Category Archives: hinduism

Pitra Paksh -Remembering Ancestors

Every year a fortnight in the Hindu calendar month of Ashwin is observed in the fond memory of our ancestors. This period is referred as Shraddha or Pitra Paksha. The Shraddha – is derived from Shraddha which means faith. Hence the faith in one’s ancestors’ makes the mortals observe some customary rituals year on year with reverence and faith in their memories when the ancestors are no more alive.

The story goes that The King Karna the famous warrior of Mahabharata was granted heaven after the war. Karna was famous for his charity throughout his life and earned a sobriquet of Dhan Veer – The one who gives away everything in charity. So much so that during the war of Kurushetra he gave away his protective shield when Lord Indra disguised as seeker asked for the same. However, in heaven Karna was offered precious Gems, Gold and other items instead of food and water. Puzzled by this treatment Karna asked the gods about this. On this Lord Indra told him that he had been giving only gold and gems as a charity but had never given food and water to the poor or deserving people hence he was given same treatment in heaven. Karna requested gods to give him a chance to correct his anomalies and the same was granted to him and he was asked to go back to earth for some days to feed poor so as to get rid of the problem. Hence, this period of the year is observed in giving food, water and clothing to poor and also performing rituals associated with it.

The ritual of shradha is done as it is believed that ceremony shall enable forefathers to ascend higher plane of existence. Besides relieving the ancestors from traps of unfulfilled wishes. We owe our existence from our ancestors and forefathers. Therefore, this is the time when we can remember them and repay our debt.

Shradha is the only way when ancestors receive our oblations and hence get pleased. This results in peace to them and happiness in their families.
The detailed rituals of Shradha are performed by priests who follow the manual as per the scriptures and litany of ceremonies. The elder of the family keeps the fast in memory of deceased besides offering each Pind in the name of the ancestors who are no more alive.

The message of Pitru paksh as envisaged by our Rishis are :- ​

Remembering – Pitru Paksh also enables us to think that this life is transitory and one day we too would pass. Therefore, it is the time to remember our forefathers and simultaneously be good to elders in our family.
Sharing – It also cultivates a habit of giving away things like food and clothes in charity among poor destitute thus inculcating the spirit of sharing.
Good Deeds – The Shradha also makes us remember the good deeds of our ancestor’s which act as a catalyst in us to follow the footsteps and carry on the legacy of goodness shown by them.
Family Lineage – This fortnight also makes us remember all the ancestors who were in the family thus, passing their existential journey among our progeny so that they can remember the family tree and linages.
Focus on Spiritual – The rituals wean us away from the grind of day to day material world and forces us to think on the matters more spiritual than mundane in nature thus, forcing us to think about our existence and role in families, societies and nation of which we are an integral part and parcel.

According to Neelmat Puran the important places for performing Shradha are at Lake Gangabal in Kangan besides at places like Shadipur which is the confluence of river Vitista (Jhelum) and Sindhu, Martand (Mattan) in Anantnag, Kapalmochan in Shopian and shores of Vitista. Performing sharda at these given places elevates the soul journey of dead to higher planes besides granting peace and spiritual merits to the families. In Jammu the places of performing Shradha are Uttarbani in Kathua and Ghats of Chandrabhaga at Akhnoor.

The other important places across India where such detailed rituals are performed since time immemorial are at Haridwar in Uttrakhand, Varanasi & Allahabad in U.P., Gaya in Bihar, Pushker in Rajasthan, Nashik in Maharashtra, Gokarna in Karnataka, Rameshwaram in T.N.

Therefore, lets resolve in this pitra paksha that we shall share our happiness, food, clothing with those who are neglected, poor, destitute and orphans so that we embrace them a part of our society and also take a pledge that we make the life our elders in family more comfortable which they deserve and which we owe to them as their progeny.

By-Sunil Raina Rajanaka

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Navreh-the new year of Kashmiri Hindus

As winter’s frost gives way to amiable spring,  J&K wakes up to greetings of Navreh Mubarak,  writes SUNIL RAINA RAJANAKA If you happen to be in Kashmir on the first day of the Chaitra month,  you will see Kashmiri Pandits greeting everyone with a warm,  hearty ‘Navreh Mubarak!’The day heralds the New Year as well as the spring season, with the frost giving way to pleasant weather. This year, Navreh will be celebrated on March 18.   In Bringesh Samhita — a compendium of the Mahatamayas of all prominent tirthas of Kashmir — there is a chapter on Navreh which mentions a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati, where the goddess is keen to understand the importance of time, cycle of evolution and dissolution.

Shiva tells her that on Navreh, Brahma initiated Creation with the first rays of the sun falling on the world.   To celebrate Navreh — beginning of kaal, time and of the world — Kashmiri Hindus worship Shiva, Parvati and their son Ganesha for merit and well-being,  wear new clothes, and take part and in cultural programmes.   The day begins with looking at Thal Barun, a thaal, plate filled with auspicious items for prosperity. The large plate contains items like paddy, walnuts, sweet roti, cooked rice,  curd, pen, book, coins, a piece of gold ornament, salt, seasonal flowers, a medicinal herb called vai and a mirror.

Also placed on the plate are the new almanac and a photo of Kreel-Pach, the family deity.    The thaal is prepared overnight,  covered with a piece of cloth and kept in the prayer room. The next day, well before daybreak, the oldest woman of the house, usually the grandmother or mother,  goes around the house waking up family members one by one, asking them to open their eyes and first look at the plate, before beginning their daily chores.   Known as Buth Vuchun, the ritual of looking at the plate is said to bring good luck,  good health, prosperity and wisdom.

Each item on the plate has its own significance. While paddy symbolises wealth and expansion, cooked rice stands for progression in life and physical and mental growth.   Curd stands for completeness, constancy and cohesiveness. The sweet roti represents engagement and amalgamation into one’s socio-cultural surroundings.   The walnuts indicate the human and universal mind; the conjoined kernels represent the four purusharthas, goals of existence — dharma,  discharge of duty;  artha,  acquirement of wealth; kama, gratification of desire, and moksha, liberation.

The coin stands for material strength and the gold ornament is the symbol of purity. While the medicinal herb indicates good health,  flowers represent optimism, fragrance and sympathy in life. The pen is for wisdom and self-illumination and salt for positive energy. The almanac represents the influence of time in our life and the need to respect time and lead a disciplined life. Kreel Pach,  the family goddess stands for trust in Her grace.   The mirror, due to its attribute of reflection, stands for multiplication of auspiciousness.

