The over 600 year old temple at Shital Nath Ashram Sabha in the heart of J&K's capital city Srinagar is not just a place of worship, it is the symbol of Kashmir's socio-cultural history with an intellectual import far beyond religious and political loyalties.Burnt down by miscreants during the peak of violence in the Valley in early 1990s, thanks to the efforts of its present caretakers, the temple complex came to life after 31 years in 2020."Shivratri, Janmashtami and the traditional Navreh festival were celebrated after a hiatus of 31 years and the devotees again came in dozens to pay their obeisance at the temple."With the help of the local administration, we have been able to rebuild the damaged complex wall. The over 600 year old temple inside the Shital Nath Ashram Sabha complex is being restored to its past glory."The restoration of the main temple is a huge task since it has to be restored as a heritage site without compromising on its historical fundamentals."We plan to construct a Yatri Niwas and a martyrs memorial at the complex so that the future generations of Kashmir do not lose connect with their past", said Ashish Kaul, the administrator of the Sabha.A Pujari has now been engaged who performs the daily 'Aarti' at the temple."Situated in the heart of Srinagar city, the complex is a major tourist attraction.
"Last year, nearly 20,000 tourists from different parts of the country visited the complex."The school inside the complex had been occupied by encroachers. Thanks to the local administration, the encroachers have been evicted," Kaul said.A peep into the history of this complex and you realise that the place has been a major hub of Kashmir's socio-political life with an intellectual import that transcends religious borders."Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Vir Sawarkar and others came to galvanise the freedom struggle through their addresses from the Shital Nath complex before 1947."When late Sheikh Abdullah appealed for joint resistance to the tribal invasion in 1947, men and women from both communities took up weapons of whatever kind they could lay their hands on, at the temple complex to preserve the land of Sufis and saints from the tribal invasion", Kaul said.Distinguished local Pandits like Kashyap Bandhu, Pandit Shiv Narain Fotedar, Justice Jia Lal Kilam and many others have been closely associated with the Shital Nath spirit which directed the course of history for the Pandit community for centuries.It was at this historic temple complex that Sanatan Dharam Yuvraj Sabha was formed.In 1935, Pandit Shiv Narain Fotedar as the president of the Sabha was sent by the local Pandit community to meet Indian leaders like Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, Raja Narendra Nath Raina and Dr. Monje, etc.Kaul firmly believes that the restoration of the Shital Nath Ashram Sabha will play a major role in ushering permanent peace in the beleaguered Valley.