Katyuri and Chand of Kumaon
By Nitin Chandola
Katyuri Dynasty is said to be the foremost among the rulers in Uttarakhand who established the civilization in Katyur, Baijnath. This civilization was not only prosperous in culture but also by their intelligence. The inspiring architecture of Baijnath, Jageshwar, Kandolia in Pauri and Katarmal Sun Temple are among the precious architectural science used by Katyuri reign. Though there were many dynasties like Shaks, Pals, and Chand, Katyuri were among the moist influential kingdoms in Kumaon. The word “Kurmanchal” was given by the Katyuri Kingdom, which later was derived as Kumaon by localities. Katyurs were believed to be the rulers of Kabul in Afghanistan, which later invaded Kashmir, Himachal, and Uttarakhand. According to Badri Dutt Pandey (Veteran Journalist in the 1940’s), Katyuris were the residents of Ayodhya and Suryavanshis.
Most of the developments have shown Katyuri were linked with Kabul, Afghanistan because Gandhar (Khandar) in Afghanistan has ruins available of temples with similar architecture as of Jageshwar and Baijnath. Hence, we will be referencing Katyuri as the natives of Kabul and Kandahar in this column. The work done by Katyuri in establishing Kumaon as the cultural hub of Uttarakhand is among the milestones. Most of the temples in Uttrakhand which includes Badrinath was designed and developed by Katyuri dynasty. Katyurs were influenced by Adi Shankaracharya’s perspective of Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism. Hence, following his writings like Brahma Sutras and Vivekachudamani, Katyuri developed the art of inscribing their beliefs and mythologies on Slate stones, which were mostly available in the temples of Nanda Devi and another temple of goddesses. Most of the natives of Baijnath and Jageshwar claims that Katyuri constructed these marvelous temples of Jageshwar and Baijnath in a single day. As the day ends, the Shilpkaars (artists) leave the half made temples. Katyur was the capital of Kumaon, which was established by Katyuri kings, the valley of Katyur was established in the valley between Kausani and Bageshwar which is now known as Garud. Later dynasties renamed Katyur as Baijnath on the reincarnation of Shiva as Lord Baidyanath.
Baijnath was established near the Gomti river of Bageshwar. Hence, there was no problem regarding water availability and Sanitation. The sculpture in Baijnath, Kedarnath, and Jageshwar are similar to each other and hence considerate to be inspired by the same architectural philosophy. To carve and store such large amount of slate stones the availability of inventory cannot be denied. There is similarity is seen across the Kumaon and some part of Garhwal in which the temples built by Katyuri and Chands were treated. The temple of main or the central god was provided by the wooden crown called (chatra) made of Pine wood whereas, other temple’s tomb was kept open to stone made throne. The temples in Jageshwar have two main temples i.e Jyotirling and Mahamritunjay. This must be because both temples represents Shiva and creating the superiority on any one incarnation was not in the practice. In the same context, Katyuri were also intuitional in the representation of their spirituality. In Jageshwar, all the deities i.e Saraswati is represented in form of Shivlinga. The temples easily depict that there was no concept of Hanuman in Katyuri’s reign. After an Archaeological survey of India handed the Jageshwar to Bhatt priests in Jageshwar valley, the changes were done with respect to the worship done in the group of temples.
The Nanda Devi temple and Someshwar temple in Almora was built by Chand Dynasty but their architectural similarities to Katyuri dynasty shows that the somewhere the architectural methods was influenced and the only difference that can be found is that the Chands sculpted the Murlas of Kamasutra and the mythologies related to Shiv and Sati was depicted on the outer structures of the temple. The intimate side of Hinduism can be seen on these walls where no boundation to carve the most taboo topics of our society. Chands were known for praying Mahesh and Parvati in different forms. The Someshwar temple in Someshshwar valley of Almora is the key depiction of shivlinga where the Chand artists established Shiva in slate rocks.
There are many facts and myths related to the singular temples built in between of farm lands of Someshwar valley. Kumaon may have been known for the presence of temples at every edge of the inner Himalayas, but the temples of Katyuri and Chands are the center of attraction and contains a sense of purity in it. The art and methodology used in the temples of Katyuri and Chands are somewhere similar to the ancient temples present in Himachal also. Though cut off by the culture of Jaunsaar of Chakrata- Kalsi region, Himachal shows the instincts of Katyur and Chands as most of the architectural similarities and beliefs are resembles by simply observing these engineered structures. But what makes the myths related to Katyuri and Chands of Kumaon most versatile is how this civilisation was imparted by the sense of exorcism by the help of Jagars and how these supernatural thinking of a creed lead to the present state of Uttarakhand.
Mythological aspects of Katyuri and Chands included the important role of Flora and Fauna. Be it the temple of Baijnath, Badrinath, Jageshwar or someshwar, rivers were always the integral part of establishing a spiritual setup. The availability of water and sense of ecological balance were among the most admired aspects of Katyuri reign. The Machined quality of rocks used in building temples and the houses without any use of binders and mixtures are the perfect example to make a habitat spiritual and soothing. The prayers done in sacred grooves of Baijnath and Kandoliya in Pauri is one of the best examples of how Uttarakhand grew I form of a better cultural currency in north India. The native still believes the myths of Katyuri and Chands, though which ever creed they belonged too. The Shuryavanshis pray in the temple of Chands, the priests like Bhatt and Goswami (which belongs to the complete different Varnas of Hinduism) prays in most auspicious temples in the history of Kumaon.
The hidden treasures in Kumaon and Garhwal is not limited to Katyuri and Chands but to an extent, these dynasties played a most important role in defining the cultural pathway of Devbhoomi.