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 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 'Solar Energy'.
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
The Meaning of Shri Chakra
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 Parbat
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 Subject
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 Mother herself.
May the Mother bless us all. Victory to Jagad