Places of Sarda pilgrimmage in Kashmir valley
By Dr. Ramesh Kumar
As per religious tradition in Kashmir, Gangashtmi is
observed every alternate year as Saradaashtmi. On Gangashtami day,
Kashmiri Hindus visited Gangabal lake to immerse ashes of the dead and offer
shraddhas. Many of the pilgrims who could not reach Sarada shrine on
Saradaashtami, would however visit places connected with Sarada goddess in
Valley proper itself. Presently there are five such places in the Valley proper,
two of these being in and around Bandipore town itself.
In the Saradamahatmyas, only Sardakunda at
the village of Tsatsa, close to Harvan and Sarada at Khuyhom is mentioned. The
former is located about one and a half miles from the north-east corner of the
Dal Lake. Stein has recorded this Sarada and says, “owing to the place being so
near to the city and easily approached by boat, large crowds of pilgrims
assemble from Srinagar to pay their devotion to Sarada”. This spring was visited
on Sardaashtami day only.
Sarada at Khuyhom, Bandipore is recorded by Pandit
Sahibram in his Tirathasamgraha. While Sahib Ram describes its location
in village Kulyandi, Prof Buhler mentions the place as Horil, also in Khuyhom.
Kashmir’s celebrated historian, Hasan, who lived in 19th century belonged to
In Yachkoot, near Budgam and slightly away from the
Pandit locality is a groove of 5-8 Chinars. In the hollow of a Chinar is housed
the idol of Sarada goddess. A clay wall encloses the Chinar groove. This served
as a local temple. On Chitrashtmi and Navmi, Pandits of Yachkoot and
surrounding villages performed havan. Pandits describe the place as asthapan
Traditions linked with the origin of the above mentioned
places, connected with Sarada worship seem to have been lost in the folk memory.
It is only in-case of Sardabal at Kaloosa, Bandipore and at Tikr and Gushi that
the tradition is still well preserved.
Sardabal at Kaloosa is located on the right bank of
Madhumati. The river on which the historic shrine of Sarada is situated is also
known as Madhumati. Kaloosa’s old name was “Kalash”. Sarada asthapan
in Kaloosa has a big spring with two shilas on two Celtis (Brimij) trees.
There is a fencing of stone wall with a raised platform. The temple on its left
was constructed in 1925. Previously Pandits used to perform havan on any day
during the year. For the last forty years havan is performed only on
the day of Saradaashtami.
The legend describing the origin of Sardabal is not
dissimilar to the ones describing the emergence of Venkur and Saadmalinu as
places of Ganges worship. Pandit Akalal’s ancestor was a great devotee of
goddess Sarada. He visited Sarada on every Saradaasthami. When he grew
old, the goddess came to him in a dream. She told him, “Now you are old.
You need not come here. I myself would come and reside at your place”. The
devotee was astonished and asked her how would that be possible. She replied,
“there would be heavy rains, followed by floods. In a mulberry garden, you have
to watch the movement of a crow resting on the branch of a tree. The moment the
crow starts flying, you begin pulling the branch of the tree. A spring will
emerge, with two small pebbles in it. Take these pebbles home and put these in a
puja room, Thokur Kuth, duly cleaned for the occasion. Thokur Kuth is not to be
opened for seven days.”
The devotee complied with the divine message, but his
strong curiosity drew him to open Puja room only after three days. Pebbles did
grow in size but remained small. These shilas are worshipped in Sardabal
temple. As per the tradition prevalent, the goddess told the devotee that he
would not have son for seven generations, for not complying with her
instructions fully. Pandit Manohar Bhat is the direct descendant of this family.
Gushi and Tikr are the places, where Sarda goddess took
rest, while on her way from Lanka to Sardi. In Gushi the sacred site is situated
a little above the groove of Rangvor. There is a small walled enclosure, which
houses ancient idols. At Tikr on the sacred site there are seven chinars besides
a temple, alongwith Sri Chakra.