Shardapeeth The Lost Glory

Dr Raja Langer
In 1947 when Bharat got Independent, the total area Jammu and Kashmir had was, 2,22,236 sq. kms, out of which half the area was grabbed by China and Pakistan together. Bharat was left with only 1,02,387 sq. kms of area. Gilgit, Bajarat, Baltistan, Chillas, Hajjipura etc. is under direct control of Pakistan whereas Muzafrabad, Mirpur, Chhamb, Kotli, etc. are self-controlled but they fall under the jurisdiction of Pakistan.
Along the border of PoK near Muzafrabad there flows a river Krishan-Ganga. This is the same river in which elixir (Amrit) extracted from the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan) was kept safe from Asuras.
Afterwards Lord Brahma established the temple of Maa Sharda on the bank of the river Krishan-Ganga. Sharda is a Sanskrit and Kashmiri name of goddess Saraswati; the goddess of knowledge. The temple is otherwise known as Shardapeeth, which means the seat of goddess Sharda.
The Sharda Shastranam Stotra is a canticle depicting Goddess Sharda as: Goddess Sharda is “Sheeladevi” (A Goddess in stone) she sits on a stone seat and has a pleasant smiling face. Her form and appearance resemble those of Goddess Parvati (wife of Lord Shiva). She holds a sword in one hand, her eyes are glowing and radiant like the Sun, the Moon and the god Fire.
From the day Maa Sharda presided at Shardapeeth, entire Kashmiri community is worshipping and singing praises of the Goddess. People of Kashmir are so blessed by Maa Sharda, even the writer of “Ashtang Yoga” and “Ashtang Hridhya”, VAGBHAT was born there. Most of Advaitik scriptures such as, Neelam Puran, Chrk samhita, Shiv Puran, Shiv sutra, Vigyan Bhairavi, prativigyahridhyam ,Spandkarika, Tantraloka, Kalhan’s Rajtarangini, Sarang Dev’s Sangeet-ratnakar etc. were also written on the soil of Shardapeeth where it is believed that the seed of knowledge was hidden by Maa Sharda herself. Ram Katha written at Shardapeeth (in Kashmir) has a vivid and direct mentioning of Makkareshwar Mahadev. Kashmir is a place where age old tradition and clan of Shavdarshan and Shavites were originated. “Kashyapmir” aka Kashmir means the Land of “kashyap Rishi” the ascetic. Kashmir was a significant center of learning of medicine, Astronomy, astrology, methodology, jurisprudence, Architecture, painting, and craft etc. for erudite and scholars.
An ancient volume “Shakti Sangam Tantra” has a stray reference to “Sharda complex”. The volume describes Kashmir as a Land from Sharda Complex to “Saffron mountain” Keshara Parbat extending up to 50 yojana.
Sharda peeth is situated at about 140 kms from the city of Srinagar in Kashmir. For thousands of years, a massive religious congregation was held at Shardapeeth on every Bhadrapad Shuklapaksh ashtami, where scholars, siddhas, sanyasis, yogis and devotees would come to pay their obeisance to their favorite Goddess, Maa Sharda. Thats the reason why ashtami of Bhadrapad month is celebrated and called as Sharda ashtami.
Hue-en-tsang, the famous Chinese traveller, who travelled to Kashmir in 632 A.D. in his travelogue, gave an account of his experiences of meetings and discussions with the scholars, pandits, grammarians, and yogis at Shardapeeth, who he claims were exceptionally brilliant. He thought that all those special people were endowed with perspicacious wits and acumen and are geniuses in the real sense of the term.
There is a narrative, regarding Goddess Sharda in Hindu scriptures that when pandits refused to baptize (the sacred thread ceremony) “Shandli” because he was born to a lower caste couple (untouchables). Dismayed, Shandli visited Maharishi Vashishta (the teacher of Lord Rama), who advised him to pay his obeisance to Maa Sharda at the very Sharda temple on the banks of river Krishan-Ganga. On his arrival, Maa Sharda not only blessed the child with brilliance and acumen but also consecrated and re-christened him as Rishi Shandilya. Today, Shandilya gotra is found in all caste of Hindus.
Even Adiguru Shankaracharya was blessed by the goddess on his arrival at Shardapeeth. Maa Sharda appeared before him, blessed him and encouraged him on his to path to re-establish Vedic Sanatan Dharma.
