S H A R D A
Historically, among Shakhti peethes found in India ie kashi, kanoj, shringri, Avantica etc, Sharda of Kashmir is also accepted as one of which in lurical meaning, a place or seat of learning, or origin of speech. Literary also, the word Sharda means the goddess of learning, speech or eloquence. That is why a boy entering in the second stage of his life is imparted a lesson of Vedas in the sharda script after his in vesture with the sacred thread, the practice of which is still common among the kashmiri Hindus or Swarsat Brahmins of the valley of Kashmir till date. Sharda is called wisdom or learning and worshipped by kashmiris in the form of Sati or Parvati and Durga or Swaraswati. That is why the whole valley of Kashmir is being called SHARDA-PEETH or the seat of learning from time-immemorial. In Hindu mythology Parvati is an another form of Durga or Kali and in Durga-Saptshati, it has been revealed that Durga is actually Parvati as wisdom as Swarsati or Sharada, the highest knowledge exalted speech Bharti. She is the orgin of expression, goddess of wisdom, bestower of desires, essence of Vedas and controller of intellect. The goddess grants the wishes of her devotees on account of being most benign and beautiful. According to Rigveda, Ida, Swaraswati and Mahi pervades the universe Sharda is the same pattern which is hidden to human eyes. This example is found under the roof of a Mosque in Srinagar[Kashmir] which was at one time a magnificent kali temple of 14th century but was converted into Mosque by Shah Hamdan. According to Nilmatpurana Sharda affirm the true spirit of worship or in other words, she favours the aspirant with the five fold stages of knowledge relating to generation, increase, activity, change and destruction till the soul attains psychic energy which pervades the earth, heaven and the inner space. The most renowned scholar of the west Prof. Max Mullar says in his Six Systems of Indian Philosophy that the identity of knowledge is established by the logical method of argument and Vedas and reasoning.
The valley of Kashmir has the fortune of being the seat of Sharda, the goddess of learning and that is why in our old scriptures, available here and there, it has been called Sharda-Desha or Sharda-peetha. It has given birth to so many intellectuals, knowledgeable persons, grammarians, historians, Astrologers Linguistics Translators, and the authors of different subjects and different philosophies. Not only that, kashmiris have produced different schools of Fine Arts like Music, Painting, Dance, Sculpture, Architecture etc from time to time which has an indigenous color and without having any influence of the particular arts prevalent in the plains and it is due to this fact that intellectuals and artists have been coming here from time to time with this curiosity to know what new has come up in these fields. In British rule, the English scholars came here one after another to know about this seat of learning and whatever they got here in any particular field was exhibited in the scientific way for which they followed Sanskrit or Sharda script. Such examples are enormous and to give these name here will serve no purpose because everybody of us know about these in detail. This has not happened once but the process is continued from time-immemorial. Why not? Kashmir is sharda and sharda is Kashmir.
The epithet of Sharda or the goddess of learning on the crown of India is its main identification and relevance on the map of world. but where is abode of sharda in the form of deity here and why has she been ignored by the devotees for the last sixty years when the common people adore and remember her. This is only due to the fact that unfortunate partition of our state has made her aloof in the hearts of people living in this side of state when her actual dwelling place fall on the other side in abandoned ruins without having any Hindu population around it and without any look after of so called government of Azad-kashmir. It is due to the present CBMs between the two governments of India and Pakistan that a ray of hope has emerged in the hearts of devotees of Sharda that they can be allowed to its site by crossing LOC and see the deplorable condition of this special tirtha of Kashmir and then decide how to renovate it. Unfortunately, that time has not come upto this date when the devotees are eagerly waiting for it.
