Parihaspora – The Ancient Capital of Kashmir

 

Just around 20kms from Srinagar lies the plateau of Parihaspora which was chosen as the site for a new Capital by one of the greatest Kings of Kashmir, Lalitaditya in the 8th century AD.

 

I decided to pay a visit the ruins which lay a few kms off the Srinagar Baramulla while I was going to Pattan and onwards later on to Uri.

 

Lying next to a local Engineering College this mostly abandoned site is a sad reminder today of the glorious age of Lalitaditya. He moved the Capital here and built a Palace, Temples and a Buddhist Monastery over here. This was also the Golden Age of Buddhism in Kashmir but it existed in a syncretic alliance along with the Vedic beliefs. There was apparently a great statue of Vishnu made of Gold and an equally tall statue of the Buddha made in Copper. There are conflicting accounts as to what was the real purpose of these buildings but everyone agrees that Lalitaditya built them and they were simply magnificent.

 

The ruins are spread over a large area and as of now only the bases of the great structures remain and these suggest that these must have been magnificent architectural specimens in their time. In fact the main structure here is quite bigger than the remains of the Great Sun Temple at Martand which is also attributed to Lalitaditya. The landscape is littered with stone blocks/ rocks of various sizes which at one time must have been a part of the great structures. Infact the locals nowadays refer to the place as “Kani Shahar” or the City of stones.

 

The place lost its glory when Lalitaditya’s son decided to move the Capital again and apparently the Jehlum changed its course due to some human intervention and with no direct access to water the decline began. And then Avantivarman, who built the Temples at Avantipora moved the Capital again and his son Shankarvarman decided to move it again to Shankarpura (Pattan) and decided to cannibalize the stones from the Temples and Palaces here.

 

On top of that another King Harsha decided to burn down the Temple and the Monastery after he suspected one of his rivals to be hiding there. Thus ended the glory of Parihaspora and what ever remained was destroyed by Sultan Sikandar in the 14 th century.

 

But the plunder just didnt end there. Auriel Stein, the great British Indologist, who translated Kalhana’s Rajtarangani also visted the site twice in 1892. In between his two visits he noticed that a lot of sculptures and stones were missing. It turned out that the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir was building the Jehlum Cart road and stones from Parihaspora were being used for the construction. Auriel Stein then approached the British resident at the Court of the Maharaja and he was able to convince the Maharaja to put an end to the mindless destruction of whatever remained.

 

And so to this day Parihaspora has a haunting presence. The ruins are said to be home to hundreds of snakes though I didnt see any. On a clear day one gets great views of the Haramukh and Mahadev Peaks from here. But it was a hazy day when I went. Hardly any tourists ever turn up here and except for a few College students loitering around the place is deserted.

 

Another lost glory from the rich architectural heritage of Kashmir.

 

Pics from December 2017. Parihaspora, Kashmir