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An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Hari Parbat - the Reservoir of Religio-Cultural Strength

By Upender Ambardar

The pious and sacred places of pilgrimages have deep roots in our socio-religious traditions. They are an inseparable part of our cultural heritage. Kashmir has been a cradle of spiritual and cultural rejuvenation since time immemorial. The shrines and holy pilgrimage centres located at every nook and corner of the valley are places of devotion and reverence for the entire Kashmiri Pandit Community. They are not only a great source of our spiritual inspiration but also the main strength of our faith and devotion.

Hari Parbat (the hill of Sharika) situated at the periphery of Srinagar city is an ancient and one of the holiest places of Kashmir. It is the abode of Mahashakti - the Divine Mother Jagatamba Sharika Bhagwati, also known as Maha Tripursundhari or Rajrajeshwari (locally called as Hari). The eighteen armed Goddess Sharika (Ashtadushbuja*, Fig. 1) is regarded as the Presiding Deity (Isht-Devi) of Srinagar city. The Goddess Sharika is manifestation of the foremost Deity and Supreme Mother of the Universe - the Goddess Durga. The Goddess Sharika is represented by a `Soyambhu' Shrichakra (Mahamaha Shrichakra), also called Mahashriyantra, which consists of circular mystic impressions and triangular patterns with a dot (bindhu) at the centre. The mystic Shrichakra engraved on a vertical holy rock (shila) is located at the middle of western face of Hari Parbat.

This very shila smeared with a paste of lead-oxide or red lead (sindhoor) and decorated with silver foils (ropa-vark) and fresh flowers is the holy shrine of Chakrishwar. The Deity is known as Shri Chakrishwari (Fig. 2). The shrine can be approached from Deviangan by a flight of chiselled stones, numbering one hundred and eleven. It is perhaps due to the Goddess Shrichakra that the capital city of Kashmir is said to have derived it's name of Srinagar (Shrinagra).

As for the `Visishtadhvaita' doctrine, `Shri' is the Divine Consort of The Lord and is said to play an intermediatory role between God and the human soul. The Shrichakra (Fig. 3) is a symbolic representation of the cosmic union of the Lord Shiva and Shakti. The Shrichakra is the most famous `Yantra' and Yantra is indispensable in the Tantra Worship.

Every Goddess is represented by an individual `Yantra' and among all the Yantras, the most famous and venerated one is the `Shri-yantra'. The yantra inscribed with specific mantras represents the Divine Mother, who is the cause of creation, sustenance and dissolution of the Cosmos.

Fig. 1 : Ashtadushbuja

*Gratitude is expressed to Mrs. Bimla Rainaji for procuring and providing this rare photograph which is captioned as "The Centuries old idol of Goddess Ashtadushbuja, Mata Kaliji, stolen by some miscreants from an ancient temple of Hari Parbat in Srinagar.

These attributes of shakti are recognised by the great Vedantin Adishankaracharya. The very first line of the first shaloka of his famous hymn `Saundarya-Lehri', states clearly that Lord Shiva is powerless without the divine energy of the Shakti. Some of the selected shaloka's of `Saundarya-Lehri', `Panchastavi' and `Durga Saptshati' dedicated to the praises of the Divine Mother are recited regularly every morning by the devotees at the holy shrine of Shri Chakrishwari. The shrine of Chakrishwar has been a place of worship from the day, the Goddess Sharika manifested Herself in the form of a `shila' on the Hari-Parbat. Various names such as `Pradyuman Peeth', `Sidh-Peeth', `Shakti-Peeth', besides `Sharika-Peeth' have been assigned to the holy shrine of the Goddess Chakrishwari.

The devotees often recite the `Sharika Mahatmya' sholaka with faith and reverence during the circumambulation (parikrama) of the shrine. This sholaka clearly refers to the Pradyuman-peeth as being the sacred seat of `Shri-Chakra' on the Hari-Parbat.

A verse from the `Rudra Yamla Tantra' is inscribed on the marble slab installed above the holy `shila'. This verse speaks about the nature and form of Shri-Chakra - the Superme Goddess Sharika.

The `Shakt Shastra' also admires and glorifies the Goddess Sharika as the most adorable and magnificient Deity with eighteen arms, who takes good care of the universe and Her devotees.

To worship the Supreme Goddess, the devotees would go to Hari Parbat regularly and reach the shrine of Chakrishwar to be at the holy feet of the Divine Mother in the wee hours of the morning. Phagun Krishna Paksh Ashtami (Hora Ashtami or Hur Aathum) and Ashad Shukla Paksh Saptami, Ashtami and Navami (Har Satum, Har Aathum and Har Navum) are the auspicious days for the devotional congregational prayers at the Sharika-peeth Chakrishwar.

