Lalitaditya Muktapida

30 Dec 2017 15:30:18


If one has to name any one great personality of Jammu Kashmir who could be deemed as formidable, victorious, promulgator of architecture and even personally an artist, it is Lalitaditya Muktapida. Although it is hard to find it mentioned anywhere, his last name can be explained as “Mukta+Peeda” (One who relieves others of their pain). Similarly, his first name is also quite relevant to his nature - “Lalit+Aditya”, means a combination of Beauty and Glare. His life is also full of art and glory. He ruled for 37 years. It simply means there was no opponent force that could challenge him. He was the youngest of the three sons of Pratapaditya the Second. His mother's name was Nona. She was a beautiful daughter of a merchant of Rohtak (Haryana). The period of his reign was from 724 AD to 760 AD. He left for victory campaigns immediately after assuming the throne. There is no event in history that states him losing any battle. During his reign, Kashmir had become the strongest empire of the world. On strength of his might and will, he expanded the boundaries of his empire quite extensively. All the regions up to Tibet in the east of Kashmir had become part of his vast empire. China used to be always keen to befriend him.


Lalitaditya led his victory campaigns up to Iran and Turkestan in the west. Chinese traveller Ouk'ong writes that the Prince of Turky Cankuna was a regular attendee of Lalitaditya's court. Famous historian Al-Biruni has written that the day of victory over Turky was celebrated every year in Kashmir, and a festival was organized for that occasion. Many countries in Central Asia were also brought under his flag. In the south, he had dominated parts from Orissa (current Odisha) and Bengal up to the coastal areas of Dwarika. Kathiyawar and nearby regions of Gujarat were also parts of his empire. What we call Afghanistan today, used to be known as 'Kamboj' or 'Gandhar' at that time. All of that area had also become part of Kashmir during his time.




Tibet in those times used to be a powerful kingdom and it always desired to invade Kashmir. Lalitaditya clearly understood their intentions. To deal with this, he had made a military pact with China, because of which, 2500 Chinese soldiers used to be always ready to serve him. Similarly, there was another tribe called “Dards” that lived in north and north-western hilly areas adjacent to Kashmir. It was known for its bravery. Lalitaditya also had to carry out occasional operations against them in order to maintain the security of Kashmir valley.


Because of his continuous involvement in battles and never-failing series of victory over different regions, Lalitaditya is sometimes compared with Alexander – one of the most powerful invaders and dreamer of world-domination. Another reason for comparing him with Alexander is that Lalitaditya also died during one of his victory campaigns like Alexander.


Despite his involvement in never-ending series of battles, he also took interest in architecture. Many great examples of architecture can be found in structures built during his reign. Various religious places and the sculpture works there are living proofs of this. Most important of these architecture and sculpture works is the famous Martand Temple, which is a sun-temple, built by him. Although completely destroyed by tyrant Sikandar Butshikan in 15th century, one can still see the ruins of this great temple. It is not difficult to guess its original massiveness and splendor from its ruins. The choice of place for the temple is pretty wise in itself. It is surrounded by vineyard in all directions. It is still a place of special attraction for tourists coming from Europe, and as such, holds an important place among the tourist places of Kashmir valley. Although mentions of 'Martand Village' near the temple also occur at many places in history, it seems to have disappeared with time and is nowhere to be found today.


Showing his love for architecture, Lalitaditya also established a new capital for his kingdom. He named the capital 'Parihaspur'. The place where this capital was established, is called Paraspur Udar today. It is located in the south-east of Shadipur city between Panjaur and Hathrath. One can still see ruins of many temples, monasteries and other buildings here.


Lalitaditya considered his new capital more beautiful than Srinagar, and always thought of Srinagar as a comparison. His love for art can also be guessed by his dedication towards the art of music. Not only was he a 'Veena' player, but actually an impressive one. One can't help thinking how such a person who used to be always involved in battles could keep up with his music practice. Such examples are extremely rare. Though gifted with 16 different kind of qualities, Lord Shri Krishna is definitely an ideal example of such kind.


Lalitaditya was a pious Hindu. He had built several Vishnu temples. Thoughts of Hinduism were naturally expressed in his behaviour. Quite in accordance with Hindu culture, he had respect for all different methods of worshiping the Lord. Islam had just came in existence then, and Christianity was not even born. Though Buddhism had become dominant. Lalitaditya encouraged Buddhism as well without any partiality. He built a number of monasteries and stupas. Monasteries for Buddhist Nuns, or “Bhikkhunis” were also built. Chinese traveller Ouk'ong has deliberately described this in his travelogue.


Lalitaditya also paid proper attention towards economic prosperity of his people. Problems of flood and drought in the valley existed in those days as well. Flow of river waters was hindered by sedimentation. Sometimes rock-slides also blocked the rivers. Lalitaditya arranged for cleaning of silt and rocks to ensure smooth flow of blocked rivers. Additionally, he also built many canals and dams at  several places. As a result, farmers grew prosperous and the state's treasury also benefited in the same ratio. Another noteworthy thing he did is the establishment of an 'always-open' charity kitchen (Atoot – Langar). It is said that about one lakh people could eat here daily. Quite surprising, but equally pleasant. Even if there could be some exaggeration in it, it can be said  without any doubts that no one had to sleep hungry in his kingdom, and the state had made sure of that.


While being an aesthete himself, he also appropriately honoured other littérateurs, intellectuals and poets. He always used to encourage art, literature, music and poetry. It is mentioned that Lalitaditya brought two prestigious poets from Kannauj. He provided them residence and facilities at the expense of state. The names of these two famous poets were Bhavabhuti and Vakpatiraja. This way, the glorious king of Kashmir, Raja Lalitaditya gave birth to a noble tradition in the state.

It was the foundations laid by king Lalitaditya that allowed many of the successive rulers to rule for long times without much troubles. At a much later time, when foreign invasions on Kashmir gained more intensity, and hopelessness tried to dominate minds and hearts, even then the life and deeds of King Lalitaditya served as a great source of inspiration and motivation to the society. In the list of great personalities of Kashmir, the name of Lalitaditya finds an excellent position.


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