Shrine of Sharada, Crest jewel of Kashmir, the crown of Bharat

published on October 27, 2013

Though in recent times the Shrine of Sharada of Kashmir is almost unknown to the people of Bharat in general, it has been one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Kashmirfrom times immemorial. M.A. Stein in his English translation of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini has recorded that the Shrine of Sharada was the most important and sacred place of pilgrimage in Kashmir. This information was secured by M.A. Stein, who was a Hungarian-British archaeologist primarily known for his explorations and archaeological discoveries in Central Asia, in the course of the search made by him in 1892. He has authored three volumes of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini in English which is a chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir. The first edition of this was published in 1900. By writing this book, M.A. Stein has rendered everlasting service to our Nation. This Article is based on and inspired by his book and in particular his Note B-137 titled “SHRINE OF SHARADA” incorporated at pages 279 to 289 of the Second volume of his Magnum Opus.

He has pointed out that according to Kalhana, the author of Rajatarangini in Samskrit, the Shrine of Sharada was in the close proximity to Sirahsila Castle. Though finding of exact location of Shrine of Sharada was difficult, M.A. Stein made herculean efforts and was able to find out the location by following various indications gathered from the general description of the locality in Kalhana’s Rajatarangini. Kashmir has been known as abode of Sharada from times immemorial. It should be pointed out that in all parts of Bharat, including the southernmost part of Bharat, Sharada is being worshipped as the most popular Goddess of knowledge. This is evidenced from the following Samskrit verse which is being recited every day by all devout Hindus in all parts of Bharat more particularly in educational institutions and Samskrita Patha Shalas:

“Namastey Shaaradaadevi Kashmirapuravaasini,
Twaamaham Praarthaye Nityam Vidyaam Buddhim Cha Dehi Mme!”

On the occasion of my ‘vidyaramba samskara’ at the age of three, my father recited the aforesaid samskrit verse and I was asked to learn it by heart which I did. After I learnt writing Kannada language, it has been the practice to write this verse on the ‘Saraswati Pooja or Vijayadashami festival during Dasara and place it at the feet of Sharada idol and pray for blessings to confer knowledge. Thus, for Hindus, Kashmir has been an inseparable part of Bharat.

In his notes, in Volume-2 of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini vide Note – 37, M.A. Stein has given an elaborate account about his search and finding out the location of Shrine of Sharada. He says Sharada is also known as Saraswathi and Vagdevi which is true even to this day in all parts of Bharat. The author quotes the information furnished by Chandra Pandit about the people in the neighbouring districts who still perform pilgrimage to Shrine of Sharada.

The author has recorded that the route reaching the Shrine of Sharada is a very difficult one. One has to go thorough the Kisanganga Valley. The pilgrims used to start pilgrimage on the fourth day of Bhadrapada by bathing in a rivulet instead of visiting its source at Kisanganga. By travelling on this route, they were reaching Tejavana which would take about four days. On the way there is a place called Ganesagiri mentioned in Mahatmya. After travelling further, ancient temple of Sharada comes conspicuously into view. The author says he was able to cross the river by means of raft fastened to a twig rope, and thus to avoid the long and somewhat dangerous rope bridge which when the water is high, forms the only means of passage.

M.A. Stein describes that the shrine of Sharada rises in a prominent and commanding position above the right bank of the Madhumati. There on a small sandy beach the pilgrims perform ‘Shraddha’ and give ‘tarpana’ to the deceased ancestors. The height of the staircase forms the approach to the temple from the West, where an extensive view opens.

The ruins which mark the ancient shrine of Sharada has a few description as the only account he was able to trace and which is also recorded in Gazette of Kashmir. The temple is approached from the lower slope of the hill in the west by an imposing stone staircase. The entrance is through a gateway provided with the usual double porch ofKashmir architecture. The temple which occupies the centre of the quadrangle, forms a square cella conforming in plan and elevation to the usual features of Kashmiri architecture.

According to the author, at the time of his visit, a red cloth canopy with plenty of tinsel surmounted the sacred spot. Conches, bells and other implements of worship filled the remainder of the interior spaces. The author remembers that it is evident that a shrine erected at a site so popular and renowned from early times would be sure of continued attention and hence there has been repeated restorations. He further states that the solidity of construction and massiveness of material surpasses in its present state of preservation many of the most famous monuments of Kashmir architecture, seems to indicate a comparatively later date.

According to Chandra Pandit’s relation, who gave the description to M.A. Stein, the temple had been almost deserted during the time preceding the Sikh invasion, when the Mohammadan Rajas ruled as practically independent chiefs in the Kisanganga Valley. The temple was subsequently repaired by Maharaja Gulab Singh.

The author states that according to the information given by Chandra Pandit, the pilgrimage to the shrine takes place regularly in the bright half of the month of Bhadrapada. The pilgrims start their journey on the 4th day of Bhadrapada and perform the visit to the Saradakunda and perform the Sraddhas. The author further says that whatever be the historic value of the story related may be, it is clear that the particular reference to Sharada could not have been introduced if it had not been known that the fame of Sharada had spread even to far off regions.

These facts are also reported by Alberuni who had heard of Shrine of Sharada during his stay in Punjab. Alberuni speaks of the wooden idol of Sharada and that it was much venerated and frequented by pilgrims. He describes its position accurately enough as being “in inner Kashmir, about two or three days journey from the capital in the direction towards the mountains of Bolor”. Alberuni mentions Sharada not in his description of Kashmir but in his account of the most famous idols of the Hindus, immediately after the image of the Sun God at Multan, the Vishnu Cakrasvamin of Thaneshwar and the Linga of Somanath.

The author adds that Prof. Buhler was undoubtedly right when he treated the statement of the Prabhavakacarita that all manuscripts had come from the temple ofSaraswathi in Kashimr. The Temple of Saraswathi means the shrine of Sharada, the two names being ordinarily considered designations of the identical deity. Reference to the Sharada temple is of interest because it leads us to the probable reason for the far spread renown of this particular Thirtha. Kashmir has claimed from early times to be the land beloved by Saraswathi – Sharada and such designations as Sharadapeetha, Sharadamandala etc, have been and are still in common use.

In addition, Shankaracharya had visited Kashmir and had received the honour of ascending the Sarvajna Peetha. There is a Hill in the vicinity of Srinagar named after him and Amarnath as also Vaishno Devi which attract thousands of pilgrims every year together prove that Kashmir is an inseparable part of Bharat, the land created by God.

I have ascertained from Dr. Karan Singh, my colleague in Rajya Sabha that at present it is located in Pak occupied Kashmir. S.M. Krishna, ex-minister of External Affairs in his speech while inaugurating ‘KASHMIRI BHAVAN’ in the city of Bangalore,on Sunday, the 6th October 2013 has rightly stated that India should take back that area which is part and parcel of Bharat in terms of the resolution passed by the Parliament.

Thus, Sharada Shrine has been the crest jewel of Kashmir, the crown of Bharat and it should be rebuilt as a grand temple to remind the Nation of its past glory.

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