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HomeExpositionsHistoryShankaracharya Hill in Kashmir to which PM Modi bowed

Shankaracharya Hill in Kashmir to which PM Modi bowed

Also known as Gopadri, Sandhimana Parvat, Koh-e-Suleman, and Takht-i-Sulaiman, the Shankaracharya Hill houses Kashmir's oldest temple dedicated to Shiva

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Located to the south of the renowned Dal Lake in Srinagar is the historic Shankaracharya Hill, a site that Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned upon his arrival in Srinagar today, 7 March. “Upon reaching Srinagar a short while ago, I had the opportunity to see the majestic Shankaracharya Hill from a distance,” Prime Minister Modi wrote on X.

Prime Minister Modi arrived in Srinagar to inaugurate development projects worth Rs 5,000 crore and participate in the ‘Viksit Bharat, Viksit Jammu Kashmir’ programme. This visit holds significance as it is the Prime Minister’s first trip to Srinagar since Article 370 was revoked and Jammu and Kashmir became a Union territory in 2019.

All about Shankaracharya Hill

Upon landing at a helipad near the Shankaracharya Hill, Prime Minister Modi shared several pictures of himself respectfully folding his hands and bowing before the magnificent Shankaracharya Hill. One might wonder why the Prime Minister would perform such a gesture in front of a hill. The answer lies in the hill’s name itself, ‘Shankaracharya Hill’.

Also known as Gopadri, Sandhimana Parvat, Koh-e-Suleman, and Takht-i-Sulaiman, the Shankaracharya Hill houses Kashmir’s oldest temple, which is dedicated to Shiva. It is a revered site that holds deep religious and cultural significance in the region.

“The Shankaracharya Temple is the oldest temple in Kashmir, both in appearance and according to traditions,” according to Alexander Cunningham’s 1848 “Essay on the Arian order of Architecture, as exhibited in the Temples of Kashmir”.

The Shankaracharya Hill and temple hold great reverence as the most sacred sanctuary in Kashmir and attracts a multitude of pilgrims and devotees, particularly during festive occasions like Mahashivaratri, known locally as Herath.

According to local legends, the temple derives its name from the visit of Adi Shankaracharya, a philosopher and saint from the 8th century, who journeyed to the Kashmir valley. It is believed that Shankaracharya came to Kashmir to revitalise Hinduism and bring together various schools of thought to advance Vedantic knowledge.

Ever since, the Shankaracharya Hill and the temple have stood as symbols of his teachings and philosophy.

The temple atop Shankaracharya Hill

Historically, the construction of the temple is credited to Jaloka, the son of Mauryan Emperor Asoka, as stated by Alexander Cunningham.

The earliest written references to the hill can be traced back to Kalhana, a scholar from the 12th century, who referred to it as ‘Gopadri’ or ‘Gopa Hill’. King Gopaditya (426-365 BC) granted land at the base of the hill to Brahmins from “Aryadesa”, establishing an agraharam known as ‘Gopa Agraharas’, according to Kalhana.

In Sanskrit, agraharam signifies land donated to Brahmins without any lease.

The temple itself has a rich history and is believed to have been built around 371 BCE as a shrine dedicated to Jyesthesvara, a manifestation of Lord Shiva, by King Gopaditya, as documented in Kalhana’s book, ‘Rajatarangini: The Chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir’.

Throughout the years, the Shankaracharya Temple has undergone numerous reconstructions and renovations. King Lalitaditya in the 8th century and Gulab Singh of the Dogra dynasty are notable figures who carried out renovations, with the latter focusing on the Durga Naag shrine within the temple premises.

Moreover, Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV of Mysore’s Wadiyar dynasty contributed to the temple’s development by installing electric fittings, as documented in Pandit Anand Koul’s 1935 book ‘Archaeological Remains in Kashmir’.

In contemporary Kashmir

Leftist historian Ramchandra Guha, in his book India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy, references Sheikh Abdullah, the first elected Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir — the designation was later discarded — who spoke of the significance of the Shankaracharya Hill in uniting various regions and communities.

Abdullah’s writings underscored the inclusive nature of Kashmir, with the Shankaracharya Temple serving as a memorial to the great Shankaracharya. In 1961, the Shankaracharya of Dwarka consecrated a statue of Adi Shankaracharya, further solidifying the temple’s importance. Today, the Shankaracharya Temple is recognized as a ‘monument of national importance’ and is safeguarded by the Archaeological Survey of India.

The cultural and religious importance of the Shankaracharya Temple and Hill is complemented by the breathtaking view they provide. On a clear day, prominent landmarks such as the Dal Lake, River Jhelum, and the Hari Parbat can be easily distinguished in Srinagar. During his visit to Srinagar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s respect for the Shankaracharya Hill highlights the concept of ‘unity in diversity‘ that characterizes India’s rich cultural heritage.


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