Sharda Shrine of PoJK

11 Jul 2016 16:00:03

Sharda Shrine of PoJK

K.D Maini

After Vajpayee-Musharaf meeting at Islamabad during SAARC conference from 4 to 6 January 2004 a number of CBMs between the two parts of Kashmir were initiated to normalize the situation, create friendly relations and encourage the peace process. These include the cease fire on LOC, opening of two roads across the LOC via Poonch-Rawalakote and Uri-Srinagar, meeting of divided families, and start of trade ventures etc. Accordingly Kashmiri Pandits and other religious organizations of state demanded for the opening of Sharda Shrine of PoJK for religious tourism so that they could have Darshan of this old temple and annual yatra of the Shrine could be revived as it was conducted before partition in the month of August. The then president of Pakistan Parvaiz Musharaf accepted the demands of the minorities of J&K in principle and sanctioned Rs. 8 crores in 2006 for creation of infrastructural facilities near the Shrine so that pilgrims could be allowed to visit. As per the information received through internet, PoJK government constructed some tourist huts, community centres, youth hostel and cafeteria near the Shrine but no attention was paid towards the revival of the Shrine which is in deteriorating condition. The Muslim natives of the village Sharda and adjoining areas still call the monument as Sharda Mai (Sharda Goddess). Dr. Ghulam Azhar a noted historian of PoJK writes in one of his research article that Sharda Shrine is the oldest monument of PoJK which needs preservation and restoration. The Shrine was an important pilgrim centre in the past. The ruins of the old monuments are sufficient to narrate the old glory and glamour of this Shrine.

Sharda Shrine is about 207 kilometers in the north of Muzafarabad in PoJK.The Shrine is situated in between 340.48’latitude and 740.14′ longitude. The spot is linked with motorable road leading from Muzafarabad via Neelam valley, Kundal Shai, Jagran Valley, Athmaquam, Neelam township and Dwarian. The Sharda Temple is located near the confluence of Kishan Ganga river (Neelam river) and Madhumati stream in an open ground. It is a breath taking spot with full greenery, multicolour flowers, springs, forest belt surrounded by snow clad peaks of Sharda and Narda hills of Nanga Parbat range which divides PoJK from Galgit-Baltistan.

Before independence the annual Yatra of Sharda Temple was conducted from the ancient time. During Dogra rule after 1846 this Yatra had become a regular feature. The Yatra of Sharda Devi was started on Shukal Pakash during the month of August (Bhadun). The devotees would start their yatra on 4th Bhadun and on 8th they were taking dip in the Sharda Kund on the bank of Madhumati River and after giving Sharad of their Pitras (died relatives) they were having the Darshan of Sharda Goddess. Mostly Kashmiri Pandits were conducting the Yatra after traveling hundreds of miles on foot. Mr. C.E Bats, the author of the Gazetter of the Kashmir who had visited the spot in 1872 AD writes that the Sharda Tempe is situated in the confluence of river Madhumati and Kishan Ganga. The temple is approached by a stair case about nine feet wide of steep stone steps some 63 in numbers having on either side a massive balustrade. The entrance was through a double porch way at the south-west corner of enclosure. The walls of the enclosure are about 30 feet high. In the middle of the walls in the north side is an arched recess which contains Lingum. The Cella about 23 feet square stands on the elevated plinth about four feet from the present level of ground. The entrance is on the west side facing the porch way. On each of the other three sides of Cella, a single roof has y been erected over the building for the protection by the order of Colonel Gundu, the Late Zaildar of Muzafarabad. The interior of the temple is square and perfectly plain. On the ground lies a large rough slab of unpolished stone which is said to have been disturbed by Raja Manzoor Khan of Karnah in search of treasure. In those days the Shrine was venerated by both Hindus and Muslims. There was also a fort constructed by Dogras with 60 Dogra Constables stationing for the protection of Shrine and defence of the area. The ancient Shrine is about 400 yards in the south of the fort. The temple was also renovated by Colonel Gundu, the Zaildar of Muzafarabad in 1867 AD.

In the ancient time Sharda was famous in all over India. The historic facts reveal that near the Shrine there was a Budhist University established during the period of Emperor Ashoka (273BC) known as Sharda Peeth, to spread the teachings and thoughts of Budhism in Kashmir and other hilly regions. The foundation of Sharda Peeth was laid on the bank of Madhumati River. The fourth Budhist council was summoned at this place by Emperor Kanishka in 141 AD. In Sharda University, a Sharda script was invented by the Budhist monks and scholars which was the amalgation of local dialects and understandable to the common people. Therefore with the help of this script Budhism was spreaded in Kashmir, Himachal, Tibet and Nepal. However with the downfall of Budhism in India the glory and glamour of Sharda Peeth got also vanished and it became a part of the history.

Kalhana writes in Raj Tringani that in 11th century AD it was a temple of Sharda Goddess. Historian Belhana writes in Vikrama Chiriter that he has been educated only due to the blessings of Sharda Goddess whose crown was formed with the gliterring gold collected from the river Madhumati. Al Bruni who had visited India in 1036 AD writes in his book ‘India’ that there is a great image of Sharda and devotees assemble here for the pilgrim. Abu-ul-Fazal in Aain-e-Akbari writes that on the bank of Madhumati in Drava area of Muzafarabad there is a stone temple of Sharda Devi. Every month on the Shukal Pakash the image of the Sharda starts showing miracles. The temple is respected by large population. Therefore it appears that upto 16th century AD this temple was having great religious importance.

Juna Raj the writer of Raj Tringani Juna Raj written during the rule of Sultan Zain-ul-Ab Din of Kashmir (1420-1472 AD) records in his book that Sultan Zain-ul-Ab Din was undertaking religious pilgrim to Hindu Shrine and participating in Hindu rituals. Juna Raj also recorded that Sultan had visited Sharda temple in 1422 AD along with the Yatris. After taking bath in Madhumati stream he entered the temple but he felt annoyed on the wickedness of the priest and devotees and lost faith in the Goddess Sharda. The Goddess Sharda did not manifested herself. Sultan also slept in the temple during the night hours. But he could not see the miracles of the Goddess.

C.E Bats writes that during his visit of Sharda Devi in 1772 AD there was a Lingum and not image of Goddess Sharda. Maharaja Gulab Singh had got the temple renovated during 1846-1856 AD. He had also appointed a Brahmin priest to look after this historic temple, constructed a fort near the temple and posted 60 constables for the protection of Sharda Shrine and the area. Therefore the devotees started visiting the Shrine regularly and the ancient Yatra was revived. The devotees start their Yatra on 4th Bhadun and on 8th Bhadun they were taking dip in the Sharda Kund in the Madhumati stream and have the Darshana of the temple. This Yatra remained in vogue during Dogra period upto 1947. After the turmoil of 1947 when Kashmir was divided into two parts this important Shrine had gone under the occupation of Pakistan. For the last 62 years the Shrine remains unattended and is in ruins. But now there is a great demand from the minority population of Jammu and Kashmir state for the restoration of Sharda temple and start of the Yatra. This will be another CBM between the two parts of the Kashmir.

courtesy:-Daily Excelsior

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