नमस्ते शारदे देवि काश्मीरपुर-वासिनि । त्वामहं प्रार्थये नित्यं विद्यादानं च देहि मे ॥१॥ namasté śhāradé dévi kāśhmīra-pura-vāsini । tvāmaham prārthayé nityam vidyā-dānam cha déhi mé ॥1॥ 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. || 1 || ___________________ Kashmir contains the famous Sharda Temple where Sankara ascended the Sarvajna Pitha(the throne of the omniscience).It is about 100 kilometres from Srinagar, the entire route being studded with paddy fields, small villages and orchards. The whole plain is lovely with beautiful lakes and mighty masses of rock. After crossing the plains a high range of mountains has to be trekked through a difficult stretch with treacherous slopes, sheets of snow at the foot and forests down the slopes. Madhumathi ( Kishanganga), a tributary of the Jhelum, is the last to cross before reaching Sharda Temple. Sri Sharda Temple is situated at a height of about 3400 metres. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and dense forests, inhabited by wild beasts, the temple inspires travellers with a feeling of awe and strangeness. Far from the ignoble strife of the madding crowds, the spot is pecularly divine with supreme peace. To fulfil this aim in life, Sankara travelled all over Bharata and visited Sharda Temple in Kashmir. There he vanquished many learned disputants and seated himself triumphantly on the throne of the omniscience. This part of kashmir was a flourishing stretch of land, housing scholars and pandits of high Vedic learning. The seat of learning is symbolic and not one of materialistic grandeur. It is seen as a kind of stone slab, held sacred. All that you can now see inside the temple are a seat , round and smooth, hewn out of rock, a Sri Chakra and a few other figures. In a poetic work composed by Mahakavi Kalhan in the year 1148, there is a mention of Sree Sharadad Devi temple and its geographic location. Matang Sage Shandilya used to meditate in Sharada-van. Near the temple of Sree Sharada Devi, there is ‘Amarkund’ lake. It is believed that Sage Shandilya got the ‘darshan’ of Sree Sharada Devi there. In the first verse of ‘Prapanchsar’ composed by Adi Shankaracharya is devoted to the praise of Sree Sharada Devi. In the year 1030, the famous Muslim historian Al-Baruni visited Kashmir. According to him, there was a wooden idol of Sree Sharada Devi in Sree Sharada Devi temple. He had compared the temple of Sree Sharada Devi with the Sun temple of Multan (that time in India, presently in Pakistan), Vishnu Chakraswamin temple at Thaneshwar and Somnath temple. During 16th century, Delhi was ruled by King Akbar. Abul Fazal, one of the famous ‘Nava-Ratnas’ in his Court, has written about Sree Sharada Devi temple that Sree Sharada Devi temple is near the banks of river Madhumati which is full of gold particles. One can experience miracles on every eighth day of the bright fortnight of the month. Sree Sharada Devi temple caught in the grip of Islamic assaults : In the 14th century, the temple was attacked for the first time. After this attack, India started losing its contact with Krushnaganga and Sharada Peeth. In the 19th century, Dogra king of Kashmir restored this temple. Prior to Islamic invasion, there was the world famous Sun temple in Multan. Its existence went back to more than thousand of years. After partition, Multan became a part of Pakistan. Today there is no sign of the temple. After a few years, even Sree Sharada Devi temple will have the same fate. Near Sree Sharada Devi temple, there used to be famous Sanskrit university. It is believed that in the barbaric Islamic attacks, the university was destroyed. The (historic undivided) Kashmir has glorious Hindu traditions : Many ancient holy books of Hindus were written in Kashmir. From the time of Sage Sandilya, Kashmir was renowned for Sanskrit language, literature, astronomy, astrology and jurisprudence so also as a well-known centre of arts and architecture. In the 8th century, King Lalitaditya ruled over Kashmir. During his time, Kashmir was known as the centre for studies of Hindu religion. There is a mention in the ‘Sankhyayan’ written by Vinayak Bhatt that in those days, Hindu students use to go to Kashmir for higher studies. In the writings of famous Chinese traveler Yuan Shuang in 7th century, it is mentioned that many saints and scholars lived in Kashmir. Kashmir