Narang Temple in a miserable condition, A Muslim couple sitting over the Shivalinga
The Narang Temple ruins in Kashmir is a sad reminder to the callous, cold attitude of the Archaeological Survey of India which has failed to protect and preserve the ancient Hindu treasure
These are some the pictures of a picnic by youngsters at Narang Temple ruins located in Kashmir, which is located 5300 feet above sea level. Looking at these youngsters sitting atop the Shiva temple with their shoes on may infuriate most of us, the Hindus. But we should not blame or hate them as they are ignorant of our Hindu culture because our very own Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has ignored these Hindu ruins. Instead, we should blame the government for not protecting these sites.
This site is located in a village known as Wangath, 50kM north of Srinagar. Narang is close to Mount Haramukh and Lake Gangabal, which is a very sacred place for Kashmiri Pandits. Many trekkers also pass through this village as it is their base camp. In ancient times, this place was called Sodaratirtha, an important pilgrimage centre. The Shivalinga here is called Bhuteshwara. There is also a holy spring here called Narang Nag. According to Chander M. Bhat, the ancient name of Wangath was Vashisht Ashram and the first stone for the temple complex was laid in 137 BCE.
You will not see anybody doing disrespectful acts in Vaishno devi or in Amarnath or at Shankaracharya Hill Shiva Temple located at the heart of Srinagar in Kashmir . In fact, in a few temples in Kashmir like in Pahalgam, the temple aarti is done by a local Muslim. The local Muslims in Kashmir have great faith in lord Shiva or Bole Nath as they call it. During many shutdowns, the strikes were called off in Srinagar to facilitate the Shivaratri festival in Shankaracharya Hill, Srinagar.
Kashmir has many temples. It is a very difficult task to protect and maintain all these temples. Hindu temples are a place of worship - place where culture is nurtured and is a centre for economy. It is not just a tourist spot or an ancient heritage site. If nobody goes to worship the temple, then it is nothing but a collection of stones which has no life or value. For Archaeological Survey of India temples are nothing more than heritage spots, a non-living entity that needs to be protected for historical reasons and restoration is avoided many a times to prevent any alteration to existing structures. ASI has failed in protecting our temples due to lack of resource and its deplorable approach. Look at what happened at Hampi and Nava Brindavana at Anegundi in Karnataka.
ASI cannot protect all the temples of Kashmir as many of them are located in mountains. Allow the temples to protect themselves. Temples are living entity when worshiping takes place. This living entity has the capability to protect itself and protect and nurture its nearby communities. As yatris start visiting the temples local economy will improve. Many locals will get job. Many Muslims in Kashmir get jobs due to Vaishno Devi and Amarnath yatra. This helps the national harmony. Temple is a living entity and it needs to undergo regular repair and maintenance which needs lot of resources and it need not depend on any government funding if regular flow of yatris are there. A temple can generate its own resource only when daily rituals takes place and yatris start visiting it.
The temple in Narang is visited by very few people. During winter, this place is filled with snow. During annual Haramukh Gangabal yatra organised by All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC), more people visit this temple. Government should make Narang temple committee similar to Shri Amaranth Shrine Board or Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. Narang temple committee should consist of Kashmiri pandits, local villagers, authorities and representatives from ASI. Hand over Narang Temple complex to this temple committee. Ensure daily puja and rituals takes place by a group ofpriest in a grand manner. If 4500 old Shankaracharya hill temple in Srinagar is standing today, its because of the daily puja by the priest, the prayers of thousands of yatris and protection by CRPF. ASI should work to restore the Narang temple and day to day temple ritual should start which will give a boost to yatra and local economy. Shri Prahlad Singh Patel Minister of State of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism GOI has a big role to play in brining peace in the valley by restoring the ruined temples of Kashmir one by one and by restoring our lost culture and restarting the daily rituals.
Looking at someone disrespecting Shiva linga, our blood may boil. Instead of violent response, we should respond constructively by restoring the lost cultural treasure. Save Narang and restore the temple for peace and prosperity to the people of Kashmir.
(The writer is a Bengaluru based activist)