Sarada Temple in Kashmir
by P.N.K. Bamzai
Kashmir has been a part and parcel of Bharatvarsha from time immemorial
has been testified to by Pandit Kalhana by recording in his Ragatarangani
that pilgrims from Kashmir used to visit holy places from Rameshwaram to
Badrinath and Dwarka to Puri and that devotees of Durga and Shiva from
all over the country would flock to the holy shrine of Sarada and the sacred
cave of Amarnath in Kashmir. The author, the renowned historian of Kashmir,
describes the importance of the Sarada Temple which now lies in Pak-occupied
From time immemorial
Kashmir has been known all over India as Saradapeeth or the abode of Sarada
the goddess of learning and fine arts. Every orthodox Brahmin in South
India, for instance, on rising from his bed in the morning faces north
and with folded hands offers salutations to goddess Sarada:
Sarada Devi, Kashmira mandala vasini
to Goddess Sarada who resides in Kashmir).
The place of pride
which the Valley acquired in Sanskrit language and literature as well as
in humanities like medicine, astronomy, astrology, philosophy, religion,
law and jurisprudence, music, art and architecture is attributed to the
grace and benediction of the goddess who revealed herself in all her divine
grandeur to Muni Sandalya at Saradavana in the Upper Kishenganga Valley
in the north of Kashmir.
No wonder the
holy spot became a sacred shrine to which thousands of devotees not only
from the Kashmir Valley but from distant parts of India were attracted
to seek blessings from Sarada Devi, the goddess in her three aspects of Sarada, Narada or Saraswati and
The exact location
of the shrine where, in course of time, a huge temple complex came up,
is indicated by Kalhana himself. He has occasion to speak of the siege
of Sirahsila castle (Raj. viii- 2556-2706) which took place in his own
time. His references show clearly that the shrine was in close proximity
to this hill stronghold. Various indications gathered from the general
description of the locality pointed to the Upper Kishneganga Valley.
source, the Sarada Mahatmya, narrating the origin of the tirtha mentions
the various stages of the pilgrim route. The Muni Snadalya, son of Matanga,
was practising austerities in order to obtain the sight of the goddess Sarada, who is a Sakti embodying three separate manifestations. Divine
advice prompts him to proeeed to Syamala (the present Kupwara district).
There at Ghusa,
Mahadevi appears before him and promises to show herself in her true form
as Sakti in the 'Sarada Forest'. The goddess vanishes from his sight at
Hayasrama, the present village of Hayahoma situated about four miles to
the N.E- E of Ghusa.
The Muni next
proceeds to a spring now known as Krishna Nag in which he bathes. Thereupon
half his body becomes golden, emblematic of the approach to complete liberation
from darkness. The spring situated above the village of Drang is shown
on the larger Survey Map as quite close to Hayahom and is undoubtedly the
Drang mentioned by Kalhana (Raj . 2607-2702). The place is nowadays usually
designated by the local Brahmins as Sona-Drang.
Sandalya ascends the mountain range to the north on which he sees a dance
of goddesses in a mountain meadow known as Rangavatika which lies below
the pass by which the route leading from Drang towards the Kishenganga
crosses the watershed.
He then arrives
at Tejavana, the residence of Sage Gautama on the bank of the Kishenganga.
The Mahatmya then relates how the sage after crossing a hill sees on the
east the god Ganesa and arrives in the Saradavana. After reciting a hymn
in praise of her triple form of Sarada, Narada or Saraswati and Vaghdevi,
an account is given how the goddess revealed herself to the Muni at the
sacred spot and rewarded his long austerities by inviting him to her residence
approach Sandalya and ask him to perform their shradas. On his taking water
from the Mahasindhu for the purpose of the tarpana rite, half its water
turns into honey and forms the stream now known as Madhumati. Ever since
baths and shradas at the samgama of the Sindhu and Madhumati assure to
the pious complete remission of sins.
from the neighbouring districts who till recently performed the pilgrimage
to Sarada, avoided the difficult gorges through which the route above described,
debouches into the Kishenganga Valley.
the pilgrimage on the Sudi 4th Bhadarpada, the day when, as the Mahatmya
says, special holiness accumulates at the tirtha, they satisfied themselves
by bathing in the rivulet which comes from Drang, instead of visiting its
source at the Krishna Nag. They then proceeded to Ghusa where they visited
a little grove of walnut trees and chinars situated by the side of the
Kamil river known by the name of Rangavaar as a substitute for Rangavatika.
