Shree Sharika Peetham of Kashmir

Shree Sharika Peetham of Kashmir

by Moti Lal Pushkar

The valley of Kashmir is known as Deva Bhoomi i.e. the abode of gods. It is situated in the lap of the Himalayan mountains. The seat of Sharika Devi, the 'Cosmic mother', is one of such divine centres. It is the abode of three crore gods; hence in Sanskrit it is called Vaas Bhoomi of Trikoti devtas of the Hindu pantheon. The devout have always found great spiritual solace and bliss here. It is also known as "Pradyuman - peetham" - the wish-fulfilling seat of the cosmic Mother.

Kashmir's deshny is settled here at the lotus feet of Jagad Amba. This spiritual seat is situated on the western top of the mount Hariparbat. It was at this very spot that the Divine Mother destroyed the demon "Jaloudbhava" that existed in the deep waters of the Sati-Sar. This terrible demon used to give trouble to the inhabitants that lived then on the hill tops surrounding that pretty sea Satisar now called 'Kashmir'.

Kashmir has seen many natural calamities from time to time during its history in the shape of floods and rains. The cosmic Mother here represents the solar energy, having seven components. The number 'seven' represents seven colours of light, seven Rishis of the Veda vidya, the seven worlds. It is for this digit seven that the divine Mother's seed letters are seven in number, corresponding to the seven basic 'Swaras' of the Sangeet Shastra. She is the protector of her Bhagtas from all the opposite aspects of existence. The energy here is personified as heat or the 'Solar Energy'.

The old city of Srinagar is situated at its foot hill in the west. The Divine Mother Sharika has all along been the 'Ishta Devi' i.e. personal goddess of the royal dynasties that ruled over Kashmir from time to time. One of the most famous among these kings was Pravar Sen, the son of the great Buddhist King 'Megha- Vaahana' who ruled the land at the end of the 6th century A.D. The city of Srinagar is known as Pravarpura i.e. the city laid out by king Pravara Sena. "Shri Chakra" is worshipped here as the cosmic form of Divine Mother. It is engraved on a green, circular shaped stone of Sapphire. The Bhawani Sahasranama says thus.

The Meaning of Shri Chakra

The Mother exists here in the form of a diagram. She is within its orbit. Even the triangles that shape the corners of the Shri Chakra are the forms of Devi. All these 43 triangles and lotuses vibrate from the very basic central point that represents the core of the whole cosmos. It has 3 circles around it and 4 gates to enter into it. It originates from one central point.

This diagram is also known as 'Matra-chakra' established here by king Pravar Sena. Historian Kalhana writes: <sanskrit sloka>

There was a Murti of Sharika Devi made of glazed black stone. The same was taken away to Sarthal Kishtwar by king Ugra Deva in 1170. A.D. Kashmir was in a state of turmoil then. The following shloka throws light on this Sharika Murti <sanskrit>

Sharika Devi's Murti is beautiful. Her, image is made of black stone. She is Mother Durga having 18 arms. The Cosrriic Energy is beyond any name and form and She is Eternal force of God. She is matter (Sat), soul (chit) and bliss (ananda). I offer Pranams to Her to protect me, the seeker of asylum under her pious feet.

The Surroundings of Hari Parbat

The famous Dal Lake is in the East of the Parbat and Rainawari, a township established by king Rana Ditya (hence its original name was Ranapuri, situated close to the southern edge of this hillock). An ancient Durga temple is at the top of this very mount. Hari Parbat is a big ancient fort site with all the required facilities, like availability of drinking water, a space for armoury, residential huts and a storage for provisions etc. etc.

Its eastern foot-hill area was used as a cantonment for the army. This area is protected by an allround wall covering its adjacent land strip from the southern end to the northern end inclusive of the westem strip with a magnificent gate "Kashtadwar".

Its western strip is known as Devi Aangan where Kashmiri Pandits would collect in thousands to offer prayers to Devi on the Hora Ashtami night.

It was at this very seat and shrine of the cosmic Mother tlhat MaharajaJai Sinha (1128 - 55) gave a start to his Vedic renaissance programme with the intention of inspiring confidence among his masses. He dug deep foundations for preservation and promotion of the Vedic Dharma. This renaissance programme was launched in the form of "Shakti- Upasana" The Maharaja gave a new direction to his masses. It was the Shakta cult that he stressed upon for his subjects.

