Kashmir Order Of The Architecture
P. N. Kachru, New Delhi
subject that I am dealing with is based on, and chiefly subservient to the Tattvas
of materiality, as termed according to the Kashmir Shaivic concept.
Arehitecture, in expression, being chiefly involved with the elements of these Tattvas
which are termed as Mohabhutas, finds its expression only through
The basic reason for Is-ness, or all that is or
exists in whatever form - experienced or inexperienced - is the flowering and
projection of Parmashiva, the Ultimate Reality. This reality, in its
ultimate aspect, is termed Cit or Parasamvit. This term is
untranslatable in any other language, but in ordinary terminology it is
translated as `consciousness'. According to great Shaiva author Jaidev
Singh the term `consciousness' connotes subject - object relation; or knower
- known duality. But `Chit' is not relational. It is just the changeless
of all changing experience. It is Parasamvit.
It is the Self, sciring itself, or in Pratibignya
terms, it is Self-sciring
The moment His inherent nature vibrates as per
its nature, it gives rise to pulsation. This aspect of His manifestation is
termed as Cidrupini Shakti, the pulsating aspect of Shivatattva.
Thus it is in the nature of Ultimate Reality to manifest through its Shaktitattva,
which through its pulsation polarizes consciousness into I and This, or into
aspect of subject and object relationship. These two Tattvas - Shivatattva and
Shaktitiattva can never be distinguished between and disjointed. They
remain forever united whether in creation or in dissolution. Strictly speaking Shiva
- Shakti Tattva is not an emanation or Abhasa but the seed of all
The subject - object relationship, yet
predominant with I-hood, generates the Will; and this experience of the essence
of to Be is termed Sadashivatattva.
The `this' aspect of divine experience, when
becoming more defined is symbolized as Ishwara-Tattva. In essence it is Unmesh
or distinct blossoming, though still in non existencial state, of the
universe. At this stage knowledge becomes predominant. There is clear idea of
what is to be created. So far, the experience of Sadashiva is `I am
this', and the experience of Ishwara is `This am I'. Here the equilibrium
state of `I' and `This' experience is called Sadvidyatattva, or aspect of
Shiva where `I' and `This' experience are equally and evenly held in balance.
Upto this stage all the experience is ideal or in pure order. It is a
manifestation in which real nature of the divine is without the coverings of
limitation and distinction.
The experience of coverings and distinction
ensues with the appearance of Mayatattva along with its five coverings,
followed by the two tattvas (subject - object) of the limited individual
- Purusha and Prakrati, Budhuddi, Ahmamkar and Manas are
followed by fifteen elements of Gyanindriyas, Karmindriyas and Tanmatras,
which herein are just skipped over without any elucidation and explanation,
as the title of this subject - Kashmir Architecture - is directly based on the
last five Tattvas of Materiality (Bhutas). These Mahabhutas or
Panchmahabhutas are, Akash (Space), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire),
Apas (Water) and Prithvi (Earth).
Architecture being a symbolical expression
through these five Mahabhutas, the creative artist shaped and formed
these elements through the following creative expressions. These are geometric
in character. The ancient Neolithic culture, especially that of the Megalithic
society has predominantly expressed and symbolized its thought through
geometric patterns. Thus we find the first interpretation of material existence,
the Panchmahabhutas, through these ancient geometric expressions.
It is symbolized by four sided rectilinear figure with four right angles.
Following the evolution of Kashmiri mind, this right angular enclosure, with
mental evolution, symbolized masculinity, the material world, physical energy,
fertility, sexuality and procreation.
symbolized by a circle which also later on signified wholeness, the spiritual
perfection, feminine character and also formulated the base of architectuaral
edifices of Megalithic cultures.
symbolized by an isosceles triangle with two longer sides with the apex at the
top. Later on this triadic symbol represented the philosophic insignia for Kalamukha,
Pashupata, Shaivagamic and Adi Tantric thoughts; thereby
representing the triadic aspect - Mind, Body, Spirit, Shiva, Shakti, Nara and
Love, Wisdom, Power.
is symbolized by the shape of a crescent.
is depicted by a drop with an apex upwards. The last two Mahabhutas, Air
and Space, have been left uninterpreted due to subtle and finer experiences with
While builing up the edifice, the ancient artist
assembled these basic symbols into a monument that became the basis of our
future architectural multiplicities. He assembled, visualized and built the
edifice as illustrated here.
This Agamic structure was developed into
various symbolic structures founded under the influence of Pashupata,
Shaivagama and Adi Tantric philosophies. Some of the Agamic and
post Bhuddhist examples in script and situational conditions indicate the course
of development of the basic symbolic structure symbolizing the Panchamahabhutas.
The examples still in situations at Harwan Monastery and at Hemis
Monastery in Ladakh are complete examples of architectural development in
thought and in the variegated materials employed in the structures through the
passage of time. The Buddhist concept has rendered a change in the Triangle of
Fire that has been changed into a spire of thirteen converging tiers surmounted
at the top by an umbrella (lotus) with a sphere depicting Formless realm. Herein
main materials used are wood with unbaked mud - brick fillings.
The impression of Harwan Style
Timber and Mud-Brick Style
During pre Buddhist period the Shaivic thought
traditionally used the wood and brick material. A lingering example of this
structure is still existing in a remote village of south eastern Kashmir, that
depicts the material employment of timber and unbaked mud - bricks. Although the
multi - tiered spire, basically symbolizing fire, has been pigmied down through
the course of the socio - phylosophical thought; but the Shikhara representing
Space is duely poised at the top completing the Basic symbolization of Mahabhutas.