and Sharad Peeth are inseparable : Kashmir was known as Sharada Peeth due to the temple of Sree Sharada Devi. Even today, the Kashmiri script is known as ‘Sharada’ script. Adi Shankaracharya founded Sharada Peeth at Sharada gram in Kashmir. Sharada Peeth was as famous as the four Peethas at Shrungeri, Dwaraka, Jagannathpuri and Badrikashram founded by Shankaracharya. Such enriched and holy Sharada Peeth is in the Pak occupied Kashmir due to which India has lost contact with it. But Sharada Peeth and India are inseparable. Without Sharada Peeth, Indian ‘Shangrila’ is incomplete. Therefore, it is the duty of Hindus to bring the Sharada Peeth back to India. Prior to independence, Hindu Pandits were settled in great numbers, in the Northern areas of Kashmir. Sharadi is a small village in Northern parts of Kashmir, which was famous for an ancient temple of Goddess Sharada. A Kashmiri Pandit family headed by Thusu Ladarwani was settled in this village. This Thusu family was compelled to migrate to Srinagar from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) and again due to the terrorists and their activities, had forcibly to shift to Jammu and stay in a transit camp there. At present, Shri Shambhunathji Thusu from this family is ninety four year old and possesses an exceptionally remarkable memory. He is well versed in Urdu, and Kashmiri language . Shri Shambhunathji provided me a map in Urdu prepared by him, giving details of the "Sharda Temple". He has successfully retained many memories, about the "Sharda Temple" right from 1920 A.D. Shri. Shambhunathji reiterated that there was no idol of the Goddess Sharda in the temple, but there was only a stone plinth, admeasuring six feet long, seven feet wide and one and half feet high. "Just outside the temple, not very far, was a Shivaling.( i.e . symbolic idol of Lord Shiva). The devotees worshipped at both the places. Shri. Shambhunathji was born and brought up in Shardi and he spent his prime youth there only. His family owned a business there. He aptly recollects the fair held at Shardi in the month of Bhadrapada (the sixth month according to Hindu Calendar) on the eighth day of Shukla Paksha i.e. a fortnight of rising moon. He makes a mention of the briefings by a scholar in History from "Shardi", about the assistance rendered, by a Gaud King to the "Sharda Temple Complex". The village Shardi is situated at a distance of 130 Kilometers from Srinagar and 140 k.m.s. from Muzaffarabad. This place, presently, has the following postal address in Pak occupied Kashmir. (POK). Village Shardi, Tehsil Atta Mukam, District Muzafferabad. Since olden times, the village Shardi was renowned for the following two things 1. Temple of Goddess Sharda, and 2. Sharda Peetham (Centre for Advanced studies) Prior to the partition, a fair was held at village Shardi in the month of Bhadrapada and on the eighth day of the Shukla Paksha, and devotees from all over India, flocked the place in thousands, for receiving the blessings of the Mother Sharada deity. There is a place called "Tikkar" at a distance of one and half kilometers from Kupwara, in Kashmir. From here, there is a short cut for going to Shardi which measures 40 k.m. Many Pilgrims treaded this path only. Prior to the partition of India, many Kashmiri Pandit families were settled in "Shardi". Those professing as priests and traders had their shops and establishments in the near vicinity of the Sharda Teerath. Besides, many saints, ascetics and their associates/disciples and their servants also lived there. Shri. Pradeep Kaul, from Srinagar, informed that every scribe offered his writings to Goddess Sharda, for obtaining her blessings. The following alleged legend in this regard runs as follows. The Kashmiri Scribes, kept their Bhurjapatra manuscript covered in a platter overnight, in front of Goddess Sharda, for obtaining her blessings. If the pages of writings remained undisturbed, it was taken for granted that the works had the blessings of the Goddess. If, however, the pages of the works were found sifted, the works were considered as disapproved by the Goddess. Presently , the Sharda Temple lies within POK territory and one has to travel from Muzaffarbad to Thitwal - 80 K.M. from Thitwal to Karna-20 k.m., from Keran to Dudhe Niyal - 24 km, and from Dudhaniyal to Shardi- 16 K.M., to reach Shardi.