Goddess Saraswati temple (Sharada Temple – which is now in ruins Pakistan occupied Kashmir) on the banks of the Krishnaganga river (referred to as Neelum river by Pakistan) is the last Shaktipeetha Temple mentioned as part of Ashtadasha Shaktipeethas in Hindu Scriptures as ‘Kashmirethu Saraswati’.
The temple is at a height of 11,000 feet above sea level and is about 70 miles from Srinagar.
As per the legend of Sati Devi and Daksha Yagna, Goddess Sati’s slashed body parts were fallen all over the places and since then those holy places have become Shakti Peethas. At this place, Devi’s right hand has fallen.
There is one more Shakti Peeth Temple in Pakistan – Hinglaj Mata Temple in Balochistan.
The Sharda Temple is located in Kishanganga Valley just across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) in a small village called Shardi at the confluence of River Kishanganga and River Jhelum which flows from Kashmir.
In 1948, during raids by Pakistani tribal raiders, the village fell into Pakistani hands.
History of the Temple
A famous learning centre of Kashmiris, it is identified by noted historians and chroniclers including Al Beruni (1130 ad) and M A Stein, who visited the temple in 1892, (in Rajtarangini) as one of the most important temples of the Hindus equivalent to the Shiva Lingam of Somnath, Vishnu of Thaneshwar and Surya of Multan.
Abul Fazl in Ain-i-Akbari (16th century) says that on every eighth day of the month at the time of full moon, the temple “shakes and produces the most extraordinary effect.” He however does not explain the “extraordinary effect.”
The temple is so vital to Kashmiris that Kashmiri language has the script of Sharda, which is little similar to Devanagari.
Kalhana in Rajatarangini has said, devotees of Durga and Shiva from all over the country would flock to the temple of Sharda which can be approached from Bandipur in North Kashmir, about 80 km from Srinagar.
Through centuries the temple had remained the object of worship and devotion of lakhs of pilgrims from all over the country. Though in ruins now, the entire temple complex inspires grandeur.
The temple had a massive library attached to it which had priceless works on art, science, literature, architecture, music, humanities, medicine, astrology, astronomy, philosophy, law and jurisprudence and Sanskrit etc. The library was used by scholars from even neighbouring countries.
Kashmir – Maa Sharada Connection
Kashmir was also called “Shardapeeth” (the base of Sharda), the name being derived from the temple.
Adi Shankaracharya got the title of Jagat-guru (teacher of the world) and was honoured with the Sarvagya Peetham (Seat of Omniscience), located at this Saraswati temple.
According to tradition, when the Saraswati temple was in existence, it had a mandapa (open hall) at the top with an approach by four gates from four different directions (North, South, East and West).
As per the Sthala Purana, these gates would open only when approached by a scholar of extraordinary merit (Sarvagya) from a region facing that particular gate. It is said that the southern gate opened only when Adi Shankaracharya on his Digvijaya Yatra, approached it. Shankaracharya invited Vedic scholars from all parts of India representing 72 different schools and defeated all of them in an intellectual debate, thus established the supremacy of Advaita Vedanta. He then came to be known as a Jagat-guru or World Teacher and ascended the Sarvagya Peetham.