Sharda is an important tirtha of the Hindus of Kashmir-= an old place of pilgrimage located in west of undivided Kashmir near keran at a hillock across krishan-Ganga river. On the bank of Madhumati which joins krishan Ganga lies the temple of this goddess of learning which according to Stein, has much in common of Kapteshwar temple of Kashmir. It commands a penaromic view. There is a spring around the temple of this goddess, covered with tiles and water gushes out from one of its sides.The shrine is hexa-angular The fact behind it is that sharda has according to sharda Mahatmya sangraha and Brigesh=samhita six external qualities ie, omniscience, completeness, consciousness, freedom, omnipatience and boundlessness. It bestow mercy on vatris. An engraved image of Swaraswati or the goddess of learning on a black stone lies in front of spring. Even upto the partition there were spacious halls housing the valuable books in sharda which are said, might have been burnt or destroyed by the raiders and according to some eye-witnesses, nothing old is visible here except the ruins of temple. But sharda has a magnificient past. It is a historical record that when Buddism was on peak in Kashmir, Ashoka was the first king who laid a foundation stone of a learning centre or University here for the propagation of Buddism which allowed the Chinese scholars to come to Kashmir on this way to India. No traces of this University are available and it is also said that due to the decline of Buddism here, he might have shifted the scene of this university from Kashmir to Nalinda which later rose to fame. Actually this site has come in forefront in the reign of king Lalitadityas time when Buddism had completely declined here and Hinduism came in forefront again with new ideas, new principles and with new reformation. We have the actual information of sharda from this rular about which it is clear that he was brave, lover of learning and other Fine Arts and he is the same ruler who has invited thousands of Artists from the plains and settled here permanently who later on, gave indigenous color to these Arts This seat of learning has become famous as a University in the reign of Lalitaditya only when Degrees and Honours were conferred to candidates for their valuable scriptures. A day in a year was called Convocation which was distinctly known as GURU-TRITYA falling in the month of January, an important day of kashmiri Brahmins. On this day Priest of the family distributes a certificate to the boys and newly weds with the beautiful paintings of goddess Gauri with hymns written in sharda script The meaning of these hymns is that everybody in this Desha or country should get the good wishes of the goddess of learning or in other words we may say that everybody in this valley should be literate, wise and gentle. Firstly these certificates were conferred by this institution and delivered by Priests to his yajmans. This day has two meanings. Firstly, Gor-Trai is called certificate which is being delivered by priest.Actually, in kashmiri Gor is called to Priest which is the corruption of Guru. Secondly this is called Gor-Trai or certificate conferred by Gauri or Swarasti herself through high profile priest who is called Gor or Guru in kashmiri. Priest is given cash and kind on this day and honored and revered gladly. This function cum ritual is confined to kashmiri Brahmins only and has nothing to do with the people living in plains where also we find certain sharda temples in many places especially in west Bengal and some southern states in India.
As already mentioned sharda tirtha has come in the forefront in the reign of king Lalitaditya when it was a Buddist cultural centre at the time of Ashoka and Kanishaka and Mahayan Buddism was preached by the Budhist monks but they surely made it learning centre and did not give any importance to it or in other words we can say that the common people knew a little about it. But Lalitaditya made it full fledged centre of the sub-continent. It is recorded by Kalhan that there used to be a University or a learning centre of high profile for imparting lessons of Sanskrit literature besides Vedic source of knowledge. It was also in the time of Lalitaditya that a king of Bengal came here just to pay obeisance to sharda. But his intentions were not clear. Actually he had come to avenge the killing of his predessor by Lalitaditya in his mission to take control of Bengal.But the Bengal king did not remain successful in his plot. Later, after going back he decicreated the pious idols of Parihaspur keshav and Vishnu. Alberuni,after a through survey of shrine of sharda has said in Kitab-ul-Hind that this is just like the the shrine found in Multan. Bilhan has also made mention of this learning centre. Badshah has also made a short visit of this learning centre in the preliminary period of his rule over Kashmir. In 16th century Abu-Fazal says that a learning centre of all walks of life is sharda found in Kashmir and according to him there was a big compound in which three storeyed building was visible when Bates have come here in 19th century. This whole area was 63 steps high from krishana Ganga side which is called Neelam valley.
Dr Max Mullar remarks about sharda peeth that it was a renowned constitution in India. People from far and near joined the classes in six systems of Indian philosophy. Here it becomes necessary to mention about the incident which has happened in 13th century when Ramanuja, a philosopher of Vedanta had paid visit to sharda shrine from Kerala. After going through all the manuscripts here, he succeeded in taking one of these from the library attached to the shrine and returned to his homeland. But it was due to the strict vigil of guards of this learning complex, he was caught near kohala bridge and the manuscript was recovered from him immediately. This shows how much importance was given to this learning centre by the intellectuals and readers at that time. But it is unfortunate for us that knowing the importance of this learning centre of Hindus , which was considered the only one in sub-continent, Muslim rulers got control of it in the ist phase and then closed it by and by through force in the same way as these were able to convert Hindus into Muslims. In 1947, it has fallen on the side of POK or Pak occupied Kashmir. It is said that in the pre-partition days this whole site was guarded by Maharajas Army in order to maintain its sanctlty. But the Pakistan Army sponsored raiders attack on Kashmir in Nov 1948 and the treasures like books, manuscripts and other literature lying here preserved upto that date has been destroyed and burnt and the shrine turned into ruins about which nobody from this side of Kashmir, especially state and central government took any initiative with newly emerged Pak government about the renovation of temple sothat its ruins may get safeguarded for further destruction. Secondly Dogra government in its one hundred rules over the valley of Kashmir could not preserve masterpiece manuscripts and books in sharda which were in the strong rooms of complex for centuries. Knowing the fact that there is five percent presence of devotees to this shrine physically, this government would have shifted all the precious books and manuscripts to the jammu and Kashmir Archives for safety. If this would have been so done that would have joined more feathers to the actual facts of the pre-historic period of jammu and Kashmir. This is really a great blunder. The people of this state are equally responsible for it. This is not the first and last case in this regard. Even there are so many manuscripts, books, idols, coins, paintings etc in preservation of people but they do not give or show these to anyone. Due to migration and destruction of so many pandit houses in the valley, these valuables have been burnt and destroyed but it has been learnt that one percent of these is under preservation in the houses of those Muslims who are well-read. In Pakistan also we find the same case. There are so many temples without care. It has thrown a black mark on the culture of Hindus and time has come that we all should get united and raise our voice for safeguard and up-keep of our temples and religious places of prominence which fall in the newly emerged country Pakistan in the same way as our Sikh brethren look after their religious places and Gurdwaras here. The shrine of sharda which has a great affinity with the culture of kashmiri Brahmins needs attention of Pak government and we should make steps to take it on the pattern of past glory in such a way so that scholars of adjoining areas may come here again as before for achieving knowledge and wisdom on the modern scientific lines. Concrete steps should be taken to impart higher education in every field and in every language to every student, irrespective of caste, creed and religion from this centuries old learning centre or sharda which has remained centre of different philosophies, languages and above all this is the centre where masters of the time have developed a new script which is called on the name of this learning institution as sharda which is an independent script and has been derived from Brahmi and the same has originated from this place.