Later in the day, rice from the plate is used to prepare the traditional yellow rice taher. Sumptuous dishes are prepared for visiting family and friends.    People also visit Hari Parbat in Srinagar to pay obeisance to Goddess Chakreshwari by reciting hymns and praying for a prosperous year ahead. It is believed that on this day,  the Sapt Rishis congregate at this place to offer prayers to the Universal Goddess, thus starting the Saptrishi era. After the ritual visit to the temple, people usually head off to enjoy the almond blossoms in the gardens at the foothill.

The outing is incomplete without savouring the traditional nadir monje pakoras and kahwa,  and wishing everyone ‘Navreh Mubarak’!

 

By Sunil Raina

Dhyaneshwar yatra as I remember

Dhyaneshwar Mahadev as I remember..

I have been to Dhyaneshwar Mahadev once in 1987-88.I had gone there with my Father, Brother, Grandmother and a very close friend-Sunil.We took a bus from Srinagar to Bandipura, from there, we traveled to the base of the Mountain, where the Holy shrine is situated.

I don,t remember all the names of the places that came enroute. But, Whatever I remember had an indelible imprint on my mind.

As I ascended from the base, I could see beautiful vistas all around me. The narrow trek that lead us towards the cave passed through the tall trees as well as through thick forest of Deodars .It was already dark, when we had started our Hike. The ascending trek pleteaued near a Hutment of Gurjars. It was a sight to behold. The full Moon, it seemed had covered everything around us in the golden Hue. There was a pleasant nip in the air.

I had with me a camera by the name ‘Hot Shot’. It was a compact camera and was in vogue 3 decades back. Enroute, I shot many pictures with it including that of the Full Moon.

That year some Muslim volunteers too had come to assist and support the Hindu Devotees.
All the devotees had gathered at a house(or Ashram/Dharamsala) which was very close to the cave. Devotees were waiting for their turn to have a Darshan of lord Shiva. Some group/s of Devotees were singing Bhajans. I was too tired to join them, I sat down at the corner of the room and pretended to listen to them. Slowly but steadily, from the sitting position, I stretched my legs straight, and after a while, I further recumbented myself as I could no longer resist sleep.

After few hours, my Grandmother, shook me by my shoulder and woked me up. It was time to enter the cave.

The Muslim volunteers were carrying a torch(lesh in Kashmiri/Mashal in hindi), and lighting the path for their Hindu contemporaries. The Hindu-Muslim bonhomie looked real at that time.

Finally, our turn too came.

I remember, the entrance of the cave was around 6 and a half feet in height;and maybe 5 feet in width. My bare feet had become wet from the frigid brook that comes from inside the cave. The brook starts from-what was known as Shraan kuth of parvati(the palace, from where mother Parvati takes a bath).There is a tunnel that starts from the mouth of the cave that is also the sanctom sanctorum and ends at the entrance of Dhyaneshwar. The shape of the tunnel is tapered(shape of hollow cone), with the wider section at the entrance of the cave. The roof of the cave is rough, with rock icicles hanging at places. I was up-right when I entered the cave; but as I moved further inside the tunnel, it became dark- pitch black dark. A volunteer with a torch was somehow managing to show us the path inside the tunnel. Since, the shape of the tunnel is tapered, first I had to bend my shoulders, then I had to bend my back and eventually I was crawling. The ice-cold water of the brook was getting hard to bear. At the ingress of the cave, It was like an adventure for me; but as I proceeded further, the hanging icicle-type-ceiling and the ice-cold brook, on which I was crawling forced me to chant the name of “Shiva”.I was Chanting aloud,”om namah shivaya”.
It is a very long dark tunnel, may be 100 or 200 mts long; and opens inside another natural cave known as Dhyaneswar. The area is modest inside the cave. It must be 8-9 feet in height,6 feet wide and may be 6 feet in length. . At a time,not more than 10 people can stand inside the cave. There is a natural partition inside the cave.The front part belongs to lord shiva and the rear natural raised part is the place of Parvati. The brook starts from the raised rear part.There is Ganesha and Kartik(not sure) also inside the cave.

One thing is guaranteed-an Atheist will become a believer after visiting this Holy cave. It is a Place, that should be visited at least once.

The only regret pertaining to the Dhyaneshwar pilgrimage is that I could not develop the reel of the camera. When we left for Jammu in Jan 1990, because of terrorism, The camera was left behind with so many other things.

Aham(I) – Kashmir shaivism

Aham (Kashmir Shaivism)
Aham, a concept of Kashmir Shaivism, is defined as the supreme heart (hṛdayam),transcendent Self, supreme I awareness  or infinite consciousness.The space of Ahamis where khecarī mudrā (free movement in the space of the heart) is realised. Khecarī mudrāis considered the supreme state of spiritual evolution.
Substrate of creation
When Śiva wants to create, the first step is said to be the creation of an interior space (the space of his heart) – a matrix of energiesthat will be the substrate of the new world. This place is called Aham which means “I” in Sanskrit. Thus the absolute first creates the divine person, Aham, and from this divine person will appear the manifestation itself.
Aham is identical to mātṛkā (the wheel of phonematic energies), essential nature of all categories from Pṛithvī tattva (earth) to Sadāśiva tattva,.Aham is the final resting place, dwelling place, abode of all beings, receptacle of the world.
Ultimate mantra
Another definition of Aham is that of primordial mantra, transcendental mantra,the so-called heart-bīja (mantra of the heart) – force and power of consciousness. As the supreme mantra, Aham is closely related to matravīrya (the potency of mantra).Thus the realization of Aham confers power over any mantra.
United form of Shiva and Shakti
In Aham, the supreme (para) aspect of Śakti is realized. Aham is the Śakti of Śiva or in other words, the expansion of Śiva.Another way of describing Aham is as the union of Śiva and Śakti, the emittive (visarga) aspect of the Supreme (anuttara).
Etymology
Aham is formed of A+HA+M, a triad of Śhiva(A), Śakti (HA) and bindu (M). M is the final point, union of Śiva and Śakti, where they dissolve into Paramaśiva. The triangle of A+HA+M is the essence of the Trika system. A+HA+M form the sṛṣṭi bīja (seed of emission), a mantra that is identical to the energy of expansion and creation.
Aham can also be defined as: A = abedha(non-differentiation), HA = bheda(differentiation) and M = bhedābheda(differentiation cum non-differentiation).
Maha, the mirror image of Aham
On the other hand, MAHA, mirror image of AHAM,is formed of MA+HA+A, and represents the saṃhara bīja (seed of reabsorption) – the mantra that is identical to the process of spiritual evolution, or in other words reabsorption of the manifestation back into the absolute. In MAHA, Śakti (HA) enters bindu (M) (the limited being) and reunites it with the Supreme (A).

