Reclaiming Sharda Peeth
         Date: 25-Oct-2018
 
 Sharda Peeth
The disintegrated J&K not only divided people and land, but it also took away one of the key seats of Bharatiya knowledge in the form of Sharda Peeth
Sharda Peeth was the highest seat of learning in ancient Bharat and scholars from across the globe used to come, debate and learn at the Peeth. But today the seat of learning and temple lie in ruins in Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (PoJK). The temple is located about 207 Kms north of Muzaffarabad in POJK. It is the confluence of Kishen Ganga and Madhumati rivers. Situated in a picturesque location, the site is surrounded by snow clad peaks of Sharda and Narda hills of Nanga Parbat range.
 
Many years of Islamic aggression and repeated attacks on the temple have left the Sharda Peeth in ruins. But even before 1947, annual yatra to the temple was conducted, a practice that is believed to have been since ancient times. During the Dogra rule after 1846, the yatra became a regular feature. The devotees would trek hundreds of kilometres to have darshan of Devi Sharda and also offer their obeisance to their ancestors (Pitras). Historical facts reveal that a Buddhist university existed near the temple which was established by Emperor Ashoka in 273 BCE. The Sharda script was invented at this university by scholars who were an amalgamation of local dialects.
 
Historical References to Sharda Peeth
 
• Buddhist University established during the reign of Emperor Ashoka in 273BC
• 4th Buddhist council summoned at the Sharda Peeth by Emperor Kanishka in 141 AD
• Kalhana in his Raj Tarangini writes about the Sharda temple in 11th century AD
• Al Bruni who visited India in 1036 AD writes in his book 'India' that there is a great idol of Sharda and devotees assemble here for a pilgrimage
• Abu-ul-Fazal in Again-e-Akbari writes that on the bank of Madhumati in Drava area of Muzaffarabad, a stone temple dedicated to Sharda Devi exists
• Maharaja Gulab Singh renovated the Sharda temple during
1846-1856 AD
 
In the post-partition era, Swami Nandlal carried some of the idols and salvaged some of the lost treasures. These idols are now in Baramulla and Tikker in Kupwara. Ruksana Khan, a Pakistan based scholar, has undertaken an archaeological survey of the Sharda site. In 2015, she and her team unearthed antiques which revealed the history of the site. Since then they have started the Sharda Project which works to preserve the culture.
 
After Vajpayee-Musharaf meeting at Islamabad during SAARC conference from 4 to 6 January 2004, some CBMs between the two parts of Kashmir were initiated to normalise the situation, create friendly relations and encourage the peace process. These include the cease-fire on LOC, opening of two roads across the LOC via Poonch-Rawalakote and Uri-Srinagar, meeting of divided families, and the start of trade ventures etc.
 
Accordingly, Kashmiri Pandits and other religious organisations of J&K demanded the opening of Sharda Shrine of POJK for religious tourism so that they could have Darshan of this old temple and annual yatra of the Shrine could be revived. The then President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf accepted the demands of the minorities of J&K in principle and sanctioned Rs. 8 crore in 2006 for the creation of infrastructural facilities near the Shrine so that pilgrims could visit. Though POJK Government constructed few tourist huts, community centres and cafeteria near the site, no attention was paid towards the revival of the Shrine which is in a dilapidated condition. The Muslim natives of the village Sharda and adjoining areas still call the monument as Sharda Mai (Mother Sharda).