By Dr. Romesh Kumar
So integral is Sarada tradition to Kashmir, that Kashmir
is more often called by the name of Saradadesha. Goddess Sarada is the
presiding deity of Kashmir. Besides Kashmiri Hindus, Saraswat Brahmins,
presently scattered along the Western Coast of India, Venerate Goddess Sarada as
their principal deity. The puranic literature is replete with details about
goddess Sarada’s journey to Kashmir.
Two Sarada mahatmyas are presently extant. These
describe the significance of pilgrimage to Sarada. One is a part of
Bhrngisasamhita, while the other is based on Adipurana. Pandit Sahib Ram’s
excellent composition, Tirthasamgraha is also a valuable source on the history
of Sarada Tirtha. An attempt is made in this article, to reconstruct the origins
of Sarda pilgrimage, based on the oral tradition, collected from the Pandits of
village Gushi (ancient Ghosa) and Lidderwan, the villages intimately connected
with Sarada pilgrimage.
Origins of Sarada Tiratha
Ravana was a great Worshipper of Lord Shiva, who had
bestowed him with extraordinary powers. Goddess Parvati was also kind to Ravana.
One day Parvati told Lord Shiva, “We don’t have a house of our own,” and desired
one. Lord directed Vishwakarma to construct a house for them in Lanka. During
the Greh Pravesh ceremony, Ravana was also among invitees. Ravana wondered why a
godly saint with ashes smeared all round his body needed a house of his own. He
asked Lord to hand over the house to him. So long as the Lord was in the house,
he ignored Ravana’s pleadings. After the Lord and Parvati left the house, Ravana
was asked to take over the house.
Meanwhile Ravana was engaged in war with Rama. The former
asked Lord Shiva for his blessings. The Lord gave him a Shivling and told
him that “so long it remains with you, nobody can defeat you”. He warned him not
to put it on ground. Narad, an old man happened to pass by. Ravana went
somewhere and handed over Shivling to Narad. The latter told him that he
had a curse that he could not stay at a place for more than half an hour. Ravana
agreed and said he would return quite soon, but more than thirty minutes passed.
Narad put the Shivling down and left. On return, Ravana turned sad on
finding that Shivling was missing.
Knowing that Lord Shiva was angry with him, Ravana turned
to Goddess Durga. She asked him to perform Yagna but told Lord Ram, “If I stay
here, you cannot destroy Ravana. Take me from here to Utterkhand”. Lord Ram
asked her, “How could I take you”. She replied, “you have Hanuman”. Hanuman was
called but he refused, arguing he would not take a female along with him.
Parvati replied, “I will go in the form of water. You have only to lift the
Kamandal and drop me where I ask”. Hanuman agreed. In a slightly different
version, it is said that it was after Lanka (Lanka dahan) was set on fire
that Parvati asked Lord Rama to take her out of Lanka.
Hanuman took the Handawara (ancient Hantwara) route
to Gushi, passing by Masabhavan spring. As he crossed the place where Masabhavan
spring is situated, a drop of water from Kamandal fell down to form the spring
Masanag (Masa literally means fish). After resting a while at Gushi, Hanuman
went to Tikr. Here again a drop of water fell down from Kamandal to form Devibal
spring. The water of the spring demonstrates different colours at different
times, like the famous spring of Khirbhawani. A little above the Devibal spring,
Parvati asked Hanuman to stop a while. Goddess rested here. This place presently
has seven chinars. There is a temple of goddess Sarada, along with Srichakra.
The next destination of Hanuman was Hayhom, eight miles
away and Krsnag. Hayhom spring has an area of hundred square feet but is not
much deep. Sarda yatris take bath at Krsnag. From Krsnag Hanuman went to Tehjan.
There is also a spring here. Three miles ahead, on the banks of Madhumati on a
hillock, Parvati asked Hanuman to end the journey and keep the Kamandal down.
She asked Hanuman to leave.