(received via a whatsup message)

Adhyasa-Advaith vedant

 

Adhyasa is the core or central thought of Advaith vedant. One of its meaning is superimposition-i. e wrongful imposition of thoughts and memory. It also means Imposing thoughts based on memory(faulty) on something , which is not what it looks like.

The theory of Adhyasa leads one to the correct knowledge (Brahman). Thinking oneself to be a body or mind is Adhyasa. Thinking or imagining oneself to be anything is Adhyasa. Believing happens because of the coincidence of different events happening together. In yog vashisht, one anecdote-that shows to some extent the nature of Adhyasa- has been cited.

A crow was sitting on the top of the coconut tree. An observer was watching it. As soon the crow flew, a coconut fell down on the ground. The observer thought that because the crow flew, a coconut fell down. Whereas the reality was that even if the crow wouldn’t have flown, still the coconut would have fallen down at that time.

Imagination or wrongful imagination – because of the occurrence of different independent events happening simultaneously – leads to Adhyasa.

An example of wrong knowledge has been cited by another example that proves that whatever we term ourselves or others as-is not so. This is more often used by the neo-vedantis. (though, it looks like more that of dependent origination of Buddhists to me).

Whenever, we have to refer to ourselves; we put our index finger towards our body, indicating that we are a body. On further inspection, However the theory of Adhyasa leads us to the conclusion that there is no thing – that we call Body.
The discussion to explain this further goes on like this:
A-is this your body?
B-Yes, this is my body.
A holds the hand of B. Pointing towards the hand, A asks B;
A-is this your body(holding and pointing the hand of B)
B-No, this is my hand.
A asking surprisingly;
A-but you just said, you are body and now you are saying that this is hand. Can you show me, what do you call a hand?
Pointing out towards fingers and thumb. A asks B( holding and pointing towards the thumb of B.)
A-is this your Hand?
B-No, this is my thumb and that are my fingers.
A again getting surprised.

A-you just said that it is your hand. And now your are saying that you have fingers, thumb and skin. And none of them is Hand!

In other words, there is no hand in hand, likewise there is no body that can be called body.

On further inspection, it is further proved that even the thumb is a name given to the collectively assemblage of skin, bones and blood. On further inspection, the bone is a combination of chemicals that includes calcium too. On further enquiring, a conclusion is reached upon ;
The conclusion is:
Whatever we call a thing or body is not so as it probably seems to be . We have given names to different things, and we are lost in those names.

Though a body is an assemblage of different limbs as well as the conscious mind; yet none of the part is the whole. The mind is not a thumb, the mind is not blood, the blood is not a thumb. All these are a part and yet different from the body. Yet the assemblage of all these is termed as body. And then wrongfully we call the body as ‘I’.

Whereas,

There is no I or me. But still different limbs put together is given a name-body; and yet all the limbs are different from each other as well as from the body. Nobody or no part in the body, can be said with certainty as ‘I’. Yet, everyday, everyone says that I am (the body). And that is Adhyasa.

The same rule applies to all the nouns we know of. Breaking down the noun into parts dissolves the idea of the noun (body=assemblage of limbs) A part (of the noun) on further deliberation too dissolves(thumb is made of bones, blood, skin and muscle tissues) ; as it was previously known to us. The theory of Adhyasa along with Neti-Neti(not this, not that) is used to lead oneself to one’s own real nature-which according to Advaith vedant is – Brahman.

Advaith vedant recognizes 6 means of valid knowledge. The foremost among them is Sruti or the Vedas. Rest of the five means are based on logic. They are:
Pratyakṣa (perception),
Anumāṇa (inference),
Upamāṇa (comparison and analogy),
Arthāpatti (postulation, derivation from circumstances),
Anupalabdi (non-perception, negative/cognitive proof)
To be continued….

Matrikachakra – Kashmir Shaivism. 

In kashmir Shaivism, the sanskrit/Hindi Vowels represent Shiv, and the consonants represent the Shakti. Shiv is allegorically termed as light and Shakti as its luminosity. Shiv is static, Shakti is dynamic.

Param shiv, like the Brahman (of Advaith)  can not be defined, though the creativity, both non dual and dual of paramshiv can be expressed by the 36 elements or tattvas.
The first tattva or element according to Kashmir Shaivism is Shiv – an synonym for Chaitanya or Consciousness. All the activity goes on in this first element.

The sixteen vowels of KS are represented by the first Tattva-shiv.

Everything is Shiv-shakti. Even our language. When shiv(vowels) and Shakti(consonants) meet, a word is formed and when many words combine, a language is formed. The language is the expression of thoughts. The mind is nothing without these thoughts and they act as a support for mind. At the same time, it makes the mind to forget its  non-dual nature  and engages it in the world of duality. Thus, This language binds a pashu (empirical being) or liberates him/her. Every word is thus a manta for the Yogi.

The first alphabet अ represents Chaitanya. आ represents Anand or Bliss. A desire arises in Shiva to experience its nature-Ananda in duality as well. For that Shiva has to create Duality,  as to begin with there is nothing except shiv. This desire is represented by the next two alphabets इ  ई. The first one represents Iecha and the second one Ishan. As soon as the desire arises, the knowledge of duality too arises instantly in the heart(consciousness)  of Shiva. They are represented by the next two Vowels उ ऊ. They are known as unmesha and unnata.

At this point, an apprehension arises in Shiva, that what if Shiva forgets its real nature, once he manifests as duality(universe). Fearing that it might forget its real nature I. e Consciousness – bliss, he rests back in its nature that is अ आ( Consciousness-bliss). Retracting from knowledge to first stage(consciousness bliss) gives rise to the next 4 vowels

ऋ(r)  ॠ(r)  लृ(lr)  lrii(could not find the sanskrit alphabet on my phone). These are the four stages of void.

After retracting to the initial stage of अ आ, it strikes Shiva that it can not forget it’s real nature and Shiva comes out from the apprehension and carries forward from where it has stopped.
अ आ mixes with the Iecha इ ई thus giving rise to the next two vowels ए ऐ. Again अ आ now mixes with Gyan उ ऊ, and gives rise to the next two vowels ओ औ. These four vowels ए ऐ ओ औ represent the four stages of kriya or action of Shiva. ए ऐ ओ औ represent the least vivid, somewhat vivid, vivid and the most vivid action of Shiva.

