TRIP TO ANANTNAG AND MARTAND SUN TEMPLE
After Pahalgam, we next headed towards Anantnag, the third-largest district of our newly reformed state of Jammu & Kashmir. Although during our visit Article 370 was still applicable. Till 1979, Anantnag comprised of the entire valley of South Kashmir which later split into Anantnag and Pulwama districts. In this article, I have tried to give brief information about things to do in Anantnag.
PAHALGAM TO ANANTNAG
Nature trails in the Himalayas are one of the things to do in Anantnag as one can enjoy the serene beauty of the mountains. We had hired a Tata Sumo for a direct drop to Srinagar via Anantnag. The riverside road via NH501 was very scenic.
We stopped our car almost midway near a rafting point, as a mere watcher though. As we feel more comfortable being a watcher than an adventurist. Like many others, we also posed for selfies with the rafters. Two boys embarked in front of us. The ride seemed so scary to me. Thank God, I did not try it. But rafting surely is a famous activity among all the things to do in Anantnag.
HOW ANANTNAG GOT ITS NAME AND ITS HISTORY
We traversed like 60 kilometers on road from Pahalgam which took us almost three hours to reach Anantnag town, the oldest district of Kashmir. The road trip included intermediate halts at Mattan and Martand Temple. The shrines were little inside from the highway which justifies the additional kilometers and time taken.
The place derives its name from a Sanskrit phrase – ‘Ananta’ meaning ‘Infinite’ and ‘Nag’ in the Kashmiri language means ‘Water Stream’. Surprisingly, there are innumerable springs even today in and around the epicenter of Anantnag, the most significant being there at Mattan.
A relic of antiquity, the district of Anantnag owes its etymology to the very spring that gushes out from thin limestone rock.
Another historically, as well as religiously important village, is Bawan where one can visit the Indernag Temple. Also called, Shri Raghunath Temple by local devotees and is presently maintained by the Nagbal Prabandhak Committee. The form of Lord Shiva worshipped here is five-faced Indernag to which the temple owes its name. Apart from the main shrine, idols of Vaishno Devi, Lakshmi Narayan, Lord Vishnu, Nav Durga forms of Devi Shakti. Also, Bharat Mata holding Indian tricolor can also be found here. Visiting these temples is one of the things to do in Anantnag.
MARTAND SUN TEMPLE-MUST VISIT TEMPLE
Some 10 kilometers from Mattan, there is an ancient Sun Temple from the 1st century AD, popularly known as Martand Temple. The famous Pandu King Ranaditya I built the colossal edifice. Earlier also called as ‘Pandu Koru’, which means the abode of Pandus.
Located at the finest position in Kashmir, the ruins of this temple are mythically highly noteworthy. It is also proven by its mentions in Mahabharata, Rajatarangini, and many Hindu Puranas.
Even in vestiges, this site still boasts of all the existing relics of Kashmir grandeur. The architecture comprises a lofty stone structure with eighty-four pillars, pyramidal roof. It also consists of a centrally located prayer hall, a couple of side chapels, and a narrow disconnected wing on both sides.
The even numeric figure 84 is held sacred by the early Hindu kings, being a multiple of seven (number of days in a week) with 12 (number of zodiac signs in astrology). The architecture is so scientific that throughout the daytime, sunlight falls on the Surya figurine.
HISTORY OF MARTAND SUN TEMPLE
History reveals that in the early 15th century, Sultan Sikandar Butshikan tried to destroy this temple. But the construction was so strong that it took him more than two years to damage it substantially. The majority of it has sunken into depths of time and earth, leaving hardly a forty feet perennial wall in ruins. But its stone walls and bold facades, towering over the grooved pillars of surrounding colonnade, establishes the structure’s daunting presence.
Centuries ago, when Mughal governor Islam Khan administered the Kashmir region, had built a beautiful garden at Anantnag. Later he also changed the name of the town to Islamabad in his own honor.
According to our driver, though from the times of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad the old name has been reinstated, yet the local Muslims still prefer to call it Islamabad. As a testimony to his statement, he also showed us a few hoardings which clearly mention the place like Islamabad.
Even today, there is a huge controversy about whether to address this piece of land as Anantanag or Islamabad. Unlike Jammu, since Anantnag is primarily a Muslim dominated region, the temple seemed to have additional military protection right from its entrance.
Also, it is an archaeological site, special protection is enforced by the authorities. However, the local market place was as busy as any of the other Indian district towns. However, the bright logo of J&K Bank was the most attractive visual in the entire market area.
CONCLUDING THE TRIP TO ANANTNAG
It was very close to the Anantnag central bus depot. Parking our car near the entry gate, we walked inside. The entrance was very simple compared to its historic existence. As we kept entering towards the inner complex, we observed numerous bunkers inside the premises. With vigilant military officials keeping a strict eye on the temple entrants.
In fact, they were allowing limited visitors at a time by locking and unlocking the temple gate every time any civilian entered or exited through the main entrance. Photography too was very restricted within the campus.
In fact, that’s quite usual of its type in the whole of Kashmir. What amazed me more was an army Jawan guiding us inside the temple. It took us almost an hour to complete an intimate round of the heritage site. Coming back to our car, we had to trouble ourselves to locate its driver. Meanwhile, our normal prepaid connections got blocked.
By the time my husband could find him, I purchased a couple of Kashmiri shawls from a Muslim hawker at the temple gate who seemed to offer me genuine discounts. Shopping for Kashmiri shawls and handicrafts is one of the things to do in Anantnag, especially for women.
TOWARDS SRINAGAR FROM ANANTNAG
It was close to 1 pm when we resumed our drive to Srinagar. On the way, we crossed the world-famous Green Tunnel. It’s a two-kilometer stretch on Jammu Srinagar Highway comprising of an array of green poplar and chinar trees along the main road.
Though we heard that of late, the density has gone down drastically due to massive axing of the matured female trees causing serious pollen allergies. But the view of green flush was truly eye-catching. While passing through the Green Tunnel area, our driver took a tea break at a roadside Dhaba.
We also utilized the time to lock the stunning landscape with our camera. There surely are a lot of things to do in Anantnag because a tourist can indulge himself in activities like rafting, visiting temples, visiting all the major attractions in Anantnag. Also passing through this green tunnel is a beautiful experience.
Way back, as I offered the holy prasad of Martand Temple to our driver, he accepted it with such a warm smile. I could not imagine him to be a person from other religions. As he shared his business card with us at the end of our trip, we got to know his name – Abdul Sheikh. Our journey with him was very enjoyable, conversant, and equally pleasing. An overall unique experience made our Anantnag visit truly memorable. I hope this article helps readers to know about the main attractions and things to do in Anantnag.