Herein one can observe the structure built with timber and interspersed with mud
The periods of Karakota, Utpalas and Loharas
lasted from early eighth century to eleventh century. This was the period of
expansions and conquests beyond the territories of Kashmir when powerful
cultural influences were attracted into the seat of power. Architects and
sculptors sought their occupations in Pravarapura and Parihaspura, wherein
they brought change into the employment of basic raw material. These craftsmen
from East - Mediterranean cultures of Grecian and Asia Minor trends had already
found their root amongst the Ghandharan and Gupta movements of
northern India. They knew the masterly use of stone as their traditional raw
material. They brought in a radical change in the structural establishments of
local architecture. The tapering and sky - spiral slimness of Fire symbol was
diminished to two - tier triangular roof due to the Hazardness involved in
employment of massive stone blocks. No doubt, the change in medium of expression
brought in massiveness and grandeur into the structures, but had to suffer the
elimination of ethereal and spiritual heights and elevations. Martand,
Avantipur and Parihaspur edifices wear the typical character of
grandeur and massiveness but remain bereft of ethereal heights and elevations of
Timber and Brick Style
Conjectural Restoration of Avantisvami Temple,
Kashmir, 9th Cent. A.D.
By renowned artist and Art Historian Dr. Percy
The last vestiges of the local and traditional
wooden architecture with its decorative excellence were reduced to ashes when
the spiraling edifice of the palatial wood work of king Harsha (1089-1101
A.D.) was attacked and burnt down by rebellious masses. The palace situated in
the vicinity of Habba Kadal was erected with forest wood from Kathleshwar
and Tashvan forests.
By the end of eleventh century the mighty
prowess and power of Karkota - Utpala - Lohara combine had fallen and had
waned out. The Greco - Bhudhist and Ghandharan architects and sculptors
had either migrated again or a major section of them having merged into the
milieu and methods of popular architectural technology, and taken to the usage
of timber and its cross - pier methodology with baked mud - brick insertions.
The Temple at Payar (massive stone)
Traditional Style : 1. Roof top of birch bark
overlaid with thick piling of earth 2nd, 3rd and 4th of timber with baked-brick
filling 1st (Ground) stone work.
Adherence to five basic element, though in a
The popular movement of the design, the usage of
method and methodology, being so much embedded into the socio - cultural pattern
that even after the establishment of Islamic order, all the successive movements
of importance continued with expressions of the basic architectural design
evolved on the basis of five gross elements (tattvas) of materiality.
These fine examples of architectural grandeur are majestically imposing over the
vistas of the valley. The wood and brick structures of the citizen's homes form
a reflecting bee - line on the banks of river Vitasta and on the fringes
of the cool back waters and canals of the Dal Lake. While writing about
these structures, observes William Moorcroft (1819-1825) that "The
houses are in general two or three stories high; they are built of unburnt
bricks and timber."
The well known Jama Masjid in the heart
of Srinagar, presents a typical example wherein the symbolization, though
varied in design, has been strictly adhered to the five gross elements of
materiality - a) the main body, b) the balcony, c) the triangular spire, d) the
lotus and e) the pinnacle (Shikhara). So is the case with other
monumental and historic buildings of Rishi order, like the shrine of Nund
Rishi (lately burnt down) at Cherari Sharief, the shrine at Aish-Muqam,
shrine of Janbaz Saheb at Barramulla, the shrine of Baba Rishi at
Gulmarg and the Rishi shrine at Pampore. The shrines of Batta
Mol at Khanyar and the shrine of Naqshband Saheb at Khwaja
Bazar Srinagar; all these monuments are master specimens of the
architecture. Needless to elucidate that the entire valley is dotted with many
such shrines which are deep rooted into the cultural pattern of village life.
While treading through the narrow bazar at Khrew village, Moorcroft observes
"It has a bazar and two Ziarats or tombs of holy men, Shiekh Baba
and Khwaja Maksud. These are small low structures, chiefly of wood,
with a sort of wooden spire, capped with brass".
The Jama Masjid - note the Five Elements
The shrine of shan Hamdan at Mata-Kalighat 3rd
Bridge, Srinagar note the original birch-bark and earth roofing. Timber and
The Shrine at Pampore - note the Cross-piling of
timber and baked brick filling.
Also note the Five basic Elements that
constitute the structure.
The design and the Elements are strictly adhered
in all the village and town shrines of the valley.
Shrine of Dargah, Nasimbagh :
the typical structure presents an ideal
derivation from the Kashmiri tradition, presenting yet another variation of the
basic movement wherein all the five elements have been maintained excepting that
the Earth symbol has been used for all the other four elements. This masterpiece
of Kashmir order of Architecture, in by gone days, decorated the scintillating
reflections of the Dal Lake. Instead of rebuilding a greater masterpiece
on the basis of this tradition, this grand structure of historical lineage has
been effaced, obliterated and snatched away from the lap of Mother Kashmir.
Those responsible for this un-Kashmiri act and carnage stand accused, for which
the human culture and history will never forgive them for this onslaught on Kashmiriat.
The Dargah of Nasim Bagh - Hazrat Bal
The author is one of the renowned artists of
Mailing Address : C-8193, Vasant Kunj, New