Martand Centre of Sun Worship in India Kashmir

By: juliemeena

Like other parts of India, Sun-worship became popular in Kashmir during early medieval period. Local literary works also contain some references which show that Sun was worshiped on certain occasions even in ancient period. The diety's hold on population could be judged by the construction of temple dedicated to Sun. This temple was Martand. Though Kalhana, Kashmir Historian, has given contradictory references regarding the founder of Martand. For example at one place, he has mentioned that King Randitya founded Martand. And in another book he has mentioned the name of famous warrior King Lalita Ditya Mukta Pida. The construction of world famous Martand is usually ascribed to Lalita Ditya Mukta Pida. The kind appeared to be a worshiper of Sun as all pervading phenomenon. He also offered to the Diety "the territory of Kanyakubja (Kanauj) together with the villages." The fact was that Kanauj King Yasho Varman had suffered defeat at his hands and this had made his task easier to march on upto the bay of Bengal. Turning back, he passed through Mysore and Konkan territory. He met with least or no resistance. So his power and valour naturally would have made him (Lalita Ditya Mukta Pida) swell with pride. And he paid homage to the fierce luminary by founding Martand (Sun Temple). It is now in ruins. Only some parts have survived but its picture have been preserved in most of the books written on Kashmir.

However, one can judge the magnificence and grandeur of it by just casting a glance on the site, and surrounding view. It was constructed on the highest part of a plateau. It has been recorded that it had eighty four columns, as this number is sacred to the Hindus. Its interior must have been extremely beautiful with the Sun entering a decorated chamber with a door way of each side covered by a pediment, with a trefoil headed niche having a bust of Hindu Trinity. It over looked the finest view in Kashmir. Little wonder the foreign visitors described it as the wonder of Kashmir.

There was an interesting reference that King Kalasha (11th Century A.D.) went to pray and find peace at martand a little before his death. It may be noted that Kalasha was follower of Shaivism. The sun worship did not vanish after the 11th century A.D. because Mirza Haidar Dughlat, cousin of Babar, recorded in his famous book Tarikh-i-Rashidi that an important section of population still worshipped the Sun. This group or sect called themselves Shamsuddin. They pretended to receive the title (Sun of Religion) from the heaven. In Kashmiri language they were called as Shammasi. Ain-i-Akbari has reference about Sun worship in Kashmir.

There were two famous celebrities in Indian history whose obsession with Sun was well known one was Akbar and the other was well known Maratha warrior Sada Shiva Rao Bhau. Akbar said his prayers four times a day reciting a thousand and fifty name s of the Sun. This devotion to Sun was so firm that Badaoni, a contemporary historian expressed surprise and recorded that no one could raise a doubt in Akbar's mind," even if mountains were crumble to dust, or the heavens were to tear as under." Same was the case with Sada Shiva Rao Bhau who practiced Surya Namaskar a thousand times daily.

Sun worship went out of practice after 16th century A.D. Now it is only done by some at the time of morning bath when the first rays become visible. But those who undergo yogic exercises usually adopt Surya Namaskar as the exercise is believed to be a cure for Chronic headache.

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