Between 6th and 12th centuries CE, Sharada Peeth was among the most prominent temple universities in the Indian subcontinent
Sharada Peeth represents Knowledge seat of Jammu and Kashmir which for ages influencesld globe. It is an ancient Hindu temple and also an ancient centre of learning located in the Neelum Valley of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Between the 6th and 12th centuries CE, it was among the most prominent temple universities in the Indian subcontinent.
Known in particular for its library, stories recount scholars travelling long distances to access its texts. It played a key role in the development and popularisation of the Sharada script in North India, causing the script to be named after it, and Kashmir to acquire the moniker “Sharada Desh”, meaning “country of Sharada”.
It is believed that it represents the spiritual location of the goddess Sati’s fallen right hand. Sharada Peeth is one of the three holiest sites of pilgrimage for Kashmiri Pandits, alongside the Martand Sun Temple and the Amarnath Temple.
Sharada Peeth is located approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, and 130 kilometres (81 mi) from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir It is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) away from the Line of Control, which divides the Pakistani- and India.
It is situated 1,981 metres (6,499 ft) above sea level, along the Neelum River in the village of Sharda, in the valley of Mount Harmukh, believed by Kashmiri Pandits to be the abode of Shiva.
Sharada Peeth translates to “the seat of Sharada”, the Kashmiri name for the Hindu goddess Saraswati. “Sharada” could be also related to the proto-Nostratic terms “sarv”, which means “flow or stream”, and daw (blow, tip or rock), because it was located at the confluence of three streams.
Mythological status and prominence in ancient India
Sharada Peeth is referred to by various historians, detailing its mythological status and prominence in ancient India. Its historical development is traced through references made to it by various historical sources. Although the Sharada script did not originate in Kashmir, it was used extensively in Sharada Peeth, and acquired its name from the institution. This has fed the popular belief that the script was developed in Kashmir.
By 11th century, most revered places of worship in Indian subcontinent
By the 8th century, the temple was a site of pilgrimage, attracting devotees from as far as present-day Bengal. By the 11th century, it was among the most revered places of worship in the Indian subcontinent, described in Al-Biruni’s chronicle of India. Significantly, it featured not in his description of Kashmir, but in his list of the most famous Hindu temples in the Indian subcontinent, alongside the Multan Sun Temple, the Sthaneshwar Mahadev Temple, and the Somnath temple.
Jonaraja describes a visit by the Kashmiri Muslim sultan Zain-ul-Abidin in 1422 CE. The sultan visited the temple seeking a vision of the goddess, but grew angry with her because she did not appear to him in person. In frustration, he slept in the court of the temple, where she appeared to him in a dream. In the 16th century, Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, Grand vizier to the Mughal emperor Akbar, described Sharada Peeth as a “stone temple regarded with great veneration”. He also described the popular belief in miracles at the shrine: “it is believed that on every eighth tithe of the bright half of the month, it begins to shake and produces the most extraordinary effect”.
Legends associated with Sharada Peeth
An alternative account holds that Shandilya prayed to the goddess Sharada with great devotion, and was rewarded when she appeared to him and promised to show him her real, divine form. She advised him to look for the Sharada forest, and his journey was filled with miraculous experiences. On his way, he had a vision of the god Ganesha on the eastern side of a hill. When he reached the Neelum river, he bathed in it and saw half his body turn golden. Eventually, the goddess revealed herself to him in her triple form of Sharada, Saraswati and Vagdevi, and invited him to her abode. As he was preparing for a ritual, he drew water from the Mahāsindhu. Half of this water transformed into honey, and became a stream, now known as the Madhumati stream.
Earliest mention of Sharada Peeth is in Nilamata Purana
Sharada Peeth has appeared in various historical and literary texts. Its earliest mention is in the Nilamata Purana (6th – 8th century CE). The 11th century Kashmiri poet Bilhana describes both the spiritual and academic elements of Sharada Peeth. He describes Kashmir as a patron of learning and Sharada Peeth as the source of that reputation. He also says that the goddess Sharada:
“resemble[s] a swan, carrying as her diadem the [glittering gold washed from the sand] of the Madhumati stream, which is bent on rivalling Ganga. Spreading lustre by her fame as her diadem, and rivalling the Ganges river. Spreading lustre by her fame, brilliant like crystal, she makes even Mount Himalaya, the preceptor of Gauri, raise higher his head (referring to his peaks) [in pride] of her residence there.”
In Kalhana’s 12th century epic, Rajatarangini, Sharada Peeth is identified as a site of popular veneration:
There, the goddess Saraswati herself is seen in the form of a swan in a lake [situated] on the summit of the Bheda hill, which is sanctified by the Ganga source.There, when visiting the goddess Sharada, one reaches at once the river Madhumati, and [the river of] Saraswati worshipped by poets .
In a great development recently, Home Minister Mr Amit Shah said on March 22 that the government will move forward to open Sharda Peeth on the lines of the Kartarpur corridor. Sharda Peeth, a revered site for the Hindu community, is located in Neelum Valley in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) across Teetwal village in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, along the Line of Control (LoC).
Mr. Shah was responding to a suggestion made by Save Sharda Committee Kashmir (SSCK) convener Ravindra Pandita who requested that the Sharda Peeth corridor should be made operational on the lines of Nankana Sahib gurudwara and the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan.
The Minister said the site has been a historical centre of India’s cultural, religious and educational heritage and the government — under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi — will definitely move forward to open Sharda Peeth for devotees on the lines of Kartarpur corrridor.
Sharada Peeth represents the ethos and heritage of Jammu and Kashmir.