The next vowel अं represent that though desire, knowledge and knowhow has risen in the heart(consciousness) of Shiva, yet it is still at the level of non-duality (represented by point). The next vowel is represented by two dots : The upper dot represents shiv and the lower dot represents shakti. In fact, it also signifies that at this level, it is the shiva that becomes the shakti.

From this point on, everything becomes shakti. It has been termed that the projection of shiv on shakti happens inversely,  that is, the first element appears as the last and the last tattva which is prithvi(Earth) appears as first. In other words, it implies that the subtler elements appear last and the grossest first. Thus the projection appears first as the
Panch Mahabhutas(five gross elements) represented by कvarg, then

Panch tanmatras represented by चvarg.

Panch karmindreyas(organs of action) represented by टvarg.

Panch gyanindreyas by तvarg

Antahkarn(5 internal organs) by  पvarg

5 kanchukas+maya(sheaths) by य र ल व

And

5 shuddh tattvas(pure elements) by श ष स ह.

The first vowel- which is Shiv is अ, and the last consonant is ह. When they combine with each other, they become अंह or Aham-that means  ‘I’  or ‘I am’. Whenever we say anything that has ‘I’, or wherever we refer to the first person, it is Shiv(and shakti) , to whom we are referring. Shiv is always the first person and thus we all are ‘Shiv’. Thus  ‘Aham’  is also a mantra which is meant for the contemplation for the sadhakas of Kashmir Shaivism as not only all the 36 elements are present in this mantra, but its philosophy as well.

The first vowel अ (Siva tattva) when joins with the last consonant ह(shakti tattva) , Aham अंह is formed. The expression of shiv-shakti tattva is This Aham or I (I am).

The third tattva Sadashiva denoted by स in Matrikachakra has an expression asअहं ईदम or I am this or thisness. The classification of first person with respect to thisness(universe or objectivity) is clear.

The fourth tattva is Isvara  represented by ष in Matrikachakra. This stage is represented by ईदम अहं or Idam Aham meaning  I am this or thisness. Idam or thisness has become the first person here and Aham has been relegated to inferior stage. The stage of objectivity is clearer to another degree.
The fifth tattva is Shuddh vidya represented by श in Matrikachakra and its expression is अहं ईदम ईदम अहं. Meaning I am this/thisness and this I am. The sense of duality is much more clearer than the previous stages.

From Aham at Shiv-shakti to Aham Idam Idam Aham at Shuddh vidya in the decreasing order of the subtleness or the process of subjectivity to objectivity has been displayed lucidly in the philosophy as well as epistemology of Kashmir Shaivism.

The attributes  of Shiva which is

Chaitanya (Consciousness)

Anand(bliss)

Iecha(will)

Gyan(knowledge) and

Kriya(action)

apply in this order in the 36 elements(but inversely)

The 36 elements in their order and as denoted by Alphabets according to Matrikachakra is given below.
1.Panch Maahaabutaas-five Gross elements
1.Prithvi(Earth) क  (Kriya)

2.Jaala(water) ख (Gyan)

3.Tejas/agni(fire)  ग (Iecha)

4.Vaayu(air)    घ  (Anand)

5.Akasha(ether)  ङ  (Chaitanya)
2.Panch Tanmatras-Five Subtle elements

1.Gandha(smell)च (Kriya)

2.Rasa(taste)छ (Gyan)

3.Roop(form)ज (Iecha)

4.sparsha(touch)झ (Anand)

5.Shabda(sound)ञ (Chaitanya)
3.Panch Karmendriyas-(five organs of action)

1.upastha(creation/reproduction)ट (Kriya)

2.paayu(excretion)ठ (Gyan)

3.paada(foot)ड (Iecha)

4.pani(hand)ढ (Anand)

5.vaak(speech)ण (Chaitanya)
4.Panch jnanendriyas-(five organs of cognition)

1.Ghraana-(nose, organ of smelling)च (Kriya)

2.Rasaana-(Tongue, organ of taste)छ, (Gyan)

3.Chakshu-(eye, organ of seeing)ज (Iecha)

4.Tvak-(Skin, Organ of touching)झ (Anand)

5.Srotra-(ear, organ of hearing)न  (Chaitanya)
5.Antahkarnas-(3+2 internal organs)

1.Manas-(mind)प Kriya

2.Buddhi-(intellect)फ Gyan

3.Ahamkara-(ego connected with objectivity )ब  Iecha

4.Prakriti-(nature/three Gunas i.e satvic,rajsic and tamsic)भ Anand

5.Purusha-(ego connected with subjectivity-reacts to prakriti)म Chaitanya
6.Sat Kancukas-(six coverings)

1.niyati-(limitation of place)य (Kriya)

2.Kaala-(limitation of time)र (Gyan)

3.raga-(limitation of attachment)ल (Iecha)

4.vidya-(limitation of knowledge)र (Anand)

5.Kala-(creativity)ल (Chaitanya)

6.maya-(illusion of individuality)व (Consciousness gets contracted in case when  subject becomes object and vice versa I. E object dissolves in subject)
7.Suddha tatvas-(pure elements)

1.Suddha vidya-(iness in iness—–thisness in thisness)श Kriya

2.isvara-(thisness in iness)ष Gyan

3.sadasiva-(iness in thisness)स Iecha

4.shakti-(iness)ह Anand

5.Shiva-(iness-being)-(अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ऋ ऋृ लृ lii ए ऐ ओ औ अं अः)

To continue..

Reference – Kashmir Shaivism books(mostly translated by Swami lakshmanjoo)

The I-I (philosophy)

In Yog vashist, an allegorical anecdote is repeated ‘N’ times…
A witness witnesses a crow sitting on a coconut tree.As soon as the crow flew , a coconut fell down on the earth.The witness wrongfully co-relates that because the crow flew from the tree; a coconut fell down.
In reality, if the crow hadn’t flew, the coconut would have still dropped down.

It has been mentioned that it is the wrongful identification with this body(or mind) that is the root cause of all ignorance.

Sage vashist reveals to Rama that the greatest virtue is the renunciation of mind-the ephemeral ‘l’.

This ‘I’ is the reflection of the real unversal ‘I’-the Shiva. Shiva is the supreme ‘I’, the consciousness of the consciousness. The transitory ‘I’, that is according to KS-the contracted form the universal ‘I’- embodies itself or limits itself or creates an feeling of a separate ‘I'(duality or maya)

Out of play, the shiva(consciousness)(experient)who has the nature of Ananda(bliss)-wants to experience ‘Ananda’ in knowledge(pramana) as well as object of knowledge(prameya).But to have these both attributes, there should be time, space and ‘I’.

