It was a special moment for Prof Ayaz Rasool Nazki, when he reached Shardha temple in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), becoming one of the first few Kashmiris after partition to have visited the revered shrine, considered to be oldest temple in the region.
``I strongly felt the spirit of my forefathers there who have visited the shrine for thousands of years’’, said Prof Nazki, while giving an account of his journey to the shrine at Jammu University here recently. Prof Nazki is a noted scholar of the state with many books to his credit and is presently registrar at Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Rajouri. ``
It is difficult to put in words the time I spent at the shrine. It is a place to be experienced. The temple may not be in its pristine glory, but the energy of the place is same, it immensely affects you. I couldn’t even sleep that night there, as I wanted to treasure all the moments spent in that area, filled with divine aura and grace’’, said Prof Nazki.
He had visited shrine on July 3-4, located in Neelam district in Shardha tehsil of POK, near an army unit. Stressing that Shardha temple is a symbol of ``our common heritage, cultural ethos and roots’’, Prof Nazki said that he was happy to see the temple structure standing there as he didn’t expect that it would have survived last 60 years without much specialised care.
``Most surprising fact is that the devastating October 5, 2005 earthquake has not affected the shrine at all or even the Shardha tehsil at all, while the rest of the areas in POK has witnessed much destruction’’, he said. He added that the temple has a square base with each side measuring nearly 24 feet and is nearly 30 feet high. He said that floor of the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine is filled with soil, with spring within the sanctorum perhaps having got filled up. ``
The 8X8 feet stone slab which is said to have covered the spring was nowhere to be seen’’, he said. The detailed photo presentation on the Shardhapeeth at Jammu University made many Kashmiri Pandits present on the occasion very emotional. Pandits have not been able to visit this shrine for last half a century, after LOC separated the two Kashmiris. The shrine is barely 10 miles across LOC in Kupwara region in the upper Kishenganga valley (also called Neelum valley) in a small village Shardhi. The shrine is atop a hillock at a height of about 550 metres on the left bank of Kishenganga river, with 63 stone steps taking one to the shrine.
Narrating his experiences of the visit, Prof Nazki said that he is the first lucky Kahmiri to visit the shrine after 1947. Asserting that a mechanism needs to be drawn for its immediate protection and restoration, Prof Nazki said that all the universities on both the sides should join hands in the preservation of this great heritage of the region. Adi Shankaracharya is said to have visited this shrine in 8th/9th century AD and penned the famous ‘Saudharya Lahri’ in praise of the Goddess.
Shardha Temple in POK : Some pointers
§ Goddess Shardha is considered to be the presiding deity of Kashmir valley.
§ From ancient times, Kashmir has been called Shardhapeeth or Shardha Mandalam.
§ Considered to be the oldest temple of Kashmir.
§ Adi Shankaracharya is said to have visited the shrine in 8th/9th century AD.
§ Annual Shardha pilgrimage used to take place on 8th of the bright fortnight of bhadon (September).
§ The sanctum sanctorum of the temple had a spring covered with a 8 by 8 feet stone slab, which was worshipped by the devotees.
§ Shardha temple located atop the hillock near the confluence of rivers Kishenganga, Saraswati and Madhumati.