Thursday, May 14, 2015

32 is a big number

A beautiful view of Srinagar city, the valley and Dal Lake can be had from Zabarwan mountain hill top, about 10 Kilometers from Srinagar city.  A good road connects the hill with the city. The hill is called "Sulaiman Hill" and well-known for the "Shankaracharya Temple".  This hill is considered as sacred by many; Buddhists call it Pas-Pahar, Persians and Jews call it as "Bagh-i-Sulaiman" and "Garden of King Solomon" respectively.  In order to reach the top of the hill, one has to climb 243 steps from the parking lot.  Well constructed steps provide support and even elderly people can be seen climbing the hill enthusiastically. The temple is at an elevation of about 1100 feet above Srinagar city and thus gives a beautiful view of the surroundings in all directions (360').

The entire hill area with the temple complex is under the guard of the security forces. Cameras and mobiles are not allowed to be taken to the top of the hill. Hence one has to be satisfied with the photos available on the net. The visitors are put through security check before they start their climb of the 243 steps to the base of the temple and another two dozen steps to the sanctum sanctorum. This temple is considered as the oldest temple in the Kashmir area.  It is an important tourist spot as well and thronged by hundreds of tourists that come to visit Srinagar every day.  A small bowl of excellent "Kheer" prasadam awaits all those who visit the temple and come down the stairs.

One stream of opinion believes that Emperor Ashoka's son Jaluka originally constructed the temple around 200 BC. King Gopaditya who ruled over the area is said to have carried out extensive work at the present temple site. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva by name "Jyeshteswara".  This Jyeshteswara temple has got the popular name "Shankaracharya Temple" as Sri Adi Shankaracharya or Acharya Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada is said to have come here in the early 8th century and stayed for sometime.  There is a small cave by the side of the temple where the seer is believed to have sat in penance during his stay.  A large photo of the Acharya is kept in the cave. The cave itself is about 50 square feet in area.  

The hill was known as 'Gopadri" as mentioned by the well-known Kashmiri poet Kalhana in his "Rajatarangini".  Another King Lalitaditya is said to have enlarged the temple by making additions. The present "Shivalingam" is believed to have been placed there in the 19th century, during the period of Sikh rulers.  The Shivalinga is indeed beautiful and about two feet tall. Unlike in South India, devotees are permitted to touch the Shivalinga as is the practice in many North Indian temples. After the darshan of the Jyeshteswara, visitors go round viewer's gallery around the main temple to have a breath taking view of the Srinagar city and its surroundings, including the snow clad mountains of the "Pir Panjal" range of the Himalayas.  The view is so beautiful that the visitors have to be reminded by the accompanying guides about the further journey to force them to proceed to their vehicles.     

Acharya Adi Shankara is believed to have been born in the village Kaladi in Kerala. We are shown a house on the banks of river Purna when we visit that place, as the house of the Acharya during his childhood days. He took sanyas and traveled all over the country on foot for several years. During his period (788 AD to 820 AD), Kashmir was a great center of learning like Kashi, and this took him to Srinagar.  He is believed to have stayed in the cave near the Jyeshteswara temple for some time while propagating his "Advaita" philosophy.  The picture alongside gives the view of the photo of Acharya kept in the cave. 

One of India's finest poet philosophers, Bhartruhari has made a delightful calculation of the span of human life.  If the life of a human being is considered as 100 years, half of it is lost in sleep in the night.  Of the remaining 50 years, another half is lost in childhood and old age. Childhood when one does not know what to do and old age when one cannot do what he wants to do. Of the remaining 25 years, lot of time is consumed by illness, thinking of the loved ones who are separated for various reasons and serving others for earning livelihood. Where is the time for a human being to be happy and achieve something, he asks.  Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada is said to have lived for only 32 years and renounced the physical body in Kedarnath at that young age.  In this short span of 32 years, being born in Kalady in Kerala, he traveled allover the country by foot when there were no transport facilities.  He made invaluable contributions to Indian Philosophy.  His literary works and principles he enunciated in the "Advaita" school have stood the test of time for over twelve centuries. Many other schools of thinking have later come up and spread the vastness of Indian Philosophy manifold.  He has indeed shown that a life span of 32 years is not all that small. Yes, 32 is truly a big number.

It took me nearly twice that number of years to go to the cave (not by walk, but by aeroplanes and cars!). The least one of the present generation could do is to visit the Jyeshteswara Temple and the Shankaracharya Cave and pay our respects to the memory of the great teacher.  Narrow consideration of religion or any other bias need not cloud our thinking and judgement while doing so.   


  1. A Good example and a Lesson to mankind.
    Brought out excellently.


  2. Classic article. The greatness and contribution of Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada has been explained in a simple and effective language. A real Eye opener for all of us about what we really can do for the humanity.

  3. Thankyou by your excellent narration we are getting to know so many things.

  4. Very enlightening article indeed !


  5. Thank you for taking us on a virtual tour of the Shankaracharya temple. The more we read your insightful articles, the more we are convinced that Indian history and Mythology have no parallel anywhere in the world !

  6. This sacred place has been existing for many centuries. Visiting this place itself is a blessing. The real time we actually spend to understand ourselves is so limited in one's lifetime and this has been beautifully narrated. Thank you very much..

  7. This is a fantastic post . The precious insights you've awakened in me is invaluable. Indeed 32 is a good number. I have spent my life thinking a time is going to come,but I think now is the time. You have helped open a window to a new dimension in my thinking.Thank you seems too simple and ordinary a word to use to say what an impact you've made. Any way thank you.