Sharada Peeth: A Seat of Learning – Part 2

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mapTill 14th Century the pilgrimage to Sardah and Gangbal Lake was performed concurrently on 8th Tith of Badhirpath (Ganga Ashtami) on the lakes of Gangbal and Sardah Kunda on Mahumaditi bank. The two terthas have a curious connection. In the year 1413, in Malmas-Banmas, in late September a snow storm struck when pilgrims to Gangabal were returning between Trankholan and top of Butashwar. The storm was ferocious and devastating. Ten Thousand Pandits perished, whose death bodies were retrieved from Krank Nadi. The place of catastrophe as Garigand, which even today abysmally is situated at about a precipitous fall of 2,000 feet below. from that time onwards, Gangbal teertha yatra would not be undertaken in the month of Malmas-Banmar-intercalary year. From that year Sardah Peeth pilgrimage was performed, which is relatively at a comfortable height of 7000 feet. The visit to sacred Gangbal can be made only in the years when the sun on eighth tithe is in Leo (Simha) and not traversed to Vigro (Kanya). That means Gangbal Aashtimi, it falls on 15th of September or afterwards – the Gangbal pilgrimage is substituted by Sardah. When an intercalary month falls near Badhir Peth the pilgrimage to Gangbal is kept in abeyance.

In 16th Century, the Teertha had considerable reputation. Abhu Fazal mentioned that on the banks of stone temple called Sardah – dedicted to Durga, is regarded with great veneration. On every 8th Tithi of the bright half of the Bader petha-deity begins to shake and produces most extraordinary effect. In 1622, Zainul Abadin (Budhshah) along with Jona Raja had gone to witness the miracle, but miracle did manifest itself. Stein visited Sardah in 1892 when the temple and its face had been obscured. He defined the temple this:

“There is quadrangular court enclosing the temple, a well built staircase comprising of 63 steps leads from Madhumati from the western side. Entrance to the court is through a gateway and is 10 feet wide with double porch and distinctive Kashmiri architecture.

800px-Sharda_Peeth_3The abutment to Mudhumati River has given way. On the north there are some columns. The total length of gateway is 12 feet. The court is oblong and enclosed by a massive wall 6 feet thick. Northern wall which is intact is 142 feet; eastern wall is 94 feet. It gives it a dimension of 3:2 the enclosing wall as 11 feet tall. There was a spring on the eastern side called – Amar Kunda. The temple, which occupies the centre of the quadrangular forms square cellar giving it an elevated position – a marked Kashmiri architectural trait. There are arches embellished by niches and hanging side walls. There is an open portico on the front door, the interior of the cellar forms a square of 12 feet and has no decoration. There is large rough slab which is 6 x7 feet with a thickness of 6 inches. The stone was believed to cover a Quanda (Spring) cavity in which sharada appeared to Sandhya and was deemed to be object of utmost veneration.”

Hem Chandra (1088-1172), author of celebrated grammer, Prabhavkachata got this classic completed after getting old manuscript from Sardah Peetha and blessings from Sardah shrine. Inaccessible terrain and lack of security necessitated the creation of substitute Sardahs and its replicas like Sardah Kunda near Harwan, Kulyandi near Khoyhom, Gus village near Handwara. Stein in 1892 made a statement of deep prognosticator nature when he say; “Notwithstanding all tenacity of religious, local cults in Kashmir, the Kashmiris do not fail to adapt themselves to the changing conditions of time and place”.

The post migration history of Kashmiri Pandits since 1990 bears eloquent testimony to the fact that this minuscule minority has created replicas of left-over shrines and worship places in the valley at the places of their temporary dwelling to satiate their spiritual thirst. The idea to have a replica of the most revered shrine across the border in the beautiful valley is thrilling.

About the author
Dr Krishan Lal KallaProfessor Dr. Krishan Lal Kalla (Pandit) has to his credit several books such as “Lalla Rookh, Glorious Heritage”, “Eminent Personalities of Kashmir” among his other works. A Gold Medalist Professor Kalla was associated with University of Jammu & Kashmir and Higher Education Department of vaious Colleges of the Jammu & Kashmir State. He also did research on Indo-logical topics at Sharada Peeth Reseach Institution, Karan Nagar, Srinagar under Dr. R.K. Kaw.
Information Courtesy: Gulshan Books. From the pages of “Kashmir Heritage”