Ariana Pemberton

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The Sun Temple of Martand: the Pinnacle of Kashmiri Cosmopolitanism and the Key to Surya Worship in India
Department:
History of Art
Term:
Spring 2017

Kashmir: an idyllic Himalayan valley with a rich and diverse, yet highly contested, history. While post-partition India has claimed Kashmir as part of its own and, to this day, fight with Pakistan over the region, the people of Kashmir claim their own cosmopolitan history that is neither tied to India or Pakistan. My project aims to recover Kashmir's long history of globalization, hybridity , and cosmopolitanism by engaging specifically with the 8th century Kashmiri sun temple at Martand dedicated to the foreign (Persian) solar deity, Surya. By looking at  architectural layout, sculptural style, and decorative features of Martand, I will investigate how the temple has brought together artistic influences from across Europe and Asia into one comprehensive hybrid form. Because Martand is the oldest of three extant South Asian Surya temples-- the other two being Modhera in Gujarat and Konarak in Orissa--, it will also be of interest to consider whether or not Martand's famous patron, King Lalitaditya (r. 724/5-756) who is said to have toured throughout all of the subcontinent including Gujarat and Orissa, is in part responsible for initially spreading the veneration of Surya to these regions. I plan to visit both Modhera and Konarak to observe their architectural features and sculptural detail to identify similarities with Martand, as well as revisit Martand and study other contemporaneous Kashmiri temples such as Pandrethan (the oldest surviving Kashmiri temple), Buniyar and Payar (the best preserved temples in the region), Lalitaditya’s own capital Parihasapura, and the rock cut temples of Nadihel where sculptural images of Surya still exist in-situ. By examining the architectural hybridity of sites such as Martand, my project aims to place Kashmir in the center of a cosmopolitan, global cultural world during the 8th century.