The supreme ‘I’ because of ‘Bliss’ creates maya, and the only one I.e ‘I’-the shiva-gets contracted , the attributes of universal ‘I’ gets contracted too once it comes In contact(or enters) Maya.

According to KS..following contractions happen to the universal ‘I’- who is originally full of
Chaitanya(consciousness)
Anand(bliss)
Iecha(will)
Gyan(knowledge)
Kriya(action)…

Chaitanya gets contracted and becomes Kala(कला)-limited creativity
Vidya(limited knowledge)
*Raga(attachment)*
Kaal(time)
And Niyati(…this is space)

Because ‘I’ the Shiva(consciousness of consciouness) is the universal first person, it always remains the first person, ‘I'(though limited, once it comes In maya) and the knowledge and object of knowledge remains the 2nd/3rd person. Because ‘I’ loose the unlimited creativity(because of contraction and becomes Kala) , the unlimited knowledge associated with it too gets contracted(vidya)….Then arises Raga(attachment)…..the ‘I’ is in the process of attaching itself to the objects of all the duality or differentiated consciousness. It becomes this whole universe full of sentient(in the form of knowledge and object of knowledge) and insentient beings(in the form of knowledge of insentient)….The universal ‘I’ becomes the ‘I’ of you and me and all beings.

Kaal and niyati…in other words denote the time and space. Space is internal too i.e ChidAkash…it denotes the space inside our mind, where thoughts and feelings rise and fall…

A child remains in the stage of non-duality(and bliss) , till he/she ignorantly superimpose their consciousness on their bodies and entrap themselves as , ‘I am this body ( in time and space)

If we meditate on the transitory ‘I’, and try to find out the source ‘ME’, we realise that we or ‘ME’ is a witness to all the physical and mental activities.We can negate anything and everything that we are witness of, because that is the 2nd/3rd person and the witness (of witness) always remains the first person.

If we delibrate further, we can go up to the void, out of which the mind and its thinking faculity arise. It is not possible to go beyond that void, through the means of mind -which is a synonym of duality.

Vedantis say when we are not aware of ourselves, mind comes into effect instantly; and when we concentrate on mind, it ceases to exist and we remain just as an awareness.But to maintain that awareness is difficult.

‘I’ of supreme consciousness  is non dual in nature so is the transitory (dual) consciousness as long as we maintain/center our awareness on it.

It too is pure awareness as long as we maintain that one-pointednesss. And it becomes truly dual ‘I’ when that awareness is broken, and that ‘I’ becomes the source of all duality…

However….it like shiva-The universal first person always remain the first person.

Abhinavgupta has mentioned Shiva as the ever present ‘NOW’, Shakti as ‘Future’ and past as ‘Pashu’ or ephemeral being.He also mentions that future and past have their origin in ‘NOW’-which is ever present.

This ‘NOW’ is again the synonym of ‘I’ or awareness.

In our lives too, everything is centered around ‘I’. Thinking of past or future is possible only because of ‘NOW’-the ‘I’.without this ‘I’ nothing exists not even ‘NOTHING’ or ‘VOID’.

The ephemeral being as written above denotes himself as ‘I’ and almost everyone belives or has experienced that ‘HE’ has never really changed, though his body has grown old. Somehow the witness(I) of the changes never change.

Subconsciously and linguistically, we have firm faith that the witness(I) is eternal.if someone dies, we say , May he go to heaven’ or VBAJ. What does that mean!

Who will go to heaven or Vaikunth? For example, if I imagine of my death, I immediately picture myself in Heaven/Hell or Vaikunth. Who is it that I am imagining myself to be! I will have no physical body but that does not deter me.Isn’t it that the ‘I’ that I imagine to go to heaven is the witness-whom I know by ‘I’.

It is for that ‘I’ we perform ‘Shraddh’ or other religious practices as we (all human race) have firm belief that the witness will remain, though somewhere else.

The ‘I’ is the first thought that arises when we wake up in the morning and it remains the last when we fall sleep.The dreams too are centered around the ‘I’ and so is the deep sleep.

Shiva- the ‘I’ is sarv-vyapak(ever pervading). He is the awareness of awareness.Revealing and concealing his own self is his play.

But nonetheless , he remains in us as the ever present witness whom we call ‘I’ .

 

(based on the philosophies of Vedant and Kashmir shaivism)

Lord Spontaneous (Shivratri-Herath)

The esoteric form of Shiva as Swacchand Bhairava with his consort Agoreshwari is central to Kashmir Shaivism, writes Sunil Raina

Shivaratri, celebrated on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalgun, is also called Har-ratri or Herath in Kashmiri. The festival has great religious and spiritual significance as it coincides with the emergence of Shiva tattvas on the physical plane. Shiva, at the early dawn of human creation, thought of Shakti, and in her search, donned the form of 18-armed Swacchandnath Bhairava.

Shakti, frightened by this form of Shiva, cast a glance on a pitcher full of water, wherefrom emerged Vatuk Bhairava and Rama Bhairava to defend her. Shiva at that time changed his form to Jawalalinga. Amazed by Shiva’s new form, Shakti along with her defending bhairavas merged with the Jawalalinga. Since this event is believed to have taken place on triyodashi, Kashmiris celebrate Shivaratri on this day, whereas the rest of the country, celebrated the festival on chaturdashi when the linga was pacified.

The esoteric form of Shiva as Swacchand Bhairava with his consort Agoreshwari is central to Kashmir Shaivism, and has been in existence since medieval times. Swacchand Bhairava signifies the prakasha, or the light consciousness, and Agoreshwari signifies vimarsha or Self-awareness. Swacchanda — as the term is understood — means free, independent and spontaneous and is synonymous with Swatantra. Kashmir Shaivism says that nondual conscious freedom is the only freedom that exists where the union with the Absolute is singular, amounting to you being Shiva, and is not dual.

This esoteric form of Shiva is imagined and deified as:

lWhite, five-faced and wide-eyed lord.

lHe is adorned with serpents and wears a necklace of scorpions which is called gunas. The word gunas in Kashmiri means serpent; Kashmiri women wear gunas bracelets that have at their ends, two serpents or red scorpions gazing at each other. This is symbolic of his instantaneous play with the bonds of soul.

lHe wraps a lion skin around his hip and an elephant hide over his shoulders.

lHe wears a garland of skulls, has a black throat and 18 arms.