The place, where Hanuman kept the Kamandal is the Sanctum
Sanctorium of Sarda shrine. Originally a spring, presently it is covered by a
large rough slab, measuring 6 by 7 feet, with a thickness of about half a foot.
This spring or Kunda is the object of special veneration for pilgrims. There is
another spring which lies a little higher up but within the precincts of Sarada
shrine. It is said that water from that spring flows into Sarada Kund. Same
story is told about Masabhavan spring whose waters are reported to reach Sarda
spring. A legendary account of Dandhori is given in this context.
This story is based on the oral tradition conveyed by
Sansar Chand Raina of Gushi and Nand Lal Pujari of Sarada to his descendants.
Masabhavan spring is a large spring with an area of seven hundred square feet.
Its good depth gives the water a blue hue. There are two big Shivlings in
the spring. The sanctity of Shivlings in the spring has been validated by
a unique incident in recent times. Jagarpur village is irrigated by the waters
of Masanag. In early seventies local villagers wanted to clean the spring but
could not do it fully. They asked Pandits of Nagari village to shift the
Shivlings. They complied and Shivlings were shifted to a nearby
temple. Incessant rains followed, leading to flash floods. Jagarpur villagers
got worried and went to seek intervention of a Kraal Derwish, Qadir Saab at Heer,
four miles away from Kupwara. Acclaimed as a good antaryami, he told the
villagers, “I cannot do anything, when you have removed it”. People could not
discern its meaning.
Meanwhile, DC Baramulla in a dream saw somebody catching
him by the neck. He told him, “If you do not put me back in the spring, even
your smell will not stay.” DC woke up that very moment, 12 O’clock in the night
and rushed to Jagarpur. He called the villagers and asked them to put the
Shivlings back in the spring. He warned them, “If you fail to so do so, you
will die along with me”. The Shivlings were brought in a truck and under
the direct supervision of DC, these were lowered into the Masabhavan spring.
Rains stopped immediately in the morning and villagers heaved a sigh of relief.
Pt. Shamboo Nath Thusu of Lidderwan gives a different
version of the legend, which explains the origin of Sarada spring. Pandit
Ganmalo of Seer Jagir (Nandkishwar) was a pujari at Sarda, appointed by
Dharmarth Trust. Ganmalo was well learnt in scriptures and a poet also. In
1940, when he had put ninety years behind him, he retired. He often talked about
the origins of Sarda tirtha to his nephews Satlal and Niranjan Nath and
to Nandlal Pujari of Goeteng. Satlal was pujari at Sarda in 1947. Pt. S.N. Thusu
heard this story from them.
Once Samundar Mathan (cleaning of ocean) was undertaken
by fourteen ratans, with an objective to get Amrit. In the process, Amrit fell
into the hands dyats and not devtas. It was a fearful situation. Devtas, thought
of a compromise. Goddess adopted ‘Mohini Roop’ and agreed to distribute Amrit.
As expected dyats fell out. In the process the goddess left along with Amrit to
Sardaji. Goddess Mohini poured it over a place, now known as Sarda spring. Dyats
would come and desecrate it. Goddess put a shila over it to prevent desecration.
Legends of Muni Sandilya
There are two different versions on how Muni Sandilya
reached Sarda. The first version is based on what Sansar Chand Raina and Nand
Lal Shardi relate. The other version is based on Bhrnghisasamhita and is
recorded by Sir Aureil Stein, in his translation of Rajatarangini.
Rishi Agastya was a brahm rishi. He performed
tapasya in a forest. Rishi was childless. One day his wife told him
that she desired a child. Rishi kept quiet. When she persisted, Agastya
suggested to her that she should seek the divine intervention for this. He
advised her, “you get up at 2 AM and pour eleven tumblers of water over
Shivling, everyday for forty days. You may get a child after that.” Rishi
however told her that no one else should see her performing this unique puja. A
Coirmaker overhead this conversation. He too was childless. He was on way home
from the forest. As it rained heavily, he took shelter under the cover of roof
projecting out. Matanga, the coir-maker went home and asked his wife to try this
Soon both ladies gave birth to sons. Matanga’s son
Sandilya was of a very dark complexion. As he grew up, he would frequently visit
men of religious merit and thus came in contact with Acharya Agastya.
