Pattan is a town in Baramulla district of Kashmir but it is also near the border of Budgam and Ganderbal districts. Pattan is one of the historical cities of Kashmir, right in the heart of the valley. This small town is located on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road and it is some 27 km north of Srinagar at an elevation of 1553 meters.
This historical town is considered to have been established by the famous Hindu king Shankarvarman, son of Awantivarman of Utpala dynasty, in the 9th century AD. As per Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, Shankarvarman built a town named Pattana and made his minister Sukharaja’s nephew (sister’s son) lord of Dvara, but that man lost his life at Biranaka through his own carelessness. This incensed the king, and he marched upon and devastated the town of Biranaka , after which he entered Uttarapatha and later conquered many kingdoms on the banks of the Indus.
In Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, Pattan is written as Shankarpora Pattan. Pandits write it as ‘Pathan’, ‘The Path’, as it falls on the important route to Baramulla. However, in Indian history’s glossary, Pattan is a suffix that denotes a town. During ancient times Pattan was a business center for wool, livestock and grains. Kalhana also mentioned about Shankarvarman that just like bad poets steals matter from other poets, a bad king plunders other cities. Shankarvarman plundered the nearby Buddhist site of Parihaspura to build his new town. Parihaspura was founded by Lalitaditya Muktapida (697-734 AD) of Karkota dynasty.
Shankarvarman had built two temples at Pattan town dedicated to Shiva. He named one of the temples after his wife, Sugandha, as Sugandhesa and the other temple was named as Shankargaurishwar. The stones of these two temples came from ruins of Parihaspura. It was the evil deed of the king that probably led people to forget the real name of this town and instead call it simply as Pattan. To the north of these two temples was a lake known as “PumpeSar” (Lotus Lake), where now stands a residential area.
Pattan town has seen its ups and downs over a long period of time. From a once flourishing city of a Hindu kingdom and the hub of religious, trade and commercial activities, to a major apple producing region of north Kashmir at present. However, people of this town never had an easy life. The demography of the town changed as was the case with rest of Kashmir. Arrival of Muslim rule in valley led to atrocities on Kashmiri Pandits and destruction of old religious sites, including the temples in Pattan, along with its rich past. The agony of the people did not stop here and even after years of Muslim and Sikh rule in Kashmir, little changed for a common Kashmiri.
Abdul Hameed (name changed), a resident of Pattan, even though his memory is fading, recalls how in 1948 raiders from newly formed Pakistan stormed into his village and looted whatever they can. Recalling events of that ‘Black Day’, when Pakistani raiders destroyed his hometown, his eyes become filled with tears. He explains how raiders came and looted everything from silver and gold to expensive artifacts and utensils in the houses. “They burnt the houses and killed people who resisted. Raiders did not even spare women folk of the town and they were raped and killed,” says Abdul Hameed. These Pakistani raiders were advancing along axes Muzaffarabad-Baramulla-Pattan-Srinagar and looting all the towns/ villages which were falling on their route. Pattan was one of them.
Pattan has recovered from its difficult past and is now on the path to prosperity. It is a major apple producing region and infrastructure development is visible everywhere. It falls on the Srinagar-Baramulla rail link and has the potential to become a major town in north Kashmir on the lines of Sopore and Baramulla.
History helps us develop a better understanding of a place. One can’t build a framework on which to base one’s life without understanding how things worked in the past. History paints us a detailed picture of how society, technology, and government worked in the past, so that we can better understand how it works now. Whatever Pattan has seen over the years cannot be forgotten. The atrocities on its people and historical sites give us a lesson for the future. These historical monuments should not only be protected but they should be maintained for future generations. As the Kashmir region steps into an era of normalcy, it would be worthwhile to resurrect this rich heritage of Pattan town that has significance not only for cultural identity of people but also is an example of religious coexistence for the whole world.
—Views expressed are the writer’s and not Kashmir Reader’s.