From there they marched by the ordinary route to Dudinial on the Kishenganga
over the Sitalvan pass. Ascending the river on its left bank they reached
Tejavana and finally Sarada on the 4th day.
spot where the goddess appeared in her divine from is marked by a stone
slab seven feet long, six feet wide and half a foot thick. The stone is
supposed to cover a Kunda or spring cavity from where the goddess rose
and finally vanished in.
course of centuries it has been the object of worship and devotion of a
large number of pilgrims who annually visited the spot. The slab has ipso-facto
become the sanctum sanctorum of the temple which came up here on the model
of the Aryan order of Kashmir architecture. Though in ruins now the entire
complex inspires a sense of grandeur and awe.
The cella of
the main temple is 22 feet square. The entrance is from the west. The other
three walls have blank refoiled archway standing to a height of about 20
feet from the base to the apex of the arches. The entrance is approached
by a flight of a few steps. On each side of the porchway are two square
pillars about 16 feet high and two feet six inches apart. The capital of
both the pillars seem to have been hewn from a single stone.
of the temple is square and perfectly plane. There are scarcely any traces
of the usual pyramidal stone roof. Bates (1873) noticed the temple covered
by a low shingle roof having been "recently erected by Col. Gundu, Maharaja
Gulab Singh's Ziladar of Muzaffarabad".
occupies the centre of a quadrangular court 142 feet long and 94'6" broad.
The quadrangle is enclosed by a massive wall six feet thick and eleven
feet high from the level of the court to the projecting rim at the foot
of the coping. The latter rises in pyramidal form to a height of eight
feet above the top of the wall, giving it a massive look.
Seen from outside,
the walls of the enclosure appear still massive and imposing, as they are
raised on basement walls built to equalize the different elevations of
complex stands at the foot of a spur which rises above the right bank of
the Madhumati stream and slopes up gradually for some distance until it
culminates in the precipitous pine-clad mountain which is traversed by
the direct path leading towards the Kashmir Valley.
with its enclosed quadrangle is approached by a staircase about nine feet
wide of stone steps sixty-three in number, having on either side a massive
balustrade fallen into ruins. The stair-case leads to the entrance of the
quadrangular court. This gateway occupies exactly the middle of the west
face directly in line with the porchway leading to the sanctum sanctorum
of the main temple.
the fame which the shrine of Sarada enjoyed not only in Kashmir but far
beyond it, the number of pilgrims must have been considerable. Kalhana
himself in his account of Lalitaditya's reign (8th century AD) refers to
certain followers of a king of Gauda or Bengal, who had come to Kashmir.
under the pretence of visiting the shrine of Sarada, but in reality to
avenge the murder of their king by Lalitaditya. This particular reference
to Sarada shows that its fame had spread to far off regions.
A witness to
the fame of Sarada is Alberuni (10th century AD) who describes its position
in "inner Kashmir about two to three days journey towards the mountains
of Bolor" (upper Indus between Gilgit and Ladakh). He speaks of the shrine
as much venerated and frequented by pilgrims and mentions it along with
the most famous ones like those of Surya at Multan, the Visnu Chakraswamin
of Thaneswar and the Linga of Somnath.
literary career falls into the second half of the eleventh century also
mentions the tirtha of Sarada, in his panigyrical description of Pravarapura
or Srinagar. Written when he was in Deccan far away from his home, he ascribes
the patronage of learning, claimed for that city, to the favour of Sarada.
