The Shankaracharya temple is housed in the Srinagar district on the hill known as Takht-e-Suleiman. It is at a height of 1100 ft. above surface level of the main city on the peak of the hill. The Shankaracharya Mandir in Kashmir is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is thought to be the oldest shrine for worship in the Kashmir valley.
The temple as it is today has undergone many repairs throughout its life. Ever since under the rule of Lalitaditya and then repairs were undertaken by Zain-ul-Abideen after the temple got damaged in an earthquake. The repairs were also carried out during the Governorship of Sheikh Mohi-ud-Din. Maharaja Gulab Singh, a Dogra ruler, who is credited for the stone steps that form a part of the passage to the shrine. In 1925, the electrification of the temple was done.
Significance of the Temple
The Shankaracharya temple has gained great importance, not only from the point of view of religion, but even from architectural viewpoint. It has a high octagonal platform supporting, approached by a flight of approximately hundred steps.The sidewalls of these steps once bore some valuable inscriptions. Even there exists also a Persian inscription inside the temple, dating back to Emperor Shahjahan's rule.
The main surviving shrine of the temple is consisting of a circular cell, which provides a magnificent view of the valley below. The inner chamber of the Shankaracharya temple is today covered with a modern ceiling. The great philosopher Shankaracharya has stayed here when he visited Kashmir to revive Sanatan Dharma.
The temple of Shankaracharya is located on the top of a detached ridge of an igneous rock and along with conical hill rising behind the Boulevard beside the Dal Lake. This hill is known as Shankaracharya Hill and a temple is said to have been first built here by the son of the Mauryan King Asoka, the great in 2nd century BC. The temple serves as a landmark of Srinagar city on the summit of the Gopadari. According to renowned Archaeologist, R. C. Kak, who has been researching the hill “Neither the hill nor the Temple preserves its ancient name”.The temple could be reached by two hundred and forty three steps with twenty-three landing and the approximate height is 550ft or 167.68 meters from the end of the road to hill, before one reaches the temple platform.
The Sunrise and the Sunset, birth and death, etc. on the earth are controlled by a Universal power regulating the earth and living species. The temple is known in such terms as devalaya, sivalaya and devayatana. The life is therefore installed in the form of the deity in the sanctum which is known as grabhagriha or the house of the womb. Thirteen steps with a railing leads to the dwarf wall at the plinth level, enclosing the parapet wall
The main shrine consists of a circular Cella. The interior of the sanctum is covered by a ply board ceiling concealing the flat sandstone slabs which are supported by two lintels bearing the load on four eight sided column of stone in the centre. The lower course of the ceiling is still extant in its original shape. There is a large oval shaped Shiva Lingam with reddish black stone probably brought from the Naramada River valley in Madhya Pradesh of Central India. The south-west column of the temple bears two inscriptions of Mughal Period. The temple resembles the interior plan of a large temple at Ladhuv (District Pulwama) in the Valley. The brick roof supporting the slopping stone slabs probably has been added in the 19th century.
The lower courtyard has an octagonal precast ornamental iron rain shelter shed with some benches for tourists' comfort. There are some modern structures added on the right side in Dogra period for the benefits of the priests of the temple. The shrine is under the religious control of the Dharmarth Trust for conducting ceremonies.
Shankaracharya temple is a nationally Protected Monument under the Archaeological Monument, Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The temple is located in the valley under high security zone and hence no camera and mobile is permitted on the top. The night view from terrace of the Temple is mesmerizing and enchanting, with yellow, white and saffron lights twinkling city below. The view is a wonderful experience with white snow clad mountain ranges in the background, yellow and white light of Houseboats reflecting in water of Dal Lake, in a series of rows.