His consort, who sits on his right thigh, has the same characteristics. By the power of his autonomy, the lord manifests this form with the highest level of Shakti. The lord has done so to facilitate and allow aspirants to enter the light of impartible that is indivisible or nondual as there is nothing like this in appearance anywhere else.

He is wide-eyed. He is in Bhairava Mudra intent on liberation of souls. He is focused within. He neither opens nor closes his eyes. He is overflowing with consciousness and bliss and has three power tools: icchha or will; jnana or knowledge and kriya or action. It is with these tools that Swacchandnath Bhairava manifests this universe with his fivefold acts of shristi or creation, stithi or sustenance, samhara or dissolution, triodanha or concealing and anugraha or revealing.

lBy his act of shristi, he holds and nourishes the universe in a way that he manifests the universe on the panoramic canvas of his identity.

lStithi is the persistence, the moment in which the consciousness is immersed in its projected content.

lSamhara is retraction; consciousness reabsorbs the content it has projected, essentially turning it towards nondual essence.

lTriodanha is enfolding or concealing of creation with respect to time and space.

l Anugraha is unfolding or revealing projections in the manifest world.

With these fivefold acts, Swacchandnath Bhairava, along with Agoreshwari, create an animate and inanimate world, thus unleashing the divine play of reality. The world is nothing but the mirror image of Swacchandnath Bhairava, and to recognise this unity between the individual soul, is the purpose of a well-meaning life. Shiva spreads the nectar of creativeness; shields the jivatman from torturous transmigration; brings forth the inner consciousness by tearing apart the individual ego, which essentially is ignorance; terminates maya; binds the universe and brings forth bliss, which is unlimited.

The night of Shivaratri is essentially considered to bring supreme awareness of Shivahood on the physical plane among aspirants. It removes nonduality among the souls and pushes the seeker to the higher orbit of Self-realisation. The festival of Shivaratri is celebrated with grandeur and reverence in every Kashmiri Hindu household, where each family member observes a fast and contributes towards making this festival a great success.

 

Written by:-Sunil Raina

The Night-A story of a Kashmiri Hindu.

It was jan 1998. Veenaji was in the Kitchen. Her Husband Roshanlal was reading the newspaper in the living/Drawing room of their cramped two-room Govt. Quarters at Tope Sherkhanian. She could hear the flipping  sound, when her Husband turned the leaf of the Newspaper. She was thinking about her children, who were perusing   ‘B.E’ in Pune. A knock at the Door was heard clearly in the backdrop of the silence of the Quarter. Roshanlal stood up and opened the Door. A man was standing outside.

“Namaskar Roshanlalji. I am Irfaan. Your neighbor from Banamohallah”. Veenaji too had heard the’ knock’, she came out from the Kitchen out of curiosity. Her Husband, greeted Irfaan. “Come inside. Why are you standing there!  “. Pointing towards Veenaji, Roshanlal asked Veenaji, “Did you recognize him?” The face looked familiar, But She could not recognize him. Irfaan, it seemed understood the confusion of Veenaji. “I am the Son of Khatijah. Remember my Mother! “.  Veenaji’s face lit with happiness.“Yes. I remember her. How is she?” asked Veenaji. “ She died last year because of Heart Failure.” Said Irfaan with regret. She was saddened to hear what he said. “I am so sorry. Please have a seat. I will make tea for both of you.” She went back to the Kitchen.

Irfaan had come to Roshanlal to persuade him to sell his share of  ancestral house. Veenaji was listening to them, while she started making  tea . The memories of her last visit to Kashmir were still vivid. She recalled how she along with her Husband Roshan Lal and their two  Children , a Son-Sachin and Daughter- Meenakshi had moved to Jammu .Her Husband was working in the Govt.Secretariat. They used to live in the Govt. Quarters Tope Sherkhanian. They had moved to jammu in Dec-1989.

J&K has two capitals, i.e, summer capital-Srinagar and winter capital-Jammu. Every year,In winters, the employees of the Govt. Secretariat would move to Jammu for 6 months ; and move back to Srinagar in summers for rest of the 6 months. This custom was/is in vogue since the times of Dogra Rulers . This was/is termed as “Durbaar Move”.

veenaji lit the Gas Stove. She put some milk, sugar and water in an utensil and placed it on the stove.  She looked through the Kitchen Window, although she was not looking at anything, But her past.

The memories of the past started flashing in front of her eyes.

Veenaji and her family loved the winters of Jammu. It would be sunny and warm in Jammu, compared to the cold and gloomy weather of the Srinagar winters. But that year,in 1989-90, It was different. In spite of the warm and sunny weather, she would occasionally feel the shivers. Not because of the weather, but because , on T.V and Radio, she would listen to the news . The merciless killing of the Kashmiri Pandits had started.

And then came the horrendous macabre night of 19 jan 1990.And everything changed after that.

In the last week of Jan 1990, that late night, Her elder Brother Makhan lal along with his family landed at their residence in Jammu. He had come by a taxi. His old mother –Amaji, wife-Lalitaji and two sons Rakesh and Sunil too had come.

As soon as they arrived at their residence, Lalitaji hugged tightly Veenaji and started crying. “it is only by God’s grace that we have reached here safely.” She complained amidst sobs . Amaji tried to console her as she said, “Lalitaji, don’t be a weakling. Be bold. You have yet to face the hardships of life. Be always grateful to God.”

They stayed with Veenaji for some days with this hope that the violence unleashed by the terrorists will be abated soon. But  the destiny of Kashmir had its own plans. After a month, They realized that it might take a long time before they would return back to Kashmir. It was decided by the two families that, they would enroll their children in Jammu for studies , as it was safe.

Since Veenaji and her Family didn’t knew that the situation would deteriorate so much in Kashmir; hence when they had moved to Jammu on the eve of annual “Darbaar move”, they had not taken any documents such as the Mark sheets and other educational documents related to the education of their children. Without these papers, it would be very difficult to get the admissions in the Schools and Colleges. Also, She wanted to get  the documents related to banks such as FD, Saving a/c etc.

Somewhere in  March 1990, She decided to go back to her residence at “Bana Mohallah” , Habbakadal, Kashmir.It was decided that Her sister-in-law lalitaji too would accompany her. In fact Lalitaji had volunteered herself to accompany her. The Males of the House were barred to go to Kashmir as they were more prone to be Shot by the Militants.