Sandilya began visiting Rishi Agastya frequently. The
latter told his wife that though Sandilya was born in identical circumstances as
her son but he was higher in wisdom. When he reached ten to twelve years of age,
Shandilya asked Rishi Agastya for ‘Guru Shabad’. Rishi told him, “you cannot get
it.Only those who have undergone Yagneopavit ceremony qualify for it.” Sandilya
in his innocence asked the Rishi to perform his yagneopavit ceremony. Agastya
told him that only Brahmins can undergo Yagneopavit ceremony. Sandilya did not
relent. Then Agastya suggested, “There is a way out. You go to Sarda and offer
penance to the goddess. If she is kind enough, then your Yagneopavit ceremony is
possible”. Agastya told Sandilya that the goddess lived in Utterakhand.
Sandilya began Wanderings in search of the goddess and
found out from people that the goddess lived in Kashmir. It took him two years
to reach this region. He followed the track taken by Hanuman in carrying goddess
Parvati. Sandilya took the traditional bath at Krsnag and came to Tehjan. He
mistook Tehjan spring for that of Sarda and camped here. After resting a while,
he took bath at Tehjan spring. His dark comlexion was gone. However, Sandilya
was enveloped with a feeling that Tehjan was not the resting place of goddess
Sarda. He got up and followed the bank till he reached near the Sarda spring.
Sandilya rested here. Goddess Sarda came to him in a dream. This confirmed the
authenticity of her abode. Sandilya began his tapsya. Goddess came to him and
asked what he wanted. Sandilya told her, “I need no riches. Nobody is agreeing
to perform my Yagneopavit ceremony. Only you can help me. For my Yagneopavit
ceremony you be the Jajmanbhai and rishi Agastya the Brahmin”. Goddess Sarda,
the incarnation of Parvati agreed. Yagneopavit was performed and Sandilya
received ‘Guru Shabad’ from Agastya. Thus it is on the soil of Kashmir that
caste system was delegitimised by none other than the presiding goddess Sarda.
Caste system remained extremely weak here. Its historical significance is
outside the scope of this story. Devtas, had lost contact with goddess Parvati,
when she escaped from Lanka. It was Sandilya, who led them to Sarda.
Sir Aureil Stein gives a different version of the legend,
based on Bhrangisasamhita. Muni Sandilya was practicisng great austerities in
order to obtain the sight of the goddess Sarada. Divine advice prompts him to
proceed to Syamala Maharashtra, the present region of Hamal, Dengiwacha. At
Gushi Mahadevi appears to him and promises to show herself in true form in the
Sarada forest. The goddess vanishes from his sight at Hayasirsasrama, present
Hayhom, four miles from Gushi. Sandilya next proceeds to Krsnag and takes bath
in the spring. After emerging from the spring, half of his body turns golden.
This is interpreted by Stein as complete liberation from darkness. Since the
Krsnaganga is situated above the village of Drang, local Brahmins also call
Drang as ‘Sona-Drang’ or ‘Gold-Drang’ (Suvarnardhangaka in Mahatmya).
While ascending the mountain range to the north, Sandilya
sees a dance of goddess in a forest called Rangavati. He then passes the
Gostambhana forest and arrives at Tejavana, modern Tehjan, the residence of
rishi Gautam. Then Sandilya crosses a hill and sees the God Ganesa and finally
reaches Saradavana. It is at the Sarada spring, the sancutm sanctorum of the
shrine that the goddess appeared to Sandilya. She rewarded his long austerities
by inviting him to her residence on Srisaila.
Pityrs also approached Sandilya and asked him to perform
their Sraddhas. On his taking water from the Mahasindhu for the purpose of the
Tarpana rite, half of its water turns into honey and forms the stream hence
known as Madhumati. Mishra (Gangetic Plain), Saproos, Sadhus (Kashmir) trace
their Gotra to Sandilya.