Sharada Peeth

Sharada Peeth
Sharada Peeth

The Sharada Peeth is a majestic, ruined Hindu temple and renowned ancient center of learning situated in the Neelum Valley of Pakistani Kashmir. From the 6th to 12th centuries CE, this revered institution was among India’s most respected temples universities. It gained wide recognition due to its esteemed library; tales tell how scholars trekked great distances just to access its vast collection of texts. Additionally, it greatly contributed towards propelling the prominence and usage of the signature Sharada Script in North India – so much so that both script and nation are named after it – earning Kashmir with its title “Sharada Desh”, or “Country of Sharada”.

As one of the revered Maha Shakti Peethas, Hindus revere Sharada Peeth as a sacred place for spiritual connection to the divine goddess Sati. For Kashmiri Pandits, Sharada Peeth is considered one of their holiest sites along with Martand Sun Temple and Amarnath Temple – an esteemed pilgrimage destination that spans centuries-old cultural history.

Sharada Peeth stands at an elevation of 1,981 meters (6,499 feet) atop the banks of Neelum River amidst Mount Harmukh and is positioned in Sharda village. This famous pilgrimage lies approximately 150 km away from Muzaffarabad -the capital city Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir- and 130 km away from Srinagar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Interestingly enough, this revered temple site sits just 10 kilometers westward to Line Of Control which divides between both parts of Jammu &Kashmir state making it a must see place for Hindus devotees who revere Shiva as their God!

Sharada Peeth comes from the Kashmiri name for the revered Hindu deity, Saraswati: “the seat of Sharada”. The terms behind this moniker, “sarv” – which translates to mean “flow or stream”, and daw (as in blow, tip or rock) could be linked to its location at a junction between three bodies of water.

The source of Sharada Peeth remains a mystery, making the question of its origin very difficult to answer. It is likely that it was commissioned by Lalitaditya Muktapida (r. 724 CE–760 CE), though there is no concrete evidence linking him to this sacred site. Al-Biruni mentioned for the first time in his writings about Sharda being venerated at this temple-like institution; nevertheless, he had never been to Kashmir himself and based his opinion solely on what he heard from others.

Historians have long extolled Sharada Peeth’s mythical and historic importance in ancient India. Numerous references from various historical sources trace its development, with the most notable source being the use of the eponymous script within it. The pervasive belief that this script was developed within Kashmir itself is owed to its prominence at Sharada Peeth.

While some scholars have questioned whether Sharada Peeth was ever a centre of learning due to the lack of ruins from an educational site, others contend that Sharda is prone to earthquakes; therefore, any remains from a destroyed university may have been reused for other constructions by local residents.

In modern times, Sharada Peeth still plays an important role in various South Indian Brahmin traditions. For example, some sects of Brahmins will ritually prostrate themselves towards the direction of Sharada Peeth as a way to begin their formal education. Furthermore, Saraswat Brahimin communities from Karnataka are known to take seven steps forward while reciting prayers towards Kashmir during the Yagnopavit ceremony and also recite the Sharada stotram daily during morning prayer sessions.

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