Asad Navami (Har Navum) is said to be the Birthday of Sharika Bhagwati. On this day, the devotees make sacrificial offering of `Taher-charvan' (Taher - rice boiled with turmeric powder and mixed with oil and salt; charvan - cooked liver of goat) to the Supreme Goddess.

This ritual is locally known as `Chout Kharoun'. On `Navreh' (the New Year Day of Kashmiri Pandits), during the month of Magh and Navratra days' (Nav-Durgah), the devotees regularly visit the Hari-Parbat for special prayers and wroship.

Earlier, the Birthday of Jagat Amba sharika Bhagwati used to be celebrated by performing a `Mahachandi Yagna', which would commence on Ashad Saptami (Har Satum) and culminate on Ashad Shukla Paksh Navami (Har Navum) with a sacrificial offering of a lamb called `Raje-Kath'. Presently, `Har-Navum', the holy birthday festival of the Goddess Sharika is celebrated at Chakrishwar shrine with a night long singing of hymns and bhajans in the praise of the Goddess.

Some of the devotees prefer to do parikrama (prakrum) for the complete month of Magh right from the Lord Ganishs' temple (Ganishon), passing through Devi-Angan right upto Kathi-Darwaza.

Pir Pandit Padshah Resh Peer, one of the greatest saints of Kashmir of 17th, Century is said to have performed circumambulation of Hari-Parbat (a distance of about three miles) on his knees for forty days in the wee hours of the morning.

A legend from the `Sharika Mahatmya' records that in order to save and free the residents of the valley (Satidesh) from the evil deeds of the demon, the Mother Goddess Ashtadushbuja Jagatamba Durga took the form of a bird (Har in Kashmiri and `myna' in Hindi).

On the day of Ashad Shukla Paksh Navami (Har Navum), it is believed to have carried a celestial pebble in its' beak and dropped it on the demon to crush it to death. A miracle happened and the celestial pebble is said to have assumed the shape and form of a hillock giving the name of Sharika Parbat or Hari Parbat to the hillock.

Subsequently, the Goddess Sharika (represented by the mystic `Soyambhu' Shrichakra), made Her permanent Abode on the Western face of the hillock (Hari Parbat) on a vertical rock (shila) to assure the native people of Her presence and protection.

The whole hillock of Hari Parbat is a hallowed place. A number of temples and holy spots representing the different Deities are located on its' all sides.

It is because of this belief that the devotees undertake a circumambulation (parikrama) of the whole hillock of Hari Parbat. The parikrama starts from the Lord Ganeshs' shrine (Ganishon), which is located on the south-western corner of Hari Parbat. Inside the temple, the Deity is represented by a huge `shila', smeared with lead-oxide or red lead (sindhoor). The Principal Devta Ganisha (Adideva Ganesha) is also known by the names of Ganpati, Vinayak, Heramba, Ekadenta, Lambodara, Vignesa, Vighna-Hari and Gajanana. Believed to be kind, generous and calm, Lord Ganesha is always invoked before starting any auspicious event or religious ceremony. Ganpati is worshipped both in the form of an image and yantra. The `Swastika' is also regarded as a graphic symbol of Lord Ganesha.

From Lord Ganeshjis' temple, there are two parikrama routes; one, along foot-hill of the hillock and the other along the fortified stone wall locally known as `Kalai'. The devotees have the option of taking either of the two routes.

The next place of obeisance on parikrama route is the `Saptrishi sthapna (Satresh), which is marked by an open space on slope of the hillock near a big boulder in the vicinity of a Chinar tree. It is at this very spot, that the devotees used to ascertain their luck (locally known as phall) by random picking-up of some rice grains scattered on the boulder. (even number for bad and odd number for good luck) The Saptrishi, also called `Praja-patis`` are regarded as the mind-born sons (manus-putra's) of Brahma.

In the `Shatpath-Brahman', their names are given as Gotama, Bhardwaja, Vishwamitra, Vasishta, Kashyap, Atri and Jamad-agni. The seven Rishis are represented in the sky by seven stars known by the name of Great Bear. (Satresh).

Furtheron, the next holy spot to appear during parikrama is the "thapna" of the Goddess Kali, which is marked by a small temple adjacent to a Chinar tree. Mahakali, the consort of Mahakal, the eternal time represents one of the aspects of Shakti, the primordial energy, which comprises the creation (Srishti) and dissolution (pralay). Kali, the eternal symbol of the mother cult destroys the evil and showers blessings on her devotees.

