Shankaracharya is a detached ridge of igneous rock to the southeast of Srinagar, separated from the Shilamar Range by the Aita Gaj Gap. The summit of the hill is crowned with a picturesque edifice. This hill was called Jetha Larak and afterward, it was named Gopadari Hill. Some are of opinion that the temple at the top was originally built by King Sandiman (2629-2564 B.c.). There were 300 golden and silver images in it. About 1368 B.C. King Gopadittya founder of Gopkar repaired it and bestowed it to the Brahmans of Arya Varta, agrahars which he built on its top. King Sandimati (34 B.C.-A.D. 13) improved and added to the temple. Zain-Ul-Abdin (1421-1472 A.D.) repaired its roof which had tumbled down by an earthquake. Sheikh Ghulam Mohi-Din, a Sikh Governor (1841-46) also repaired its dome. Recently, the dome was repaired by Swami Shivratnanand saraswati at the request of a Nepali Sadhu who gave him financial aid.
The temple is under the control of the Dharmartha Department. They have built two small buildings for the sadhus who live there. There is at the place an old stone shed which is called ‘Parvatihund bana koth’ (the storehouse of goddess Parvati).
The present name owes its origin to the great philosopher Shankaracharya who visited the valley about ten centuries ago and lodged at the top of this hill, where it appears there were small sheds of Brahmans who looked after the temple. There is a small tank built of slabs of stone just behind the temple. In those days the Acharya or the Chief Preceptor or, in modern parlance, the Chancellor of the University of Srinagar was Swami Abinaugupth. A discussion took place between the two sages and according to the local tradition, Abinaugupth initiated Shankaracharya into the Shakti cult.
On the 20th April 1961, Shri Shankaracharya of Dwarika Pet installed the white marble statue of Adi Shankara just near the temple arranged by the Dharmartha Department.
A climb to the hill from the Mission Hospital (now Government Hospital for chest diseases) will take about 40 min. The path is a pony track. The descent towards the Gagribal spur is gentle. En route is the tomb of Mian Dullo who is said to have squandered away all the money which his father had given him to trade with. He was enamored of the charms of the Dal Lake which he selected as his favorite haunt for the gratification of his epicurean appetites.
The panoramic view of the valley in early April when the snow is deep on the mountains, or after rains on a summer day from the summit of the hill is one of the best that could ever be witnessed. The mountain ranges on the south, west, and north rise one above the other, and the peaks, varying in height from 13,000-15,500 ft., jut out like the teeth of a saw cutting through the sky. On the south lies the Banahal Pass (9,250 ft.) the chief highway to Jammu, and a number of other passes and depressions. The Brahma Shakri peaks, a group of grand cones viewed even from Lahore, the Aliabad Pass (11,44o ft.) leading to Gujrat, the Romesh Thong (Sunset) Peak, Tata Koti (15,540 ft.) guard the Chhoti Gali Pass (14,450 ft.) the highest in the range, come one after another. We now turn our eyes to the west where lies the vast plateau of Tosa Maidan, the paradise of sheep, and where the eye meets the depression of Ferozpor leading into Punch (Prunts) and Apharwat (13,542 ft.) giving shelter to Gulmarg and affording thrilling sport for the votaries of skiing in India.
Beyond the Baramula Pass, towards the northwest, the range is continued in Kaj Nag and Khagan mountain. In between the Tragbal (9,500 ft.) and Zoji La (10,500 ft.) appears the beautiful candy cone of Harmoukh (16,842 ft.) in the north, while the eastern range culminating in Mahadev (13,013 ft.) and Western peaks completes the enchanting circle. At the foot of these mountains lie the alluvial plateaus with rich yellow soil yielding maize and rice where water is available. The swamps, marshes, and lakes of the valleys stretch as far as the Wular Lake in the extreme north of the valley. The Baramula road bordered with poplars, the sinuous course of the Vetasta (Jhelum), cutting a clean almond called Shivapor Phur, the green house-tops now disappearing with the introduction of galvanized iron sheets for roofs, the minarets of churches and mosques, and the shining surface of the temples present a picturesque sight.
Turning now to the Dal lake we see the Moghul gardens of Nasim, Shalamar and Nishat densely shaded by the deep green foliage of Boin (Chinar) trees, the floating gardens, and the houses situated on the islands in the lake encompassed by poplars, willows and quince trees. The two expanses of deep blue water are separated by the causeway like two great eyes, each with its pupil of an island. The eastern shore is embellished by the magnificent Royal Palace with its crystal sheen, by newly laid gardens, and the boulevard skirting it. A part of the palace has been converted into a hotel with a superb view.
The Government has made the hill a resort and it is hoped that it will one day be clothed with dense herbage and trees Providing charming bowers for lovers. A number of paths have been marked out and platforms with suitable seats have been made for visitors. In fact, every effort is made to attract people to the hill.
In the olden days, a great festival used to be held by the Hindus on the other day of the lunar fortnight of Baisak which corresponds to March. Just above the Dal Gate, they would come in doonga’s to bathe. This was called Monda daham, probably in memory of the killing of the demon Mond by the goddess Sharika. But this festival has now been entirely forgotten as if nothing like it ever existed.