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Ruins of the Sharada Peeth
|Sanskrit transliteration||Śāradā pīṭham|
|Primary deity||Sharada (Saraswati)|
Sharada Peeth (Urdu: شاردا پیٹھ) is an abandoned Hindu temple located in the village of Sharda, along the Neelam River in Azad Kashmir. It is situated near the militarily-sensitive Line of Control which divides Pakistani administered Kashmir from Indian administered Kashmir.
Sharada Peeth was a major centre of learning, and is regarded as one of 18 Maha Shakti Peethas, or a "Grand Shakti Peethas" – which are highly-revered temples throughout South Asia that commemorate the location of fallen body parts of the Hindu deity Sati. Sharada Peeth is traditionally believed to be the site where the right hand of Sati is said to have fallen after being carried by her husband Shiva.
The temple is located in the remote village of Sharda, in Neelam Valley, at a distance of 60 miles from Baramulla and 40 miles from Muzaffarabad, and 70 miles from Srinagar. It lies 16 miles to the northwest of the Line of Control in a militarily sensitive area. The temple is at a height of 11000 feet above the sea level.
The Chinese Buddhist monk, Xuanzang, visited this learning centre in 632 CE. He stayed there for two years and appreciated the mental gifts of priests and students of this learning centre. Kalhana wrote that during Lalitaditya's reign in the 8th century CE, some followers of a king of Gauda in Bengal came to Kashmir under the pretext of visiting the shrine, highlighting the significance of the temple throughout South Asia.
In the year 1030 CE, the Muslim historian Al-Biruni visited Kashmir. According to him, there was a wooden idol of Sri Sharada Devi in the temple. He compared the temple to the Multan Sun Temple, Vishnu Chakraswamin temple at Thanesar and Somnath temple.
In a poetic work composed by Mahakavi Kalhana in the year 1148 CE, there is a mention of the temple and its geographic location. During the reign of Akbar in the 16th century, Grand Vizier Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, one of the famous Nava-Ratnas, wrote about the temple as being near the near the banks of river Madhumati, now known as the Neelum River, which is full of gold particles. Abu'l Fazl also wrote that one can experience miracles on every eighth day of the bright fortnight of the month here.
The temple had periodically fallen into disrepair by the 14th century. In the 14th century, the temple was attacked for the first time by Muslim invaders. After this attack, India started losing its contact with Krishanganga and Sharada Peeth. In the 19th century, Dogra king of Kashmir, Maharaja Gulab Singh, restored this temple.
Following the brief 1947-1948 Kashmir war in the region between Pakistan and India, the site came under control of Pashtun tribesmen who invaded the region. Control was then passed to the newly formed government of Pakistan's Azad Kashmir. The site was heavily damaged in the 2005 Kashmir earthquake which struck the region, and has not been repaired since that time by the government of Pakistan.
The length of the temple is 142 feet and width is 94.6 feet. The outer walls of the temple are 6 ft. wide and 11 ft long. And there are arches with 8 ft. height.
Kashmir was once centre of learning of Hindu Vedic works until the people dwelling in that region converted to Islam. Prior to this, Kashmir was sometimes called Sharada Desh because of this temple and Sharada was called Kashmira Puravasini (resident of city of Kashmir). The temple is so ancient that Kashmir State was earlier known as 'Sharada Peeth'.
Kashmiri Hindus remain highly devoted towards this deity, and by extension, to the Sharada Peeth temple. As part of their daily worship, Kashmiri Hindus utter the phrase" "Namastey Sharada Devi Kashmir Pur Vasini Tvam Ham Prartheye Nityam Vidya Danam Che De hi mey" (Salutations to you, O Sharada, O Goddess, O one who resides in Kashmir. I pray to you daily, please give me the charity of knowledge).
Place of learning
According to the Prabhāvakacarita, a Jain historical work dated 1277–78, the Śvetāmbara scholar Hemacandra requested grammatical texts preserved here so he could compile his own grammar, the Siddhahema. The Vaishnava saint Swami Ramanuja traveled all the way from Srirangam to refer to Bodhayana's vritti on Brahma Sutras preserved here, before commencing work on writing his commentary on the Brahma sutras, the Sri Bhasya. Near Sree Sharada Devi temple, there used to be famous Sanskrit university.
The Temple as a "Shakti Peeth"
Shakti Peethas are shrines or divine places of Shakti formed due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi, when Shiva carried it and wandered throughout Aryavartha in sorrow. There are 51 Shakti Peeth linking to the 51 alphabets in Sanskrit. Each temple has shrines for Shakti and Kalabhairava.
Sharada Peeth is one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peetha. Devi's Right hand is said to have fallen here. The Shakti worshiped here is the goddess of knowledge and education, Saraswathi otherwise known as Sarada. The mythology of Daksha yaga and Sati's self immolation had immense significance in shaping the ancient Sanskrit literature and even had cultural impact in India during olden times. It led to the development of the concept of Shakti Peethas and there by strengthening Shaktism.
This temple is referred to in the Carnatic music song "kalAvathi kamalAsana yuvathi" by the famous composer Sri. Mutthuswami Dikshithar. The song set in the rAga yAgapriyA, in praise of Saraswathi, describes her as "kAshmIra vihArA, varA shAradhA" i.e. "one who resides in kAshmir, shAradhA".
It is at this temple that Sankaracharya received the right to sit on the Sarvanjnanapeetham or Sarvajna peetha(Throne of Wisdom). The first verse of 'Prapanchsar' composed by Adi Shankaracharya is devoted to the praise of the temple's goddess, Sri Śāradā Devi. The Śāradā image at Shringeri Sharadamba temple in South India was once said to have been made of sandalwood, which is supposed to have been taken by Sankaracharya from here.
Near the temple is the Amarkund lake – where it is believed that Hindu Sage Shandilya used to meditate, and is further believed to have encountered the temple's deity.
In 2007, a group of Kashmiri Pandits who were permitted to visit Azad Kashmir were denied permission visit the temple.
Pakistani Hindus rarely visit the temple, preferring to visit sites farther south in Sindh, Balochistan, and Punjab provinces. As such, restoration of the temple is not considered a priority in the manner that Katasraj Temple was regarded by the Pakistani government.
Ruins of Sharada Peeth temple in Azad Kashmir
- Bansi Pandit (2008), p. 75.
- Chitkara (2002), p. 273.
-  Archived August 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
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