Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet

Author: William Henry Knight

The Temples of Cashmere.

Extract from "An Essay on the Arian Order of Architecture, as exhibited in the Temples of Kashmir," by Capt. A. Cunningham. "Journal of the Asiatic Society," Vol. XVII.

The architectural remains of Kashmir are perhaps the most remarkable of the existing monuments of India, as they exhibit undoubted traces of the influence of Grecian art. The Hindu temple is generally a sort of architectural pasty, a huge collection of ornamental fritters, huddled together with or without keeping; while the "Jain" temple is usually a vast forest of pillars, made to look as unlike one another as possible, by some paltry differences in their petty details.

On the other hand, the Kashmirian fanes are distinguished by the graceful elegance of their outlines, by the massive boldness of their parts, and by the happy propriety of their decorations.

They cannot, indeed, vie with the severe simplicity of the Parthenon, but they possess great beauty — different, indeed, yet quite their own.

The characteristic features of the Kashmirian architecture are its lofty pyramidal roofs, its trefoiled doorways, covered by pyramidal pediments, and the great width of the intercolumniations.

Most of the Kashmirian temples are more or less injured, but more particularly those at Wantipur, which are mere heaps of ruins. Speaking of these temples, Trebeck says: "It is scarcely possible to imagine that the state of ruin to which they have been reduced has been the work of time, or even of man, as their solidity is fully equal to that of the most massive monuments of Egypt. Earthquakes must have been the cause of their overthrow." In my opinion, their OVERTHROW is too complete to have been the result of an earthquake, which would have simply PROSTRATED the buildings in large masses. But the whole of the superstructure of these temples is now lying in one confused heap of stones, totally disjointed from one another.

I believe, therefore, that I am fully justified in saying, from my own experience, that such a complete and DISRUPTIVE OVERTURN could only have been produced by gunpowder.

The destruction of the Kashmirian temples is universally attributed, both by history and by tradition, to the bigoted Sikander. (A.D. 1396.) He was reigning at the period of Timur’s invasion of India, with whom he exchanged friendly presents, and from whom, I suppose, he may have received a present of the VILLAINOUS SALTPETRE.

As it would appear that the Turks had METAL cannon at the siege of Constantinople in 1422, I think it no great stretch of probability to suppose that gunpowder itself had been carried into the East, even as far as Kashmir, at least ten or twenty years earlier — that is, about A.D. 1400 to 1420, or certainly during the reign of Sikander, who died in 1416.

Even if this be not admitted, I still adhere to my opinion, that the complete ruin of the Wantipur temples could only have been effected by gunpowder; and I would, then, ascribe their overthrow to the bigoted "Aurungzib."

"Ferishta" attributed to Sikander the demolition of all the Kashmirian temples save one, which was dedicated to Mahadeo, and which only escaped "in consequence of its foundations being below the surface of the neighbouring water."

In A.D. 1580, "Abul Fazl" mentions that some of the idolatrous temples were in "perfect preservation;" and Ferishta describes many of these temples as having been in existence in his own time, or about A.D. 1600.

As several are still standing, though more or less injured, it is certain that Sikander could not have destroyed them all. He most likely gave orders that they should be overturned; and I have no doubt that many of the principal temples were thrown down during his reign.

But, besides the ruthless hand of the destroyer, another agency, less immediate, but equally certain in its ultimate effects, must have been at work upon the large temples of Kashmir. The silent ravages of the destroyer, who carries away pillars and stone, for the erection of other edifices, has been going on for centuries. Pillars, from which the architraves have been thus removed, have been thrown down by earthquakes, ready to be set up again for the decoration of the first Musjid that might be erected in the neighbourhood. Thus every Mahomedan building in Kashmir is constructed either entirely or in part of the ruins of Hindu temples.


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Chicago: William Henry Knight, "The Temples of Cashmere.," Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet, ed. Iles, George, 1852-1942 and trans. Whiston, William, 1667-1752 in Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed February 24, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D9CYWGMXSIRAJQL.

MLA: Knight, William Henry. "The Temples of Cashmere." Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet, edited by Iles, George, 1852-1942, and translated by Whiston, William, 1667-1752, in Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 24 Feb. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D9CYWGMXSIRAJQL.

Harvard: Knight, WH, 'The Temples of Cashmere.' in Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 24 February 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D9CYWGMXSIRAJQL.