The sharda Alphabets are given inscribed on a slate outside the shrine, It will be seen that most of its Alphabets are in Devnagri which is manifest from the recession of language. This was used in Kashmir from Ashokas time to king Lalitadityas period as Buddism declined later on, This script was used by the kashmiris even upto Muslim period. Kalhan has written Rajtarangni in Sanskrit but in sharda script. In certain old graveyards found in Kashmir, we find the name of deceased on the tomb of grave in sharda script. The tombs of early kings of Muslim rulers falls in the same category. Even our Horoscopes are written in sharda by the kashmiri Astrologers with beautiful paintings of deities. The main script of our language kashmiri was sharda and some vakhs sung by kashmiri saint poetess Lalded have been found in sharda. Not only that, some of our old manuscripts have been written in sharda which are under preserve these days. The holy pond of Maharagya at Tullamula, the famous shrine of Hindus in northern India is in the form of OM written in sharda.
The oldest book written in sharda is Kalp or a Digest of Sanskrit Grammer giving a complete description of eight parts of speech which is called Ashtya-Adiyaya on the pattern of Paninis Grammer compiled by him in 400BC,This shows the importance of this script introduced by kashmiri pundits in certain fields to valley of Kashmir. But due to the coming of Islam, court language changed here from time to time with the result, readers showed little interest in sharda. Firstly Persian then Urdu and now English , sharda is not in use now otherwise we have store house of information regarding our ancient old cultural History and other fields available in sharda but times have changed and the present situation is that nobody except one percent of priest class know the Alphabets of this script where as of other regional languages, the script is intact and in complete use except in court. Our main indigenous Shavite philosophy which is called Kashmir-shaivism of 9th century and which is considered the Science of humanism and compassion, has been basically developed or originated in sharda. This philosophy has three divisions namely AGMA or revelation SPANDA or pulsation and PRITIBJINA or recognition to main universe and controller. Now these manuscripts of shaivism has been transcribed into Sanskrit and even in English but their sharda form is under preserve in Archives.Need of the hour is that Archives should be involved to collect some of the manuscripts or books written in sharda which have been left behind by well read kashmiri pundits for the last twenty years during their migration to plains.
Sharda was not the learning centre of kashmiri Hindus only but it had secular importance also.Apart from Hindus , Muslim and Sikh mystics were coming here for exchange of thoughts on different subjects particularly on religion. Muslim mystics were appreciating the path of constant awareness as propounded by kashmiri shavite philosophers. Not only that, so many saints pirs, and Faqirs have been impressed from time to time by the extra-ordinary benevolence of this diety of Kashmir and have used to stay here for meditation on the bank of sharda pond which was also used to perform the ritual of Pind-dan on luner ashtami of Badra, also known the day of Pitra-shrada in Kashmir.On this day so many devotees were coming here for the darshan of deity even those days when the easy transport was not available. People were coming here on foot, Carts, tongas and in boats etc. With the commencing of Jhelum valley road when the sharda was not in her past grandeur but people mostly Sadus and saints were coming here and this process continued even upto1947. It is said that when raiders entered in the shrine in 1948 with the guidance of Pak Army, Swami Aftab Ram, a saint of high profile of district kupwara was in meditation of sharda in the shrine.But the raiders did not kill him .On the other hand they helped him to reach his native village at kupwara.This saint has since died inside of Kashmir. The people of Kashmir are eagerly waiting for that day when they can go to sharda for meditation and worship as before because this diety is their KUL-DEVI…….,,,,
| Autar Krishan Razdan
Senior Fellow, Ministry of Culture, Govt of India
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