In front of the Kali-mandir, a large flat chunk of land measuring about ten kanals or so is known by the name of `Sidh-Peeth' - A place of awakened Divine presence. The Sidh-Peeth is believed to be invested with strong divine spiritual vibrations. Usually, the devotees worship and chant the holy name of the Eternal Mother at the Sidh-peeth in the auspicious hour's of pre-dawn. (Brahma-murta). The great saints of Kashmir, Pt. Madhav Joo Dhar, Rupe Bhowani, Krishna Kar, Resh Peer, Sahib Koul and many others' are said to have meditated and succeeded in their spiritual pursuits here at the Sidh-Peeth near the Chinar tree. The Sidh-Peeth also commands a most picturesque and panoramic view of the whole area.

Next, on the parikrama route of Hari Parbat is a vast stretch of open space known by the name of `Devi-Angan' - the playfield of the Cosmic Mother. It is studded with small hutments for the purpose of worship and meditation. Due to scenic charm and absorbing natural beauty, Devi-Angan is also a place for religious and social festivities.

Those of the devotees, who can not pay obeisance at the holy shrine of Chakrishwar, do pray and worship at the Devi-Angan. The holy shrine of Shrichakra with the adjacent open space known by the same name of Devi-angan is also present in TamilNadu.

Next holy spot on parikrama of Hari-Parbat is the "thapna" of `Hari', represented by a rock (shila), located on the north-eastern face of the hillock. The shila is also smeared with sindhoor. Earlier a small dharamshalla used to exist near this thapna. The devotees after performing pooja at this spot, take a symbolic `round-turn' parikrama in front of the shila, pronouncing loudly the holy words "Hari (Maujee) Kartum Yari" (The Mother Goddess bless me).

ChakriShwar Temple at Hari Parbhat, Srinagar
Fig. 2 : Shri Chakreshwari

In front of Devi-angan, the two parikrama routes, one along the fortification wall (Kalai) and the other below the foothill, merge together.

From here, the devotees while performing parikrama pay their obeisance to the Goddess Mahalakshmi by salutations (namaskar with folded hands) near Mahalakshmi thapna, which is situated at a higher elevation near the thapna of `Hari'. The devotees do not offer pooja here specifically, as Kashmiri Pandits have preferential adoration for the Goddess Saraswati - the Goddess of knowledge and learning rather than Laxmi - the Goddess of fortune and wealth.

Next and opposite to Mahalakshmi thapna, on the left side of parikrama route, there is a temple called `Amber Kouls' mandir, though some people wrongly refer it as Ram Kouls' mandir. A little distance away from this temple is `Waris Khan's chah.' Amber Koul's temple is believed to be the first Lord Krishna's temple in the valley. The devotees after performing pooja and meditation would enjoy a panaromic view of the Dal-lake, while taking rest on a wooden platform of the temple facing east. Next on the parikrama, falls the thapna of `Vamdhev', which is located on the left side of the route. Vamdhev is regarded as the Divine Consort of the Goddess Raghnya. Previously, there existed a stone statue of Lord Vamdhev and a small "Dharmshalla". The devotees also perform parikrama here.

Pokhribal- the shrine of the Mother Raghnya is the next holy spot on the parikrama route. It has a holy spring inside the temple complex. A `samput yagnya' used to be performed in honour of the Goddess Raghnya especially on Shuklapaksh Ashtamis and other auspicious days.

A small Hanuman temple located on the right side of the foothill is the last holy spot on the parikrama route.

The circumbulation or parikrama ("prakrum") of the Hari-Parbat ends at "Kathi-Darwaga", which is one of the two main gates of the township around Hari Parbat, the other being "Sangeen-darwaza" towards Hawal. Hari Parbat is surrounded by orchards of almonds (called Badam-Vari) on its' three sides i.e. on north, west and east. During spring the `badam-vari' presents the look of a fairyland and people visit it to enjoy the almond blossom, localty known as "Badam phulai".

A regular visit to Hari Parbat used to be an integral part of the socio-religious life of every Kashmiri Pandit. The devotees would flock to the holy shrine early in the morning for solace, solitude, self purification and spiritual pursuits.

It is rightly believed that those who worship at Hari Parbat are deemed to have worshipped all the Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu mythology.

Undoubtedly, the whole hillock of Hari Parbat is a hallowed place and a source of spiritual, religious and cultural strength. It is a place of devotion and reverence for the entire Kashmiri Pandit Community.

Fig. 3 : Sri Chakra

Source: Vitasta



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