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Adi Shankracharya's Visit to Kashmir

By Onkar Aima

Kashmir has been a sacred place a seat for learning. Swami Paramahansa Yoganranda tells us in 'Autobiography of a Yogi'-"Mythological tales in Purana say that the Himalayas are abodeof Shiva-King of Yogis". So does Kalidas describes the Himalayas as"The massed laughter of Shiva". 'The Hindu Tradition' mentionsthat Kashmiri was a center of Shiva Worship and according to some traditions, it was from here that the devotional Shaivism passed on to the rest of India.

Right up from ancient times great scholars, sages, saints, philosophers have been visiting Kashmir to learn, to gain knowledge, to escell in the field of spiritualism, mysticism and religion. Saints and seers found Kashmir a fertile place for the spiritual Sadhana. They always gained by their visit to Kahsmir.

The sincere purpose - intention - of this article, to be followed by such other articles, is to remind ourselves - to inform our younger generation - that Kashmiri Pandits have always been torch bearness in different fields. History is witness to it that we have always been GIVERS. We have led and have not been led - we have represented and have not been represented. That is our past - that is our strength - that is what we are. The object is to resolve that the glorious past of thousands of years will not be allowed to be disturbed by unscrupulous elements through subversive efforts and activities for their selfish ends.

Adi Shankaracharya, a great philosopher - a saint of high order, re-established true faith in upanishads and gave Vedanta philosophy a right footing. He visited Kashmir in first quarter of 9th Century (788-820 A.D) NK Kotru in 'Sivastotravali of Utpaladeva'mentions that when Buddhism was dominating in India, the great Shankaracharya launched a Vigorous Campaign in the South and popularized the cult of Bhakti, to reduce the influence of Buddhist domination. He had a sweeping tour of the country and defeated Buddhist Scholars with his
powerful logic.

"He checked the tidal wave of nihilism (denial of all reality)Says the writer in 'The life of Swami Vivekananda'. At the sametime Kashmir was also under strong influence of Buddhism, when Vasugupta appeared on the scene and changed the whole current of religious thoughts. He propagated the 'Siva Sutrar', revealed to him by'Shiva' himself, as engraved on a big stone at the foot of Mahadeva mountain.

Dr Ved Kumari in 'The Nilamata Purana', writes that accordingto writer of 'Sankara Digvijaya' -- 'Sankara visited Kashmirafter giving a final blow to Buddhism in the rest of India". However, according to NK Kotru -- "It was in Kashmir that Buddhismreceived death blow". PN Magzine, a research scholar of repute, writes in 'Shankaracharya Temple and Hill' that Shankaracharyavisited Kashmir with the intention of advancing Vedantic knowledge. That time Kashmiris were culturally and spiritually much advanced and believed strongly in the greatness of both Shiva and Shakti. Shankara did not, at that time, when he visited Kashmir, believe in Shakti cult PN Magzine mentions that Shankaracharya with his party camped outside the city of Srinagar, without any boarding and lodging arrangements. Seeing the plight of visitors a virgin was sent to meet Shankara. She found the party uneasy and frustrated because of not being able to cook as no fire was made available to them. The first glimpse of Shakti was exhibited to Shankara by this girl, when Shankara expressed his inability to make a fire, in reply to girl'squestion that you are so great, can not you make fire.The girl picked up two thin wooden sticks (samidhas) into her hand, recited some mantras and rubbed the sticks and fire was produced to the surprise of Shankara. PN Magzine further adds that later a Shastrarth (religious discourse) was arranged between Shankara and a Kashmiri woman. This discourse continued for 17 days. Shankaracharya yielded before the lady in discussion and accepted the predominance of Shakti cult (greatness of Devi).

According to PN Magzine, after accepting predominance of Shakti cult, Shankara wrote Saundarya Lahari, in praise of Shakti, at the top of the hill, known till then as Gopadari Hill. Pandit Gopi Krishan writer that Panchastavi--gamut of Shakti Shastra--a priceless gem -- a peerless hymn of praise addressed to Kundalini. The work has been cited as source book by several eminent scholars, but the name of the author has remained undisclosed". According to him the only other work in whole gamut of Shakti Shastra in the country, comparable to Panchastavi is Saundarya Lahari. PN Magzine says that Saundarya Lahari is acclaimed as master-piece in Sanskrit literature. After the visit of Adi Shankaracharya to Kashmir, he became staunch believer of Shakti-Shri Chakra - the symbol of Devi (Goddess) as mentioned in 'Shankara Digvijay' - Life history of Shankaracharya. Thuswe know that even, a very knowledge philosopher, a Saint of greater order- Adi Shankaracharya - gained further depth in spritualism and mysticism in Kashmir.Kashmiri Pandit - great 'Mehman Nawaz' - highly appreciativeof knowledge (which has at time sproved undoing for them), awarded a degree of the Sharda Peetha, the highest honour conferred on any dignitary of knowledge when Shankaracharya visited Sharda, a famous temple, Shrine of Goddess Saraswati and a famous university of learning.

This temple is situated about 100 kilometers to the South West of Srinagar, which is now under occupation of Pakistan. Kashmiri Pandits were not satisfied by this award to Shankaracharya and desired to honour him further more and dedicated the hill and temple where he wrote Sundarya Lahari to the memory of his visit to Kashmir. The hill, till that time known as Gopadri hill and temple are both, thereafter, known as Shankaracharya hill and Shankaracharya temple.'Kashur Encyclopadia' published by J&K Academy records -"Behind Shiv Lingam at Gopadri (Shankaracharya temple) is Statue of Adi Shankaracharya, which has been installed in 1961, by Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peeth, Pilgrimage to this temple is must be any scholar, philosopher, mystic, saint or seer who visits Kashmir.While writing this I am reminded of a Kashmiri poet, who has said:-

"Yus chaman paamaal kari tas laar

kar Saz yath dil vaayi Suy raazaah vanav

Yee pagaah asi peyi karun tee azy karavAschi

kwochhi manz prazli pagahuk aaftab

Azchi berang zindagaani kar hissab".


Chase him who comes to blight the garden,

Speak the word that makes the heart sing,

Let us begin tomorrow's work today,

Today is nurse of tomorrow's Sun

Take stock of your present pallid fate.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

 

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