‘Sharada’ is the Kashmiri name for the Hindu goddess of wisdom, Saraswati and is believed to be the ‘Kuldevi’ of Kashmiri Pandits. Many people also refer to her as Kashmira Puravasini (resident of Kashmir). Sharada Peeth, meaning ‘the Seat of Sharada’ is said to be a renowned ancient center of learning where the texts written by great Sanskrit scholars and grammarians like Adi Shankara, Virotsana and Kalhana were stored. Therefore, this place holds great significance in the Hindu mythology and considered as a major center of higher learning of scriptures, commentaries and Vedic works. Between 6th and 12th centuries CE, it was one of the most important temple universities in the Indian subcontinent. The university developed its own script, Sharada. At one point the university had 5,000 resident scholars, and it also had the world’s largest library. This temple university educated many famous scholars from India and the neighboring countries. Along with teaching Buddhist religion, geography, history, logic, structural science and philosophy were also taught here.
According to the Hindu mythology, Sati’s right hand fell here when Lord Vishnu cut her dead body into 51 pieces that fell in 51 different places. As per one of the legends, during the fight between the good and evil, Goddess Sharada saved the container of knowledge and hid it in a hole in the ground and turned herself into a structure to cover the pot.
Sharada Peeth was founded in 273 BC during the reign of Ashoka, even before Nalanda and Takshila universities. The foundation goes back to the time when Kashmiri Pandits transformed this land of scenic beauty into an intellectual center. The shrine stands on the bank of Neelam river, situated in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) close to the Line of Control (LC) at a distance of 30 kms from Kupwara and 150 kms from Muzaffarabad. The temple holds major historical significance in Kashmiri Pandit religious culture. Before the partition of 1947, pilgrims from all over the country came to visit the temple. Since the partition temple has been completely deserted and currently in a dilapidated state. Restrictions by the Pakistan government on Indians from visiting the shrine has also discouraged the devotees ever since.
After the launch of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor project in November 2019, the movement for the opening of Sharada Peeth has intensified. The Indian Hindus have been demanding amendments in the LoC permit rules to include the annual Sharada pilgrimage which has been denied by the Pakistan government. Earlier in 2018, Pakistan PM Imran Khan had assured the opening of the shrine but never fulfilled his promise. To keep the movement alive, Save Sharada Committee Kashmir(SSCK) has taken up the issue, not just at the national platforms but also raised the same with the United Nations.
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