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Changing Capitals of Kashmir
Vijay Saqi, New Delhi

Srinagar remained as the capital of Kashmir for a long period in different regimes. It has always been a centre of political, social and cultural activities. Rulers could not afford to create new capitals beyond the surroundings of Srinagar city. River Jhelum which flows in the midst of the city divides it into two parts. Since water transport was easily available, the people used it for their movements River Jhelum also known as Vitasta has a rich water flow.

Hieun Tsang records, Srinagar was gifted with enough food-grains due to better irrigation facilities. He says this city was established by Raja Parwarsen in 110 AD. We have recorded history of Kashmir from 1184-BC since Raja Gunanad's rule. It means that Srinagar came up and became a capital city 3500 years ago. But the capital of Kashmir has been changing.


Nilmath Purana records that an Aryan tribe who entered Kashmir in second century established a city called Chandarpur. Chandarpur is the area where Wuller lake is situated today. It was a place where an exiled Naga tribal leader Sanigul was living. Later, this city was offered by Aryans to Nagas under the name "Mahapadam Saras". Near Chandarpur, Nagas established another city called Vishwagashpur. It is believed that in ancient times a densely populated city existed in the area, i.e. Wuller. It was Sindumath Nagar. It is yet to be established whether Sindumat Nagar and Chandarpur are two different names of the same place or not. But one thing can be said with authority that Chandarpur was the first capital of Kashmir, while Vishwagashipur was the second. Legend goes that King Sachi Nar established a capital Narpura on the foothills of Chakridara. This city became the focus of Naga's fury and finally vanished.

King Ashoka who stretched his kingdom from Afghanistan to Karnataka ruled India from 214-237 BC. According to Rajtarangani records Kashmir and Nepal were also under his rule. He established city of Lakshmi in Srinagar which had 96 lakh residential houses. If Kalhhan's statement is to be believed then Srinagar must have been a very big city during Ashoka's regime. Alexander Cunnigam writes that Pandrethan was the oldest capital of Kashmir during Ashoka's period.

Pandrethan is the Kashmir version of Sanskrit word "Purana Adhishtan". The remains recovered from this area by Archeologists authenticate that Ashoka's capital city was in Srinagiri situated in the upper reaches of Pandrethan. Hieun Tsang also refers to this capital as the old capital of Kashmir.

The excavations at Pandrethan in the last two decades of 20th century, bring to the fore many hidden facets of Kashmir history. Some traces of old houses and references regarding Puranadhisthan have been found. They further reveal that Jaisht-Ruder, Gopadri and Jaish Bhupeshwari were the pilgrimage centers in Srinagari, presently a part of Srinagar city.

It is believed that Jaisht Ruder pilgrimage was in the south of Dal Lake. Rajtarangani says that the Sanskrit name of Dal was "Jaisht Ruder Simmi Pistam Saras" and the hills around Dal were known as Jaisht Ruder Sampta Giri. According to Stein, Jaisht Ruder temple was built by King jalak. It leads us to believe that Srinagar city was once situated on the banks of Dal lake enroute Aenta Ganj. There is also a legend that Damodar hill locks, where Airport is located, was also a capital of Kashmir during the regime of Raja Damodar. It was Raja Damodar-II, who ruled Kashmir after King Jalak. It is said in Kalhan's Rajtarangni that Damodar had himself constructed the town. It is also mentioned in records that irrigation facility in the area was planned and a dam was constructed. The remains of Dam in Gudushutu village in Badgam district speak its history today.


In 7th century Karkoot King, Lalitaditya established Parihaspur as capital which is on the South-West of Shadipur situated at hill top. Its ruins unfold the grandeur and charm of the capital city. Lalitaditya was known for his justice, administraction and honesty. Creations of mansions, temples and khankas and goes to his credit. He is known for constructing the famous Sun Temple at Martand. Historian Abul Fazl reveals that Sultan Sikander was the last person to reduce Parihaspur to ruins.


After 60 years of Lalitaditya's rule, another Karkoot King Maharaja Jayapeeda established a separate capital Jayapur. It was like an island. Vitasta was flowing in the foothills of Parihaspur. According to Dr. Aurel Stein, last Hindu Queen of Kashmir, Kotarani was killed by Shahmir at Parihaspur. Jayapur is presently known as Inderkoot where ruins of some buildings are still available. According to Abul Fazil the place was know as "Paragana Jayapur" whereas another historian Shrivar records that this was known as Jayapeedpur.

When Maharaja Avanti Verman, became King of Kashmir in the 6th decade of ninth century he set up a new capital Avantipura about 38 km away from Srinagar, The ruins of this city are still available on Srinagar-Jammu National highway. According to R. S. Pandit, his regime was the golden era of Kashmir. During his period, the course of Vitasta was changed, resulting in green revolution paving way for peace and amity in Kashmir Avantipur town falls between Sangam and Letipur. The architectural elegance of the two temples at Avantipur is testimony to the fact that Kashmir architecture was at its peak during that period. Though the king was Shivite yet he had constructed religious places for other faiths and sects.

It was Badshah who established a new capital Zain Dub 8 km from Srinagar near Shalimar. He also issued all the decrees in the name of Zain Dub to make his capital more prominent. After Badshah, the capital was again shifted to Srinagar. From Parvarpur to Pandrethan, Srinagari, and Zain Dub. all are the parts of Srinagar city today which is extending its frontiers.

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