The valley of Kashmir is famed around the world for its mystical and magical beauty. Christened as “Paradise on Earth”, Kashmir is admired for its lush green valleys, rolling woods ringed by snow-capped mountains, crisscrossed by rivers and studded with lakes, its rich profusion of trees and flowers and fruits.Also Read - Domestic Flights: Passenger Flight Services to Begin From THESE 4 Remote Towns in Arunachal Pradesh. Details Here

The magic of Kashmir does not end here. The beautiful valley claims a glorious past of grandeur, power and riches beyond imagination. The antiquity of the monuments and various architectural structures tell tales of a rich legacy and a refined sense of culture and art. Also Read - IPL 2021 Points Table Today Latest After RCB vs MI, Match 39: Royal Challengers Bangalore Consolidate No.3 Spot, Mumbai Indians Slip to 7th; Harshal Patel Extends Lead on IPL Purple Cap List

The mystical beauty of Kashmir can be attributed to the story of its creation which has an air of fantasy typical of Indian mythology and folklore. Once upon a time, the valley was a lake, deep as the sea, and the playground of the gods.  But it was haunted by a demon that plundered the valley and tortured its people. The miserable inhabitants appealed to Rishi Kashyap to save them. Rishi Kashyap struck a depression and drained the lake of its waters. The demon was slain, and the valley was named after its saviour, Kashyapa-mar or Kashmir. Also Read - KK vs BW Dream11 Team Prediction, Fantasy Hints Everest Premier League T20 Match 4: Captain, Vice-Captain - Kathmandu Kings XI vs Biratnagar Warriors, Playing 11s And Team News For Today's T20 Match at Tribhuvan University Ground 9:15 AM IST September 27 Monday

A version of this legend has also been found in the Nilamat Purana, the earliest known text on Kashmir. To give credence to the story, palaeontologists have discovered coral and other marine fossils from the valley.

Owing to its sacred origin, the valley is also known as Rishi Wari and abounds in temples and other places of worship. But time, natural calamities and change in rulers have left many of the beautiful temples in ruins. The climate of Kashmir too has played a destructive part. Today, the temples lie in various stages of ruin but nonetheless exude evidence of their glorious past.

To name a few, the Martand Sun Temple, the Awantipora temples, the Sankara-Gauresvara temple, temple of Sugandhesa at Patan, the Pandrethan temples, the Shiva Bhutesa and Siva Jeyshthesa temples at Vangath, the Parihasakesva, Muktakesva, Mahavarha and Goverdhanadhara temples in Parihasapura, and the famous Mameswara Siva temple at Mamalaka are some specimens of great archaeological value.

Kashmiri architecture is different from the rest of India as most temples are square or oblong in design. They are subdivided into closed (vimana) or open (mandapa) type. Kashmiri temples are typically ‘Suddha’ edifices, constructed with one kind of material from base to the summit. The ancient temples of Kashmir mostly range from mid 8th century AD to 12th century AD.

Martand Sun Temple

Five miles from Anantnag town, lies the village of Mattan also known as Bhawan. In ancient scriptures, the place is mentioned as Martand (the sun). A beautiful spring and a small rivulet flows through this place and on the banks of this rivulet, thousands of devotees perform shradhas to their ancestors on Vijaya Saptami. About 2.5 km. from the spring are ruins of a magnificent temple known as Martand.

The temple in Indo-Greak architectural style was built by the King Lalitaditya. The Martand temple is one of the most important archaeological sites of the country.

Awantipora Temples

The two temple ruins located about one km from each other, are in Awantipora, 30 km from the state capital Srinagar. On the way from Srinagar to Jammu, the first ruin is the Awantiswamin Temple. A Vaishnava temple built by king Awantivarman (855 AD – 883 AD), Vaikuntha Vishnu was the presiding deity.

This imposing monument has been built on a two-tiered base in the centre of a paved courtyard. Buddhist influence is quite evident in the architecture. The outer boundary wall or the courtyard has four shrines in its four corners. The entrance to the temple is located in the middle of the west wall and can be approached by a flight of steps. The walls have beautiful designs and images of gods. Even though the temple is dedicated to Vishnu, images of Shiva can also be seen on the pillars and stones. Even after 1200 years, the sculpted images are distinctly visible and impressive.

Pandrethan Temples

Pandrethan, originally an old capital of Kashmir and founded by Emperor Ashoka, is about four miles from Srinagar. The word ‘Pandrethan’ is a corrupt form of `Purana`, meaning `old` and `adhishthan` meaning `capital`. The major attraction of this ancient capital is a stone temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple named as Meru Vardhana Swami, was built by Meru, minister to King Partha who ruled Kashmir from 921 AD – 931 AD.

The temple was chiselled out of a single piece of rock and has awe-inspiring designs and illustrations. The domed roof and the arches are all examples of classical Kashmiri architecture. A devastating fire destroyed the entire capital of Pandrethan, leaving behind the temple monument as reminder of the legacy.

Mameswara Shiva Temple

The Mameswara Shiva temple located at Mamalaka or modern day Mamal is dedicated to Lord Shiva and houses an old pedestal and the Shiva Linga. The temple finds mention even in Kalahasa’s Rajtarangini. The book mentions that the temple was gifted a golden Kalasa by the King Jayasinka (1128 AD – 1155 AD). A spring flows from under the site of the temple.

A traveller’s sojourn to Kashmir is as much about taking in the natural grandeur as it is about completing the spiritual journey.