Before Jaya Sinha's advent to the throne of Kashmir, the country had faced the first foreign invasion by Mohd. of Gaznavi. The Kashmiris had faced great trouble due to this invasion and multi dimensional devastation had taken place as a result of it. Later also the Kashmiris had seen bad days during the rule of king Harsha (1089-1101 A.D.) whom Kalhana calls a 'Rakshasa'. He had indulged in plunder and destruction of the Hindu shrines. In his reign Deva Murtis were desecrated. He had recruited the Turks as his army generals and soldiers. He worked under the influence of some non-Hindu mendicants and took such steps to save his kingdom. This was all based on his wrong notions. The happenings compelled Jayasinha to follow the Shakta Marga. This back ground has been hinted at in the Bhawani Sahasranama thus.

Here the word 'dushta' has been used for kings like 'Harsha' and the word 'Malecha' indicates the invader 'Gazanavi' who had surfaced during the rule of Sangrama Raja (1003 - 28 A.D.) . One more factor that had contributed towards this "Renaissance Movement" was the Historian Kalhana who had compiled his great work 'The Raj Tarangini' during the rule of Maha RajaJaya Sinha from 1148 to 50 A.D . MaharajaJaya Sinha's greatness also has been acknowledged in the Bhawani Sahasranama: Jagad Amba Sharika is Herself Jaya's Administration, Guide to his victory, the Bestower of victory and Sustainer and Supporter of this visionary king Jaya Sinha. Under the influence of the unmanly concept of non-violence, escapism and falsehood that were practised in the name of devotion and salvation with the advent of non-Vedic paths. This had compelled the Kashmiris to feel concemed about their social existence and preservation.

The Bhawani Sahasra Nama

This grantha, composed in praise of Devi Bhawani's one thousand pious names, throws enough light on the Shakta cult. All these names enable us to grasp the main features of the Vedic Dharma i.e. social consciousness, service to mankind, compassion, sympathy, moral values, etc. Shlokas from the granth use to be recited by the devotees regularly as they performed Parikrama (when there was normalcy in Kashmir). The text consists of three parts. The first part throws light on the creation of this universe, the eminence of the Bhawani Devi, the source of the elements that make up the existence or the Prakriti. This grantha tells us that even Lord Maha Deva is born out of the cosmic energy. Maha Deva is thus a devotee of the Mother. "Maha Deva" also happens to be the name of the Rishi who has given an account of his mystic experience, that he had got through the constant recitation of thisgrantha.

Other Works on this Subject

Bhavani Sahasranama is a Samvada, comprising of questions put forth by Nandiji and the answers given by Maha Deva, the Lord. The word 'Rishi' used in the text suggests that it is a revealed book. The Vedas say in the "Vag - Ambhrani" sookta that it is the Mother's grace that makes a person into a Rishi, who reveals the truths to the world. It is the Mother again that carves a heroic personality out of a simpleton besides giving birth to a great scientist.

It was prior to the period in which Bhavani Sahasranama appeared that the "Panchastavi" was composed by Dharma Acharya. This work consists of hymns on the Devi and it lays stress on the Mother's worship. Even the Adi Shankara had composed his great work "Soundarya - Lahari" with the same objective in view, to make the Indian society aware of the Mother's eminence, four centuries before the Bhavani Sahasranama was revealed.

A few names from the 2nd chapter of the work signify: That the mother is enlightenment, Mother of the whole cosmos, She is Mother of the Vedas; She is Courage, Love, Tradition, the Earth; She is the real ruler, Truth, Omkara herself. She is the mother of Buddha and Mahavira She is diplomacy and penal code, besides She is Ganga, Yamuna and all other rivers that flow through the Indian subcontinent, She is an Army herself and victory as well, She inspires the devotees to attain the four-fold aim of the human life.

Other names convey that she loves dancing and singing. She is the composition of poets and the wise. She has great liking for the saffron flowers. She is the land known as Kurukshetra where the Maha Bharata was fought. She is both Shri Ram's and Shri Krishna's birth place. She is the social code, the digestive system, the system that is responsible for the creation of human body. She is beauty and the reverential feeling for the mother. It is she that shapes future generations. She is all forms of Expression. She is science and spirituality both. She is the service to mankind to sustain this world. She is armoury. She loves horse riding. She is the sheath and the sword. She is the heroic mother that gives birth to brave sons and daughters. She is herself the battle field. She is benevolent to all.

The Third chapter deals with fal shruti. It mentions the set of benefits one derives from its recitation. These benefits are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

In the end, it is emphasised that we should make it our daily practice to recite the text with devotion and dedication. The set of one thousand names includes one hundred names from the "Lalita Sahasranama", the pious names of Mother Lalita's eminence. Cultural and territorial identity of India is the Divine Mother herself.

May the Mother bless us all. Victory to Jagad Amba Sharika.

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