Pandrethan temple, an 8th century heritage site situated in Srinagar’s Badamibagh, has been preserved and rejuvenated by the Chinar Corps of the Indian Army. On Thursday, the unit was accorded recognition by the National Monuments Authority (NMA), which operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, for their unique initiative.
The site hosts several excavated figurines tracing back to the 2nd century – in the form of two large monolithic rock shiva lingams, seven Gandhara-style sculptures and a huge rock carving of the feet of a monolithic statue. “From April to July 2021, the Chinar Corps diligently restored excavated sculptures, created a themed heritage park to display them and with technical assistance from SPS Museum, Srinagar, recreated scaled replicas of seven more stone figurines excavated from the site in 1926,” said NMA chairperson Tarun Vijay.
The Chinar Corps had adopted the ancient excavation site of Pandrethan within the cantonment and after restoration, had named it ‘Dharohar’. The site near Shiva temple was excavated by the British-era ASI in 1913, yielding several Buddhist sculptures and rubbles of a Chaitya assignable to the 8th century.
To acknowledge their contribution, Vijay presented a citation plaque to Lt Gen DP Pandey, GOC Chinar Corps. On the occasion, he said that invaders and terrorists try to erase the memory of their target societies and present a false history. “Monuments tell the truth and their preservation is like preserving a nation’s memory. Kashmir’s monuments tell us about our identity and civilisational flow. The Indian Army are our archaeologists in olive green,” Vijay added.
With the help of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), there is a proposal to execute more excavations in the area to reveal the history of Kashmir. Pandey said that the true history of India must be taught to all and the Indian Army, in the best tradition to protect territorial integrity of the nation, also helps protect its culture.
Kashmir has a large number of ancient temples, Buddhist stupas and chaityas, being preserved by state and central units of the ASI, even as none of these sites have been recommended for designation as a Unesco World Heritage site.