They flew to Srinagar and  landed at the Airport by 3-4 P.m. It took them almost 4 hrs. to reach their house at Bana Mohallah. The lanes and by-lanes were muddy as it had rained the previous night. Some Muslim neighbors , who saw them entering their Mohallah, murmured something. By their Gaze , it looked  as if they didn’t wanted them to be there. As they were about to enter their House, Khatijah-the neighbor and friend of Veenaji , came from nowhere and greeted her with a Broad smile. “How are you veenaji. I missed you. Now since Durbaar move will be over shortly,   you be staying  in Kashmir till November!” she exclaimed.  Veenaji  warmly asserted “No, I will stay here for a few days and rejoin my family. We will come back in Mid-April.” She half-lied.  Veenaji knew that she will leave Kashmir tomorrow for Jammu and may not come back next month.

“Then stay put for the night at my house. The curfew will be imposed very soon and you will not get Rice and any other food-item after 15 mintes ”  Pleaded Khatijah.  “ I have brought some rice and Dried-vegetables with me. Thanks .” Veenaji  kindly declined. But Khatijah kept her conversation going and it took another 20-25 minutes before Veenaji and her Sister-in-law entered their house.

Veenaji’s Husband  Roshanlal lived in their ancestral house along with his three Brothers and 3 cousins. Their house was Big and hoary with a courtyard. Though, the house had 25 rooms, But it housed 7 nuclear families. Roshanlal, his 3 Brothers and 3 Cousins(Brothers) though were living in one house, But the wives of all the 7 brothers had decided to cook separately , in separate Kitchens, for their Families(consisting of Husband and Children).All the 7 Brothers had partitioned the 25 rooms in almost equal proportion. Apart from a Kitchen, Veenaji and her Husband had inherited 2 big rooms.

On a normal day, prior to 1990, their house was abuzz with activity. In the morning and in the evenings, many a times, one would hear the synchronous hissing sound from the steaming pressure-cooker, coming from 2 or more Kitchens of the House at the same time. The floating aroma of Knol Khol(Hak) or lamb-meat would titillate the Olfactory of the whole neighborhood. In the afternoon, the shrilled voices of the Children playing in the courtyard was common .In spite of 7 separate kitchens, Veenaji and her 6 co- sister-in-law would often share their delicacies with each other.

But the House was different this time.

As soon as Veenaji entered her House, she was welcomed by the eerie silence. It was frightening. All her 6 co-sister-in-law and their families too had moved to Jammu. The last family that had moved from this house to jammu was almost 15 days back.As she climbed-up the stairs of her house, a strange fear crept  into her heart. It was almost 8.00 P.M by now and the darkness had covered almost everything.

She and Lalitajee were feeling the Hunger pangs. Into the utensil, Veenaji took a handful of rice from the polythene  bag , she had brought with her from jammu. Soon, she realized that she has forgotten to get a matchbox or lighter to light up the cooking gas stove. “I will go downstairs to Ashaji’s kitchen and get the lighter .” she informed Lalitaji. “Do you have the keys of that Kitchen?” asked Lalitaji. “No, she never locks her Kitchen.” Replied Veenaji. “It is so scary here, I too will accompany you.” Said Lalitajee.

The Kitchen-door was indeed unlocked. As soon as Veenajee, switched-on the light, her face became pale out of fear. Shockingly, she exclaimed “Oh! My God. Someone is cooking here!”  . “Hey Bhagwan ! what will we do now?” asked Lalitajee nervously. She was Gaping and beating her chest. Veenaji  knew that her sister-in-law is weak-hearted and might behave strangely or may even faint.

She assessed the situation quickly. There was a matchbox lying on the ground. Many burnt match sticks were scattered over the floor of the Kitchen. From The cooked rice in the utensils, it looked as if ,just a few hours back, someone had cooked it. She did not waste much time in investigating. She opened the cupboard that was at the right corner of the Kitchen. She swept her fingers over the things in the cupboard and soon took a lighter , a torch and a candle from the cupboard. And switched off the main light of the Kitchen and closed the door.

“Follow me quickly”, she whispered . Lalitajee did not protest and followed the instructions. “As we know, someone is using the Kitchen of Ashajee, It might be a militant or a group of Militants. We cannot afford to switch-on the lights and invite any unwanted trouble. Understand Lalitaji?” she looked at her sister-in-law. Lalitaji was very scared, but she acted Bravado and said , “Yes, I do. You are right. But can we make the dinner for us?” she asked. “No. We cannot, since, the aroma of the Rice might give them a clue, that someone is inside the house.” she explained to Lalitaji. “Anyways, I don’t feel hungry now”, lied Lalitaji.They ran up towards the room.

Veenaji  pulled an iron-Chest, that was placed at the corner of the room . She opened the lid and switched-on the Torch. suddenly, Lalitaji could see A bundle of papers, some folders containing some documents, a photo album, and some books. Veenaji took only a couple of  Folders from the Box, closed the lid and placed it to the original position. Lifting the two folders in her hands, she said to Lalitaji, “This is for what we came here and took all the trouble”. She kept the two folders in the bag, that she had brought with her from Jammu.

They were sitting besides a window, so that they could have a direct and unobstructed view of the main Door, leading towards the courtyard. As it was still quite cold, they had draped themselves in the blankets. The main wooden Door of their House was Huge. A big rectangular latch, may be one feet long and 5 inches wide was connected to a wooden Knob  .The latch moved up or down angularly, if the Knob was rotated. The latch faced towards the courtyard and the Knob towards the by-lane. It would make a lot of noise, if someone would open or close the Latch of the Door. Lalitaji was constantly praying to Mother Goddess for their protection. They had even made a plan, in case a militant or a group of Militants enter their house.” In case any intruder comes here, we will slip beneath the Bed. Understand!” explained Veenaji to her Sister-In-Law. Lalitaji had nodded her head in approval.

Just past the midnight, It began to pour heavily. The staccato of the rain hitting the tin-roofs of the Houses was rather unwanted and irritatingly. The odd street lamp positioned on the pole went off too.  It was pitch dark outside. Because of the pitch darkness and noise, they thought, they have lost the chance of detecting  any intruder. Lalitaji was chanting the Hymns of Goddess Indrakshi rather loudly to invoke the blessings. But the sound  of heavy rains superseded her frequency of voice modulation .It stopped raining after a couple of Hours.

Both of them were feeling very sleepy. Pretending to be vigilant at this odd hour of the night, they were looking at  the main Wooden Door. They were drowsing. Their heads would inadvertently hit the wooden window pane and they would concentrate briefly their attention on the wooden door again. Then, they would drowse yet again. They did not talk to each other for couple of Hours.

And then Dogs began to Bark. They woke up.

