The lofty plateau, on which the remains of the ancient
temple of Martanda stand, overlooks the modern village of Matan, located
at its foot. The name of the village is derived from the name of the
presiding deity of the temple on the plateau, which is also known as "Matan"
or "Martand". The plateau itself is connected with the slope of
The site selected for the temple is indeed superb and fascinating not only in its setting vibrating with beauty but also in its atmosphere of reposeful serenity. Immediately behind the temple, which stands on the highest part of the plateau overlooking the lovely plains below, rises up a mountain.
The slope of this mountain at the rear of the tempel commands a picturesque panoramic view of the splendid valley, with its soothingly green corn fields in a large part of the year and groves of deep green trees, encircled by high snow topped reposeful mountains with their lower part covered by majestic trees. A more fitting and nobler site could hardly be chosen for the mansion of the Sun God, the spanner of the obscured by trees, the temple shines in its solitary grandeur.
About The Temple
This imposing temple, even in its present state, overwhelms the visitors with its massiveness, solidity, simplicity and dignity. Exuding strength and grandeur, it bears the impress of the forceful and dynamic personality of the mighty emperor Lalitaditya Muktapida who launched Kashmir on an ambitious career of far flung, but ephemeral, conquests not merely in a large part of India but in Turkestan and Tibet and raised its status as a formidable power viewed with awe and admiration by the contemporary rulers.
The reign of this restless emperor is equally eventful in the sphere of building art, as he lavished the increased resources of the country, in the form of booty taken from enemies in his expeditions and tributes from vassal states, on the constructions not only of new towns and his capital at Parihasapura but of a large number of temples all over the valley in order to ensure his everlasting glory.
The daring architects, recruited by Lalitaditya Muktapida who wanted to outshine others in the field of monumental constructions too, were required to give effect to his grandiose scheme. The Martanda temple itself proves that they became eminently successful in this mission, which is one of the few surviving temples of Lalitaditya's time.
By their judicious composition of not only of different members of the temple proper but also of the components of entire complex of the Martanda temple, these architects succeeded in creating the impression of a colossal temple of soaring height, though in reality the temple is practically of average height if compared to the high temples in other parts of India. The secluded site of the temple on the elevated plateau has added considerably to the effect of grandiosity. Imbibing the spirit of a warlike age, the temple, though of a titanic conception in the use of gigantic stones, lacks refined finish requiring time.
An Typical Kashmiri Touch
Forming a landmark in the history of the temple architecture of Kashmir, the Martanda temple represents the very apogee of the typical Kashmiri architectural style. Its importance is further enhanced by the fact that none of the extant temples, whether contemporaneous or later, can compete with it in dimensions and grandeur.
It is generally held that this temple served as the model for those in the succeeding ages and that this particular form of architecture owed its origin due to the drive and genius of Lalitaditya Muktapida. There is, no doubt, that the building art received a great fillip due to the active patronage of this ambitious ruler. It is also likely that the distinctive regional style was consummated at his instance.
At the same time it is difficult to believe the sudden emergence of this fully developed type without any primitive beginning and evolutionary phases. The temple of Bhutesa to whom Lalitaditya is stated to have presented eleven crores on his return from conquests had already been standing before he started the construction of the Jyeshtharudra temple near it.
It is reasonable to assume that Kashmir had progressed considerably in evolving her own characteristic type of temples before the Martanda temple was constructed. In view of the existence once of earlier shrines and those built by Lalitaditya, his ministers and princely attendants and ladies of his seraglio, it cannot be claimed that the Martanda temple alone served as a prototype or model for the later temples to emulate in respect of layout, architectural features and decorative schemes.
At his capital Parihasapura itself, Lalitaduitya erected not less than four imposing temples in honour of "Muktakehsava", "Parihasakeshava", "Mahavaraha" and "Goverdahanadhara" and a "Garudastandard", fifty-four cubits high. Unfortunately, all these temples are now reduced to amorphous ruins. From the dimensions of the utterly ruined Peristyle of two of the temples on the Karewa of Parihasapura, it is evident that these two temples were larger than the Martanda temple.
The amount of damage suffered by the Martanda temple, though not as much as most other temples, which were on the main ancient routes or located near the capital, is considerable. Added to the vandalism of men who even removed the flooring slabs, were the destructive forces of nature unchecked by periodical repairs and maintenance following the removal of the images, desecration and desertion of the temple. The process of destruction was further accelerated by the poor and friable quality of the limestone susceptible to disintegration and exfoliation. The extreme weathering of the standing wall surface is due to the snowfall and frost, which have played havoc with the removal or fall of the roofs.
The temple was constructed of neatly dressed ponderous slabs of stone, arranged in horizontal courses with fine joints. Iron dowels and cramps were used in binding the stones. The principle of corbelling was adhered to in respect of spanning; an enormous T-shaped slab covered the topmost opening of the trefoil arch. The facing of the pyramidal roof was also made of horizontal courses of stones.
Layout Of The Temple Complex
The main temple is located within a spacious oblong courtyard enclosed by a raised basement supporting a roofed colonnade with an array of cells behind. The entrance to the quadrangle is gained through an imposing double chambered gateway, provided in the middle of the front row of cellular pattern of the Kashmiri temples.
What, however, distinguishes this temple from other extant ones is the component parts of the temple proper. In other instances, the temple from other extant ones is the component parts of the temple proper. In other instances, the temple is a single chamber with or without a sort of a narrow portico in front. But here, not only does this temple consist of an oblong "Garbha Griha" (sanctum sanctorum), an Antarala and a spacious full-fledged Mandapa, but it has two double chambered side wings flanking the Mandapa, a novel and special character of its own.
All these components are erected on a single basement or platform. In front of the staircase leading to the Mandapa is a shallow tank. The small shrines near the corners of the basement of the courtyard are later additions.