Temples of Kafir Kot. Lost Hindu Temple in Time [Part – 1]
Indus Valley civilization period for the many centuries was an important area of Hindu culture and religion, until the arrival of Muslim by the end of the 10th century AD. During this time many cities were built, with great temples as symbols of religion and culture. Kafir Kot temples are one of the examples of art and culture of the ancient times which these temples have preserved for centuries.
Kafir Kot is the ancient ruins of one of the Hindu temples located in Punjab, Pakistan along the Indus River and in the Salt Range mountains. Temples in this region are dating from the sixth to the early eleventh-century surviving in upper Pakistan. This site consists of the ruins of many Hindu temples, and the ruins of a large fort protecting the site. According to the district Gazetteer of Mianwali of 1915, the remains of Kafirkot are an indication of the existence of a Hindu civilization of considerable importance and antiquity”. It is located at 32°30’0N 71°19’60E
Rulers of Kafir Kot
As these temples are dated range sixth Century AD to the 11th Century AD, so perhaps few temples were built by the Gandharan Dynasty and later when Hindu Shahi took charge of this region then few temples might be built by Hindu Shahi rulers. This fact can be examined by the architecture of the temples because much of the architectural ornament in these temples is familiar to the Gandhara region and even the use of interior squinches and masonry domes is not new. There is no evidence found which can support Vedic tradition in this region during this timeline from the archeologist reports. It is said that Hindu king Til of that time had a son named Bil and so the place was named after his son Bil as Bil Kot. When Muslims arrived the place was named Bilot and then Bilot Sharif.
Fort which was guarding the temples had already disintegrated over time but the temple still stands high. Nineteenth and early 20th century scholars, including Aurel Stein (1937), Alexander Cunningham (1872-73), and Ananda Coomaraswamy (1927) examined the site and they were calling them the temples of salt range of Indus valley.
Cunningham during his first field tour to the region reported “a number of old Hindu temples in the Salt Range, which all belong to the Kashmirian style of architecture, with its fluted pillars and peculiar trefoil arches”.
These he associated with the last dynasty of the Hindu kings of Gandhāra. Six years later, at his first opportunity to visit the fort of northern Kafirkot,̣ above the west bank of the Indus south of its intersection with the Kurram River, Cunningham revised his earlier opinion. Noting that no trefoil arches were found there, he related the architecture of these temples to a period “which succeeded the semi-Greek architecture of the Indo-Scythians
Material Used to Built Temple
These structures are made of honey-combed drab-colored stone which was brought in here from Khushalgarh might be through the boats from the nearby flowing mighty mysterious Indus river.
According to Dr. Farzand Masih’s work in his book “Temples of the Salt Range and North and South Kafir Kot” basal molding scheme, battered walls, battered niches, pseudo-corinthian pilasters with a single or double row of leaves and shallow domical roofs in these temples have unmistakably been borrowed directly from Gandhara. Decorative motifs like dentils saw tooth designs and thin brackets with vaulted ends are also of the same Gandharan origin. Siva Maheswara’s figure style in the Salt range is quite similar to that of Buddha’s figure in a seated posture on the lotus throne found in Gandhara. Hence, it can be said that salt range architecture is a proto-nagara tradition, expressed in Gandharan Language.
How It Become Ruins
How it became abandoned, there is no certain information available? What happened after King Bil (Last king of this region)? Did anyone invade this region further? There are so many questions for those we yet to find answers. But one big reason might be the lack of water availability. Perhaps nothing happened from the above prediction and due to a shortage of water, habitats itself left this place and moved to another place for a better future.
Sculptures and architectural components from the Kafir Kot site have been dispersed to museums across the world. One of the largest collections from this site is in the British Museum