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Script… Temple… Knowledge… Civilisation

Sharada – a village on the banks of the Neelum River – is situated in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). The village houses Sharada Peeth, one of the ancient Hindu pilgrimage centres! Hindus believe that Sharada Peeth is one of their 18 most sacred religious places. The Buddhists, too, had used this place as a centre for knowledge practices from the 6th Century to 12th Century.
Scholars – like Kalhana, Adi Shankaracharya and Kumārajīva – once studied and taught at this important centre of the Indian Subcontinent. Historians are of the opinion that writings and other major works of many Indian scholars, including Pāṇini, were preserved at this temple for a long time. Now, one can find only the ruins of the temple there!
In ancient history, Kashmir was often mentioned as Sharada State. The temple is just 150km away from Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, and 1,981m above the sea level. Hiuen Tsang – the Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveller and translator who travelled to India in the 7th Century and described the interaction between Chinese Buddhism and Indian Buddhism during the early Tang dynasty – reportedly arrived at Sharada in 632 AD and spent two years there. In his ‘Rajatarangini’ – an account of the history of Kashmir that he wrote in Sanskrit between 1148 AD and 1149 AD, Kalhana described Sharada Peeth as the most important centre of the Hindus. He also revealed that some scholars from Bengal visited the place in 8th Century for study purposes.

Al-Biruni – the Iranian scholar and polymath from Khwarazm (a region that encompasses modern-day western Uzbekistan and northern Turkmenistan) – arrived in Kashmir in 1030 AD. He claimed that there was an idol of a Hindu goddess in this shrine, saying that the Sharada Temple had close resemblance to the Sun Temple of Multan. Abu’l-Fazl – the Grand vizier of the Mughal Emperor Akbar and author of the ‘Akbarnama’ – mentioned the existence of Sharada Temple in his writings! According to Abu’l-Fazl, the temple complex was completely covered with gold where miracle happened eight days after the full moon every month. He further mentioned that the temple was situated on the banks of Madhumati River. The Madhumati River is now called Neelum!
The destruction of this temple began in the 14th Century. Surprisingly, no one attacked the temple at the beginning of the Islamic rule. However, it was destroyed during the first Muslim invasion in the 14th Century. Later, pilgrims from mainland India stopped visiting the temple. Gulab Singh – the founder of royal Dogra dynasty and first King of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir – planned to rebuild this temple in the 19th Century. The Pashtun tribe took control of the area during the 1947 Indo-Pak war. The war, also called the First Kashmir War, started in October 1947 when Pakistan feared that the King of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu would accede to India. Then, the Sharada Peeth slowly disappeared in history. Now, this temple is completely abandoned and there is no deity.

The 2005 Kashmir earthquake completely destroyed this Hindu religious centre. Some Indian (Kashmiri) scholars urged the concerned authorities in PoK to allow them to visit the place. However, the Pakistani government rejected the request. As a friendly gesture, the local Muslims collected soils of the temple complex and sent it to the Hindu community in India.
According to a case study prepared by Faiz ur Rehman, King Lalitaditya had built the Sharada Peeth during the rule of Kushans (early 1st Century) mainly to contain the religious and political influence of the Buddhism. The claim is supported by the fact that Lalitaditya was a master of building massive temples. However, the ancient Hindu scholars opined that Goddess Sharada saved a container of knowledge during the fight between good and evil, and hid it in a hole in the ground. Later, she turned herself into a structure to cover the pot. The structure now stands as Sharada Peeth.

Meanwhile, noted Kashmiri scholar Ayaz Rasool Nazki stressed that the ruins of one of India’s oldest universities – called Sharada University – also stand there. He claimed that the university had its own script, known as Sharada, and the biggest library in India at that time. According to Nazki, the temple is also regarded as a Shakti Peeth – a shrine built on places where body parts of Sati Devi had fallen while being carried by her husband Lord Shiva.
Not hoping against hope – it is sincerely wished that scholars from India, Pakistan and other places influence the respective governments to look into this important issue in order to add different facets to history and knowledge.

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