Heart break’s after seeing the ruins of this great temple which was also a great learning center of ancient times! But the message it delivers is absolutely awesome!
-‘But the future generation of kids on the LOC want this coliseum of learning to be the biggest possible because the influence of the Peeth spreads into POK also!’
-‘Far flung villages in Kashmir have a very simple and laid back lifestyle. Everyone knows what the day will bring to them. However, today was different in yet another far flung village along the Line of Control in Kupwara. Children of Kamkari village were about to witness events that would open their horizon and create an everlasting memory. In that, the Indian Army organized a cultural heritage event at Kamkari village for children of Government Upper Primary School, Kamkari. Four teachers and 60 students took part in the event. The day started with a hot cup of milk and breakfast for all children which was relished by all. Thereafter, the company commander gathered all the kids, gave them personalized Tracksuits, caps among other items and a bag to carry it all. He then briefed them about the rich Indian heritage of our ancient monuments.’ This was the prelude to the story (to the climax I would come later because this was a huge maximized knowledge storm’!
-‘Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler did not solve an old problem, they asked new questions, they too were kids once upon a time and in doing so (asking questions and formulating replies) they changed the whole basis on which the old questions had been framed. The children on the LOC are to reframe them’.
-‘These kids do not remember any political figures but they do remember familiar faces in camouflages who visit them with a smile on their face and perhaps a box of books with them! Suddenly it seems that the kids on the LOC have been possessed by the goddess of education and knowledge. They should be because they know the art of survival which they have learnt ever since they were born.
-‘We all know about Athena as she was the goddess of reason, wisdom, and war. She famously sprung fully formed from the forehead of Zeus, Minerva is presumed that her Roman name, Minerva, is based on this Etruscan mythology. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools, justice and commerce. She was the Etruscan counterpart to Greek Athena, in Indian we worship Saraswati the goddess with the Veena. Therefore never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play. This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors.’ The children on the LOC are all the way to become big ones!
-‘The story behind the foundation of the Sharada Peeth goes back to the time when the Kashmiri Pandits transformed their land of scenic beauty into an intellectual centre, known as Sharada Peeth or Sarvajna Peetha. Goddess Sharada was also referred to as Kashmira-Pura Vasini. The temple has been completely deserted since Partition in 1947. Travel restrictions on Indians also discouraged the devotees from visiting the shrine.
-‘Sharada’s story is that of a survivor. Devoid of devotees, the shrine in Sharda village stands tall. One of the accounts of construction of the temple says that it was built during the rule of Kushans (early 1st century). While many other accounts say that Buddhists had a strong involvement in the Sharda region, the researchers have not been able to find evidence to support the claim.’
-‘The temple has close resemblance with the Martand temple (a religious site in Anantnag) in architecture, design and construction style. A Case Study of Sharda Temple believes that Raja Lalitaditya had built the Sharada Peeth for containing the religious and political influence of Buddhism. The claim is supported by the fact that Lalitaditya was a master of building massive temples.’
-‘yet everything is very famous about this huge study center where once the children studied in the past and the times that have passed by but now many more want to if given a chance! But someone in modern day pantheons, the researchers of the unknown forgotten yet mysterious worlds are regular visitors here!’
-‘ Incidentally for the information of the readers there are fifty-one Shakti Peethas, one for each of the fifty-one alphabets in Sanskrit, and each one has shrines for Shakti and Kalabhairava. Sharada Peeth is one of the 18 Maha (great) Shakti Peethas, and is where Sati’s right hand is said to have fallen!
‘We all know about the Iliad by the great Greek known as Homer since it is he who is the one who is quoted in English Literature. One of his lines has been often quoted after his epic battle with Hector. Achilles defeated Hector but he had a vulnerability and that was in his heels (we also know about the Achilles Heel). Homer never described what happened to Achilles but in the later legends (and bits and pieces of Homer’s own Odyssey), the warrior returned to Troy after Hector’s funeral to exact further revenge but someone told Hector’s brother Paris that Achilles was coming. Paris, who was not a brave warrior, ambushed Achilles as he entered Troy. He shot his unsuspecting enemy with an arrow, which the Greek God Apollo guided to the one place he knew Achilles was vulnerable: his heel, where his mother’s hand had kept the waters of the Styx from touching his skin. Achilles died on the spot, still undefeated in battle. Now the interpretation is, ‘…in his wild grief Achilles cried aloud, and his mother Thetis heard him…Immediately she rose up through the water…after her came her sisters…and each one’s wailing was the thin sound of the wind upon the waves. They were the goddesses’ ! So wisdom and the virtues are not goddesses only given to the old and experienced but often it is our children that hear them most acutely.’ Stories are numerous but this is special.