The goddess is said to resemble a swan, carrying as her diadem the glittering
gold washed from the sand of river Madhumati".
In a more legendary
light the temple of Sarada figures in a story related of the great jaina
scholar Hemacandra (1088-1172 AD), in the Prabhavakacarita. Commissioned
by king Jayasimha of Gujarat to compose a new grammar, he requested to
be supplied with necessary material in the shape of the older grammars
which could be found complete only in the library of Sarada in Kashmir.
Jayasimha sent at once high officials to Pravarapura to obtain the manuscripts.
Arrived there they proceeded to the temple of the goddess and offered prayers.
The manuscripts were delivered to the king's-envoys and brought by them
to Hemacandra, who, after perusing them, composed his own grammatical work,
shrine was known in distant parts of India, long before the compostion
of Prabhavakacarita (middle of the 13th century) and hence the author must
have known that at the temple of Sarada was a massive library housing learned
works of authors who had been blessed by goddess Sarada.
reference to Saradapeeth is found in Jonaraja's chronicle wherein he mentions
that Sultan Zain-ul-abidin visited the shrine perhaps in 1422 AD to witness
the miraculous manfestations of the goddess. From Jonaraja's account it
appears these were the appearance of sweat on the face of the image of
the goddess, the shaking of the arm, and a sensation of heat on touching
We see from
this account that a miracle-working image of Sarada, probably the same
of which Alberuni had heard was yet in existence in the early part of the
In the 16th
century the temple of Sarada must have enjoyed yet considerable reputation
in Kashmir itself. Abul Fazl's notice of the site (Ain.ii-p. 365): "At
two day's distance from Hayahom is the river named Madhumati, which flows
from the Darda country. Gold is aiso found in this river. On its banks
is a stone temple called Sarada, dedicated to Durga and regarded with great
veneration. On every eighth tithi of the bright half of the month, it begins
to shake and produces the most extraordinary effect".
of gold being found in the river clearly applies to the Kishenganga, which
drains a mountain region known as auriferous to the present day.
of pilgrims was ever increasing while Kashmir was under the rule of Hindu
kings. They maintained the temple complex in a spick- and-span condition.
With the advent of Islam (First quarter of the 14th century) it lost the
royal patronage. But the flow of pilgims was quite sizeable even during
the Sultan, Chak and Mughal rule. Fortunately the destructive hands of
Simandar Butshikan did not reach the shrine and its temple, because of
its location at an isolated sport where perhaps his writ did not run.
But it was
the politically disturbed condition of the Upper Kishenganga Valley during
the later Mughal and Pathan rule that has had much to do with the neglect
into which the shrine of Sarada has fallen.
Drava were then in the hands of the government of the Kashmir Valley. Unable
themselves to maintain order among the warlike and turbulent hillmend of
their territory, they allowed them to make frequent raids into the Kashmir
improved but little during the Sikh rule, and even as late as 1846 Kashmir
was raided as far as Srinagar by bands of restless Bombas. It is evident
that during this long period of anarchy the pilgrimage to the distant shrine
on the Kishenganga could have no attractions for peaceful Brahmins of Kashmir.
Under one of
the Karnah chiefs the temple is said to have been used for the storage
of gunpowder, the explosion of which blew off the original roof.
was subsequently repaired by Maharaja Gulab Singh under whose orders Col. Gundu, the Ziladar of Muzaffarabad erected a shingle roof over the temple
for its protection. The Maharaja also settled a small bounty of seven rupees 'chilki" per mensem on the family of Gotheng Brahmins who claim the hereditary
guardianship of the temple.
the traditions of the Gotheng Brahmins it was only since the establishment
of the Dogra rule and the peaceful settlement of the Upper Kishenganga
Valley that the temple of Sarada became once more open for regular pilgrim