Shardapeeth had four doors facing four directions. The southern door was always closed and none of the scholars or spiritualists could ever enter from the south door. It was “Adi Shankaracharya”, who opened the door from the south and entered the center. He defeated all the scholars there and won the highest hierarchal position of “Acharya”.
Even after “Adi Shankaracharya” many scholars visited Shardapeeth and used it as a learning ground. Swami Ramanujacharya, wrote his commentary and criticism on Brahma Sutra, sitting at peeth. Rishi Panini also wrote his “Ashtahrighya” here.
Shardapeeth once housed the Sharda University, one of the country’s oldest universities, with over 5000 scholars and a library. The University had evolved its own script, known as “Sharda”.
The Ethical Importance of Shankaracharya at Shardapeeth
What the various incarnations of Shri Vishnu did in establishment of dharma or morality, the same was expected of Shankaracharyas, the incarnations of Bhagwan Shankar, seated on various monasteries (Mathas & Peethas). Dharma is the protector both of humanity and nature. It’s established for the protection only, but adrift Dharma stranded in dogmas becomes ruinous. God and great men incarnate from time to time to give direction to common people. For such establishment of Dharma only, Shankaracharya Swami Amritanand ji has manifested in Sarvagya Peeth of Jammu and Kashmir.
Now, the question arises as to what is the utility of Shankaracharya in modern age? This question becomes more important in the background that Adi Shankaracharya established four Mathas headed by Shankaracharyas to institute and protect Vedic dharma. But with the passage of time these Mathas (Monasteries) aberrated from its basic objectives and thus lost their impact in society. Establishment devoid of objective and direction can never be venerable and it’s not thus exemplary and is never followed.
The position of Shankaracharya was not for personal benefits. Its objective was to induce the path of Dharma and inspire about Vedic Sanatan values in the minds of common people. This needed profound fearlessness, courage, sacrifice and hard work. One imbued with such values only could carry and complete this mission. On the contrary, the worldly effects and ego overpowered and the values like sacrifice, hard work and selflessness deteriorated. Four Mathas established on four corners could not make that impact and were unable to achieve its objective. The power struggle left the public disappointed and following got very limited. Now, the so called saints and Mahatmas have no effect in the society because they themselves don’t follow those values which they preach. The pain of their dual character compels the public to simply ignore them. There’s distorted image of Dharma in society but to remove the misconception through rightful arguments didn’t seem to be the motive of these Mathas. But by nature, whatever be the drawbacks, forces emerge to remove those drawbacks. Nature and society just tend to resist the change.
To remain intact and unchanging is momentary by nature and not permanent. On the basis of this natural law of over changing world, “Amritanand ji”, an embodiment of courage, sacrifice and austerity was persuaded by learned council to glorify the honorable responsibility. The council was learned but the Guru was young.
After all, Adi Shankaracharya, Ram Krishana, Vivekananda, all filled with profound consciousness, were all young. Only such youth power can justify this honorable responsibility. Where death is pervading under the shadow of terrorism, there Swami Amritanand ji’s expedition in Kashmir as a Sanyasi proves that he is all knowledgeable in real sense. Soul is immortal, I am Brahman. This feeling is the only knowledge. This generates fearlessness,. Such fearlessness was exhibited by Adi Shankara in Badrikashram and Gomukh. It seems as if same Great Soul is governing the whole objective again.
Sarvagya Peeth is the base of all Peethas. It is the seed. Just as Aatma, the soul is the root cause of body and its actions, similarly, Sarvagya peeth is root of all Mathas. Adi Shankara laid foundation of all Mathas from here only to establish Vedic Sanatan Dharma. This is that central force of all Peethas from where governance of all Peethas was planned. The geographical situation of Jammu & Kashmir, its social fabric, threshold of foreign aggressors including Malechchas witnessed greatest downfall of Eternal Hindu philosophy during these ages. Hundreds of Hindu temples got demolished. Hindus were terrorized, forcibly made to relinquish their faith and at last made to displace their motherland. Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits are still living in refugee camps and those still living in Kashmir are forced to part with their belief and faith. Hindu faith didn’t witness downfall of such severity even in the time of Adi Shankaracharya. In the preview of upsurge of terrorism and downfall of Dharma values Sarvagya Sharda Peeth, land of Aryavart is eagerly waiting for the emergence of His Holiness Shankaracharya, which have been fulfilled by Swami Amritanand ji.
(The author is Consultant Urologist Superspeciality hospital, GMC Jammu.)