I. Some unknown tales about the Sharda Peeth:
The story is great, full of mysterious facts which I have chronicles. There are many more which I would definitely knit for the eyes of our readers.
Sharada Peeth is a ruined Hindu temple and ancient centre of learning located in present-day POK,. Between the 6th and 12th centuries CE, it was among the most prominent temple universities in the Indian subcontinent. Known in particular for its library, stories recount scholars travelling long distances to access its texts.
The place played a key role in the development and popularization of the Sharada script in North India, causing the script to be named after it, and Kashmir to acquire the name Sharada Desh.
As one of the Maha Shakti Peethas, Hindus believe that it represents the spiritual location of the goddess Sati’s fallen right hand. Sharada Peeth is one of the three holiest sites of pilgrimage for Kashmiri Pandits, alongside the Martand Sun Temple and the Amarnath Temple.
It is situated along the Neelum River in the village of Sharda, in the valley of Mount Harmukh, believed by Kashmiri Pandits to be the abode of Shiva.
The earliest theory of its origins dates it to over 5,000 years in age, around the time of the earliest records of Neolithic sites in the flood plains of the Kashmir Valley. On this view, the site could not have been first constructed by the Indo-Aryan peoples, who are estimated to have arrived at the Ganges River around 1500 BCE.
More researched estimates suggest that it was built under the Kushan Empire (30 CE – 230 CE), and some others believe that its similarity to the Martand Sun Temple indicates that it was built by the Kashmiri king Lalitaditya (724 CE – 760 CE).
There is also a third school of thought that suggests it was built not at once, but in stages.
Although the Sharada script did not originate in Kashmir, it was used extensively in Sharada Peeth, and acquired its name from the institution. This has fed the popular belief that the script was developed in Kashmir.
The earliest reference to Sharada Peeth as a temple comes from the Nilamata Purana (6th – 8th century CE). It describes the confluence of two holy streams, where Sharada Peeth is located: the Madhumati (today known as the Neelum River or Kishanganga) and the Sandili (after the saint Sandilya, who is said to have built Sharada Peeth).
By the 8th century, the temple was a site of pilgrimage, attracting devotees from as far as present-day Bengal. By the 11th century, it was among the most revered places of worship in the Indian subcontinent, described in Al-Biruni’s chronicle of India.
Significantly, it featured not in his description of Kashmir, but in his list of the most famous Hindu temples in the Indian subcontinent, alongside the Multan Sun Temple, the Sthaneshwar Mahadev Temple, and the Somnath temple.
II. The legends are many:
Remember one thing because it has been told down the ages, you are being called to bear witness to your own joy, magic, and power. Will you heed your own call? People do and that is why this place is revered by one and all!
Reverence of Sharada Peeth extended to non-Hindus. The historian Jonaraja described a visit by the Kashmiri Muslim sultan Zain-ul-Abidin in 1422 CE. The sultan visited the temple seeking a vision of the goddess, but grew angry with her because she did not appear to him in person. In frustration, he slept in the court of the temple! But she did appear to him in his dream.
In the 16th century Abul-Fazl ibn Mubarak, Grand Wazir to the Mughal emperor Akbar, described Sharada Peeth as a stone temple … regarded with great veneration. He also described the popular belief in miracles at the shrine: his exact words were ‘it is believed that on every eighth tithe (date) of the bright half of the month, it begins to shake and produces the most extraordinary effect. Perhaps the energy which I talked about just above.
Another legend says that Rishi Shandilya was performing a grand Yajna in the Sharda area, involving the local people and hundreds of worthy priests. During the Yajna, a beautiful woman appeared, introducing herself as a Brahmini who wished to participate. She said that she and her companion had come a long way and asked for food. Shandilya welcomed her and told her that the rules of the Yajna forbade him from giving her the food: the Yajna had to be completed, and the Purohits fed first. The Brahmini grew angry and declared herself to be Vac (Vakh), the Vedic goddess and Divine Mother. She revealed to him that the Paramatman he worshipped was the essence of the goddess. In her anger, she transformed before him into the divine Neela (or blue) form of Saraswati, with ornaments, weapons, and clouds, and declared that she would absorb the world. In shock, remorse and fear, Shandilya collapsed and died. Seeing his remorse, the goddess had him revived with Amrita, the elixir of life, and transformed into a different, graceful form of Saraswati. Addressing him as son, she told him that she was pleased with his devotion and compassion and would grant him whatever he wished. Shandilya, addressing her as the Divine Mother, asked her to revive the dead and restore the village and forest. Saraswati did so, instructing him to build his ashram at the base of the hill near the Madhumati river (present-day Neelum River). She took her abode there at Sharada Peeth.
