Shree Sharika Peetham of Kashmir
by Moti Lal Pushkar
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
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
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
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
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
May the Mother bless us
all. Victory to Jagad Amba Sharika.