Naranag: We are at Naranag, located 48-km north of Srinagar and six km upstream from the River Sindh. The place is noted for dense woods, wildlife, scenic meadows, lakes and mountains and is the base camp for trekking to Mount Haramukh (16,870 ft) and high altitude Gangabal Lake (11,729 ft).
Naranag is also known for a cluster of temples facing each other at a distance of about 200 meters and is one of the important archaeological sites of Jammu and Kashmir. The ancient place of worship is dedicated to Shiva which is quite obvious as one of the edifices is adorned with a huge Shiva linga. So are a few carvings.
It was built by Lalitaditya Muktapida, of the Kayastha Naga Karkota dynasty in the 8th century AD. The Naga Karkotas are believed to be Hindu Kashmiri Kayasthas of the Naga sect known for their reverence of serpents.
The ancient temple built with large granite blocks has the typical Aryan structure as was present in Aryan Kashmir. The remains were declared as a ‘protected monument of national importance’ under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 many years ago.
But Naranag is in shambles today due to the official apathy particularly the neglect shown by the Archaeological Survey of India which left it unattended along with more than fifty other archaeological sites with the start of insurgency nearly three decades ago.
The ASI’s Srinagar Circle Headquarters were shifted to winter capital Jammu in 1990 and have not returned to their original place since. All these years, with no renovation or repair work taking place at most of these places of historical importance many of the sites started crumbling.
Located on the left bank of gushing Wangath stream a tributary of River Sindh, Naranag is one of the hidden gems of Kashmir. It can be developed as an amazing and dreamlike holiday and heritage destination for the locals and tourists in such fashion that no negative impact of it is left on the environment.
Naranag has been worst hit due to the neglect. All one can see the ASI doing here is constructing a wall to protest it from possible encroachments. Ironically, the remains of one of the structures built with rock blocks at the entrance to the complex is being used to store cement bags required for the mason work. Apparently in order to protect these from rain and snow, the concerned officials have installed a tin roof over the edifice and blocked the entry to it by fixing a wooden door.
The ASI officials claim that Naranag among the 56 centrally protected monuments under its Srinagar Circle “are being looked after well” even though from Jammu at a distance of nearly 300 kilometres. They also say that their structural conservation and environmental development are carried out for their better preservation on regular basis.