have built at the village of Simharotsika a temple of Martanda, which became famous everywhere under the name of Ranapurasvamin. But Ranaditya is a legendary character in the ancient history of Kashmir and the village Simharotsika or the Martanda temple, said to have been founded by him, cannot be located. In the 8th century A.D., Lalitaditya erected the shrine of Aditya at the town of Lalitapura. He built another massive stone temple of Surya under the name of Martanda, the ruins of which have survived.
The sun worship continued to be in vogue in Kashmir long after the death of Lalitaditya. King Suravarman II (A.D. 939) paid homage to the temple of the Sun-god Jayasvamin. The copper image of Surya, called Tamrasvamin, was one of the most celebrated shrines of the valley in the 11th century A.D. Kalhana's remarks that Kashmirian king Kalasa (A.D. 1063-1089) sought refuge with Martanda to have his life and presented a gold statue at the god's feet, prove the popularity of Sun-worship at that time. Kalasa's son Harsa (A.D. 1089-1101), who destroyed a large number of divine images, spared the image of Martanda, either out of respect or out of fear.
The ruins of the temple of Martanda clearly show with what grandeur and pomp, love and devotion, the god was worshipped. No image of the Sun-god has yet been recovered from any part of the valley. There is however, in the right panel of the eastern wall of the ante-chamber of the temple of Martanda, a representation of Aruna, the charioteer of Surya, holding the reins of his seven horses.
Karttikeya worship in early Kashmir is borne out by the discovery of a fine six armed image of the generallisimo. Though the image can not be ascribed to any definite chronological setting, its bold execution indicates a Deriod round about the
9th century A.D. Another standing figure of Kumara, along with an Ardhanarisvara image, has been found among the ruins of Avantipura and may be dated to the period of Avantivarman's rule (A.D. 855/56-883). The Nilamatapurana, which was probably composed in the 8th century A.D. refers that the worship of Karttikeya was performed on the 6th of lunar Caitra every year and this was supposed to ensure the welfare and safety of the children of Kashmir. In the Rajatarangini, there is mention of the foundation of one Skandabhavanavihara by a Kashmirian minister Skandagupta. Though at a comparatively modern period the place was associated with the worship of Karrtikeya. Stein is probably correct In nits assumption that in early times it was a Buddhist vihara, seems to suggest his personal association with the god.
Ganesa, the brother of Skanda according to the Hindu mythology, was one of the popular gods of the valley of Kashmir. According to Kalhana an image of Vinayaka Bhimasvamin existed as early as the days of Pravarasena II (c. 6th century A.D.) and received regular worship. A stone image of Ganesa, along with an Ardhanarisvara image, mention of which has already been made, was found amidst the ruins of Avantipura and may be dated to the second half of the 9th century A.D. Several terracotta plaques, containing the figure of the elephantheaded god, evidently works of local craftsmanship have also been recovered from the site of Avantipura. That Avantipura was a centre of Ganesa-worship receives further corroboration from Ksemendra who says that bowls of sweets offered to Lord Ganesa were resold in the town of Avantipura. We learn from the Nilamatapurana that the 8th of the darker Asadha of every year was dedicated to the worship of Ganesa and went by the name of Vinayaka-Astami. The worship of Vinayaka had also to be performed on the eve of the anointing ceremony of the king.
No sculptural representation of Agni or Fire god has yet been discovered from Kashmir. A passage from the Rajatarangini, however, refers to the worship of the Fire god and records that king Uccala's father Malla, observed from his earliest time the cult of a sacred fire. As Stein has pointed out, there was probably a shrine of the god of Fire SvayambLu at Suyam, a place situated about half a mile from the present village of Nichhom. The temple of fire god Svayambhu was destroyed, it may be presumed, by Harsa and the decayed building was restored by Uccala. King Uccala is also said to have started once on a pilgrimage to Svayambhu.
Laksmi, the goddess of wealth, was quite a popular deity. King Pravarasena II (6th century A.D.) is credited with the establishment of five shrines of the goddess Sri. An image of Laksmi has come from the historic town of Vijabror, modern Brar. From stylistic consideration, the sculpture may be assigned to about the 6th century A.D. Another beautiful stone figure of the goddess seated on a throne, supported by a pair of lions, with elephants on each side pouring water over her head, has been discovered from the Avantisvami temple, and is apparently of the 9th century A.D. Kalhana records that during the reign of Unmattavanti (A.D. 937-939), a Brahmana of well-known velour, named Rakka, raised an image of the goddess Sri under the appellation of Rakkajayadevi.
Worship of Sakti, the energetic principle, seems to have been widely prevalent. In the worship of goddess Durga, who is but an embodiment of Sakti, animal sacrifices played an important part. Goddess Sarada was one of the most celebrated deities of the valley in early times and she was nothing but Sakti embodying three separate manifestations. References to 'Matrcakra' are frequently met with in the Rajatarangini and sculptured images of sapta matrkas, such as Brahmani, Mahesvar, Kaumari, Indrani, Vaisnavi, Varahi and Camundi have been recovered from Pandrethan. A lifesize separate sculpture of Varahi, representing a young woman with the face of Varahi, discovered among the ruins of Kashmir, is now preserved in the Lalmandi Museum, Srinagara. Though the sapta matrkas were originally Sivaite in origin, there is no doubt that afterwards they became the actual cult emblems of the devout Saktas.
Representations of the goddess Ganga, sometimes accompanied by the goddess Yamuna, are found among the old sculptures of the valley, but they do not seem to have any particular cult associated with them.
Two similarly sculptured relief found in the Avantisvami temple have been generally interpreted as representations of the god Visnu accompanied by Laksmi and another goddess (Bhumi?). But according to Vogel, the amorons attitude of the central personage and his attributes, a bow and an arrow ending in a flower, indicate that here we have an inconographic representation of Kamadeva seated between his wives Rati and Priti. There is literary evidence to Kamadeva's popularity in ancient Kashmir. According to the Nilamatapurana the 13th of lunar Caitra was devoted to the worship of Kamadeva.