The Shankaracharya Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is located on the summit of the Takh-e-Suleiman hill overlooking Srinagar town. The Shankaracharya temple dates back to 200 BC, although the present structure probably dates back to the 9″ century AD. The temple was apparently visited by the Adi Shankaracharya and has ever since been associated with him. The temple lies at an elevation of 1100 feet above the surface level of the city.
Shankaracharya Temple, also known as Jyeshthegvara temple, is built on a high octagonal plinth approached by a flight of steps. Takht-e-Suleiman hill is a detached ridge of igneous rock to the South East of Srinagar, separated from the Shilamar Range by the Aita Gaj Gap. The high point of the hill is coronated with a pretty edifice. There were 300 golden and silver images housed inside it.
The dating of this temple has been a matter of controversy. Cunningham dates it back to 220 B.C and believes it to be built by Ashoka’s son Jaluka. Mr. Ferguson rejects Cunningham’s view and assigns it to seventeenth-eighteenth centuries. Sir Aurel Stein also accepts the date given by Ferguson. According to Sir John Marshall, D. R. Sahani and R.C. Kak the temple dates back to earliest stage of the classical age of the Kashmiri architecture. Shankaracharya, earlier known as Jyeshthegvara, was built by Raja Gopaditya in 371 BC. Its first religious edifice was built by Jaluka, the son of Ashoka, around 220 BC. The temple was later restored by Gopadatta in 78 AD, to be later repaired by King Lalitaditya in the 8th century AD. The third repair was done during the governorship of Sheikh Mohi-ud-Din, when the temple was named as Shankaracharya. According to one source, this temple is dated to the middle of the 7th century and supposed to have been built by Sadiman.
Zain-ul-Abdin (1420-1470 AD) renovated its roof that had tumbled down due to an earthquake. During the time of Shah Jahan, a pavilion was built in front of the temple, the remains of which can still be seen. Recently, the dome was also repaired by Swami Shivratnanand Saraswati at the request of a Nepali sadhu (ascetic) who supplied him with financial aid. The temple is under the control of the Dharmartha Department. They have built two small buildings for the sadhus who live here. There is an old stone shed called the ‘Parvatihund bana koth’ (the storehouse of Goddess Parvati). This place was believed to have been visited by King Solomon during 2629-2564 BC, giving the name Takht-e-Sulaiman (Throne of Solomon) to the hill. Abul Fazal called this hill is Koh-e-Suleman which later became Takht.
The structure of the Shankaracharya temple boasts an architectural technique, reminiscent of prehistoric times. However, many additions and changes have been made to the original structure. The temple can be reached by a flight of stone steps constructed by Dogra ruler, Maharaja Gulab Singh. The fencing walls of the steps have inscriptions embedded on them. Inside the Shankaracharya temple, there is a Persian inscription, dating back to the period of Shah Jahan. The main Shrine is in the shape of a circular chamber and commands a spectacular view of the Valley. After numerous repairs, the ceiling of the main chamber appears to be modern in its approach. The temple is considered as the oldest temple of the Valley of Kashmir. Throughout its life, the Shankaracharya temple has faced several chiselled restorations.