Located at a distance of about 12 km from Udampur and 65 kilometre from Jammu city, Krimchi temples tell a tale of Jammu and Kashmir which is now long forgotten. Built around the 8th-9th Century, the temples are located on the ancient route to Kashmir on the banks to Birunala and some of these are considered to be the oldest in the entire state.
This is a story of my unplanned visit to this architectural wonder...
A long time back (well much before I started this blog), I used to travel just by myself a lot and one such trip took the to the state of Jammu and Kashmir for a project in the villages around Srinagar. This was still a time when was Kashmir was considered a hotbed for terrorism and tourists were rare, if not absent. I was also pretty aimless on the roads and jumped at anything new that came my way.
I had already spent a few days in Jammu and hadn't liked the town much due to the heat there. On a chance encounter in the bus from Jammu to Srinagar, I met someone who told me about some ancient temples in the area. I am a sucker for anything old, so I took some directions form him and made an impromptu stopover at Udhampur to visit these temples. I had set a daily expenditure limit for myself and hotel expense was capped at Rs 150/ night. So I took a room in a shady lodge where my bus driver also stayed with the cleaner and decided to explore these ancient temples the very next day.
One of the places I visited was Krimchi temples, located about 12 kilometres from the city. There were no buses so I simply took a jeep and then hiked to the village. Interestingly there was simply no one that I met during the hike, except a few local men who waved and smiled. I guess my long hair made me stand out quite a lot then!
It is believed that Raja Kichak of Mahabharata was the creator of this town as well as all the temples. Later when the Pandavas were in exile, they spent many years living here.
This legend has also given these temples another name - Pandava temples.
So why were the temples destroyed/ abandoned? Well, I don't know the real answer but according to the legends it was the Pandavas themselves who destroyed the city. Why? Hmmm...I haven't dug so deep into scriptures yet :)
The temples are extremely beautiful and even more so for me as I didn't expect this to come out of my chance encounter. In other words I was simply blown by the temples! They were pretty much in ruins, yet quite majestic.
The one thing that stuck me the most was the influence of Roman architecture in these temples. The perfectly carved columns certainly looked like a version of Doric style columns from ancient Rome. This was not so surprising as trade was common between the two civilisations back then (I wonder what happened now - I never a thing about Greece in India)., and the temples were located on a trade route so ideas must have traveled. Maybe a Roman architect himself came over and helped execute this ;)
While we are at it, I also found the temples quite close to the architectural style of temples in Uttarakhand. Since I come from the state, I have explored some very interesting and not-so-popular places there too, and also did a small series on Temples of Almora, which will give you a visual representation of what I am talking about.
The ASI description is a bit bland on architecture, but perhaps more accurate than some of my own conclusions.
'This group of temples consists of four large and three small Shiva temples and they are marked from one to seven. Five of these temples are raised on the common platform. All temples, except one, face east and are built on a similar plan comprising a Garbhagriha with curvilinear shikara and antarala with sukanasika. On eo the temples has pillared mandala in front of astarala which seems to be later. The garbhagriha is built on triratha and Pancharatha plan externally and square internally.'