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Kashmir’s Old Capitals

Around 26kms from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, near the Jhelum river is a monumental jigsaw puzzle in stone. The place with an array of stones is called Parihaspura (the city of stones) which is one of Kashmir’s most marvelous ancient township built by a well-known king Lalit Aditya in the 8th century BCE. Aditya is known for his spirit as a conqueror, as he built a vast long-ranging empire from Central Asia to the Gangetic plains.

Information about Kashmir’s ancient kings comes from a text called “Rajatarangini” written by the 13th century Kashmiri scholar and poet Pandit Kalhana. The text tells us that immense wealth was created by Aditya which enabled him to build towns and cities across Kashmir including a new capital city called Parihaspura (the city of smiles) which was a vast capital often compared with mythological cities created by the Hindu Lord Indira.

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After Lalit Aditya’s death, his son and successor decided to move the capital back to Srinagar. The local kings would use the gold and copper from Parihaspura for their own needs, which has resulted in the site to a stone structure today.

In the late 9th century, King Avantivarnam moved the capital to a new city called Avantipora which is located in proximity to Pulwama. Today, Avantipora is similar to all other places in the valley with shops, modern homes, and heavy police barricading. Pandit Kalhana has also noted that Avantivarnam’s rule was one of unprecedented prosperity. He also notes that, Avantivarnam was a king that didn’t encourage war and loot but decided to spend his wealth on his citizens and promote trade and commerce and become a patron of arts and literature which resulted in the construction of Shiva and Vishnu temples in his city.

Today these sites are only dotted with stones that remain the only source for us to reconstruct Kashmir’s old capitals that were once flourishing in trade, commerce, arts, and literature.


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