But legends have contradictions too. One account says that Shandilya prayed to the goddess Sharada with great devotion, and was rewarded when she appeared to him and promised to show him her real, divine form. She advised him to look for the Sharada forest, and his journey was filled with miraculous experiences. On his way, he had a vision of the god Ganesha on the eastern side of a hill. When he reached the Neelum river, he bathed in it and saw half his body turn golden. Eventually, the goddess revealed herself to him in her triple form of Sharada, Saraswati and Vagdevi, and invited him to her abode. As he was preparing for a ritual, he drew water from the Mahasindhur. Half of this water transformed into honey, and became a stream, now known as the Madhumati stream.
Yet another legend says that during a fight between good and evil, the goddess Sharada saved a mythical container of knowledge and hid it in a hole in the ground. She then transformed into a structure to protect this container. This structure is now Sharada Peeth.
There are two more popular legends explaining Sharada Peeth. The first says that there were two sisters, Sharada and Narada, who ruled the world. The two mountains overlooking the valley, Shardi and Nardi, are named after them. One day, Narada saw, from her abode on the mountain, that Sharada had died, and that giants were fleeing from her body. Furious, she summoned them and ordered them to build her a tomb, which became Sharada Peeth.
The second legend says that there once was a giant who loved a princess. She desired a palace, and so he began work. At the time of morning azan, he was supposed to have finished, but the roof remained incomplete and for that reason, Sharada Peeth today remains without a roof.
During Mughal and Afghan rule, Neelum Valley was ruled by Muslim chiefs of the Bomba tribe, and the pilgrimage decreased in importance. It regained its stead during Dogra rule, when Maharaja Gulab Singh repaired the temple and dedicated a monthly stipend to the Gautheng Brahmans who claimed the hereditary guardianship of the temple. Since then, a thriving Kashmiri Pandit community lived in the vicinity of the Sharada Peeth teerth (or pilgrimage). These included priests and traders, as well as saints and their disciples.
In 1947, the Kashmiri saint Swami Nand Lal Ji moved some of the stone idols to Tikker in Kupwara. Some of those were subsequently moved to Devibal in Baramulla. The temple fell into disuse following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948, which split the princely state of Kashmir into the Pakistani-administered territory of Azad Kashmir, and the Indian-administered territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
III. The big role in Kashmiri Pandit culture:
‘She is a Goddess Initiation of prosperity, and Joy’!
The Sharada temple has played a significant historical role in Kashmiri Pandit religious culture. It is believed to be the earliest shrine dedicated to Shaktism, or Hindu goddess worship in Kashmir, with later shrines including the Kheer Bhawani and Vaishno Devi temples. It also advanced the importance of knowledge and education in Kashmiri Pandit culture, which persisted well after Kashmiri Pandits became a minority group in Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits believe that the goddess Sharada worshipped in Sharada Peeth is a tripartite embodiment of the goddess Shakti: Sharada (goddess of learning), Saraswati (goddess of knowledge), and Vagdevi (goddess of speech, which articulates power).
IV. The big fair conducted by the Indian Army:
I told you in the very beginning that I would come to the climax of this glorious story later as to what the Indian Army did. No one else could have by they way!
Amongst the various ancient monuments in Kashmir, one is ‘Sharada Peeth’, a temple that was a place for worship and learning a few decades back. It is presently in Sharada village in Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) 10 km from Line of Control opposite Kamkari Village along the river Kishanganga.
The children were mesmerized after knowing the historical facts of a place which has been visited by their forefathers not long ago. The movie on Sharda Peeth generated more interest among the young minds. After learning about their culture, the kids were taken on a small trek wherein, they discussed more about the history and culture of this beautiful place while munching on the snacks.
On reaching the destination, all kids participated in a painting competition and showcased their talent with colours on a blank canvas. Their imagination and talent left everyone spell bound.
The day ended with hot food and a screening of the latest Bollywood movie ‘Shershah’. As the day came to a close, the kids retired to their homes with fond memories of a day well spent. The day was beautifully captured by the Company commander in his camera and he found just the right way of keeping it alive in the memories of these young minds by gifting them with the collage of the events that happened during the day the day.
Success of the event was well gauged from the smiles and joy which was on the faces of these kids. It is yet another initiative to build ‘Naya Kashmir’ by strengthening the unbreakable bond between Jawan and Awam and developing the young minds of India.
This was absolutely brilliant and immensely intriguing. The message to the budding kids from forlorn places in wilderness was great and it was, the holy grail is you little ones. You thought yourself to be rejected, lost at the crossroads of fate and free will. You were treated like a stranger. But you were home all along. Tomorrow you would be a blessing for the Nation courtesy the power of the Goddess!