 

A pack of Dogs were barking on a Shadowy figure. The figure, it seemed was waving something to keep away the Dogs. Soon, another figure appeared, it was smaller in the size than the one who was waving something. The smaller figure grabbed the Loose clothing, most probably the ’ pheran’ of the larger figure . It looked as if, the smaller figure was trying to stop the larger figure. And then, their conversation became louder.

“Leave me Aapa, I have to follow the orders”, fulminated the  belligerent larger figure . The other voice, that of a female in a protesting tone said, “No. I will not let you do it. I will talk to them tomorrow. I will tell them to leave”.

Veenaji’s heart sank. She recognized the voice of the female. It was unmistakably that of Khatijah. Her neighbor. Many thoughts crossed her mind. “Is somebody coming here to kill me. Am I going to live for another day or not! Will I be able to see my Children and Husband again.” She was weighed down by the weltschmerz. Tears began to roll down from the corner of her eyes .Fortunately for her, Lalitaji’s attention was focused towards the two shadowy figures and was unaware of the upheaval of emotions going on in her sister-in-laws’s mind.

The lone street light began to glow suddenly. They could clearly see the two figures. It was indeed Khatijah. Veenaji recognized the other figure too. It was Ajaz-The youngest Son of Khatijah. And, he was carrying a Gun. Khatijah had held the collar of her Son’s Pheran. Ajaz was approaching towards the main wooden door of Veenaji’s House. Khatijah was getting literally dragged, but she didn’t let loose her Grip on the collar.

Khatijah’s tone was changing constantly. From dominant to Pleading, she was trying her best to stop her son from opening the Door. But Ajaz was equally adamant. He dragged her to the Gate and rotated the Knob of the wooden Door. There was a creepy , unpleasant loud sound of opening of the wooden latch. Ajaz Kicked the door open.

“Oh my God! He is coming to Kill us.” Screamed lalitaji. She threw the Blanket and ran Hysterically from one end of the room to other end. “ Control yourself  lalitaji. Instead of getting nervous, think of a plan.”, she comforted lalitaji . She too came out from the warmth of Blanket and held lalitaji’s Shoulders with both of her Hands. “ Let us see and listen to what they are arguing about”. Lalitaji followed her without protest.

Ajaz opened the wooden door. Khatijah’s Grip loosened from the collar. But she grabbed the left leg of her Son. Ajaz kept her dragging. Her pheran was smeared in Mud. “ I will kill myself, if you do not listen to me”. She was crying. Ajaz stopped. He lifted up his Mother and began to clean the dirt from the pheran of his mother. She was still crying Helplessly. Something happened. Ajaz hugged her mother and said, “OK, As you wish. Let us go back”, in a comforting tone. Khatijah kissed the forehead of his Son. They both went back and closed the big wooden door. The dogs started barking again.

Veenaji and Lalitaji had a sigh of relief. They kept on looking at the wooden door until the Dawn. With the first azaan of the mosque, they left the house. Veenaji opened the wooden latch of the Door. She looked back at her House. Little did she realized that she was looking at her hose for the last time.

Within no time, they were at Habba Kadal. The security guards stopped them and asked, “Where are you going?”. Lalitaji’s face lit up. “We are Kashmiri Pandits. We are going to RTC. From there, we will board a Bus for Jammu”. The security Guards let them go. They were intersected and stopped by the Security guards at many places. Upon hearing that they are KP’s, they were let off immediately. It took them more than an Hour and a half to reach RTC by foot.

There were Buses and Taxis waiting for the passengers to take them to Jammu. A sardarji approached them. “Where will you go sister? Jammu! Come sister, in my taxi. Let me take you”. Both Veenaji and Lalitaji were exhausted both physically and mentally. They decided to go by Sardarji’s taxi.

They reached Tope Sherkhanian, Jammu by 4.00 p.m. Lalitaji  narrated the whole incident to everyone present there melodramatically. Veenaji had not interfered lalitaji. She wanted her to vent off her feelings.

Veenaji’s Brother’s family had stayed with them for more than four months, before they moved to a rented accommodation at Subash Nagar.

The tea was boiling in the utensil. Some portion of the boiling tea fell on  the Flame of the cooking gas stove. The burning smell of the tea, drew back Veenaji from her Past. She closed the knob of the gas and  cleaned the Stove with a cloth and washed her hands with a soap. After pouring the tea in the cups, she put the cups in the tray and came out of the small kitchen to the living room.She placed the Tray on the top of the Central table.Irfaan and  Roshanlal  took one cup each from the tray.

Irfaan and Roshanlal were engrossed in a conversation and were oblivious to veenaji’s presence. She was wringing her hands impatiently. “How is your Brother Ajaz?”, She interrupted Irfaan, with a tone of anger. Irfaan looked at her, Put the cup down,  and with a deep sigh, he  said with regret, “He died in an encounter with the security Guards 4 years back .He had become a militant. My mother pleaded with him to give up arms .But he did not listen”. And then he looked the other side. “I am so sorry.” Said Roshanlal apologetically. Veenaji did not tried to comfort him. “You carry on. I have some work in the Kitchen. Excuse me.”She said casually as she did not wanted to be a part of the conversation. She stood up and went again to the Kitchen.

She pretended to dish-wash. But for some reasons, once again, the Flashes of the Horrendous night kept coming to her mind…

 

 

 

 

 

The Legend of Sarda, Shankaracharya and mysterious Sandalwood idol…

 

I had heard of the Mysterious  Sharda Temple at Village Sardi(P.O.K) many a times in the past. The word ‘Sarda’ itself is as mystical as is the Goddess Sarda. Kashmir in the past was a synonym to the Goddess. The ancient script of ‘Sarda’ that was once the vernacular of the Kashmiris ; or was widely spoken and written by the learned Scholars of Kashmir, clearly indicates that ‘ Sarda’ had a very deep impact on the lives of the Kashmiris and thus Kashmir.

Namaste Sarada Devi, Kashmira Mandala Vasini (Salutations to Goddess Sarada who resides in Kashmir’. This hymn unambiguously states that the Mystical Goddess was widely believed to live in Kashmir.

The Sarda temple was  just like any other venerated temple of KP’s for me and did not arose special attention, until I read the account of the pilgrimage of King Zain-ul-Abidin(AD 1420-70) to Sharda  possibly in the year 1422 A.D. I found the mention of the pilgrimage in Rajatarangini of Kalhan by  M.A.Stein, ” in the Chapter “The Shrine of Sharda”.

It was rather interesting to note that Sarda temple at one stage in the long History of Kashmir attracted many devotees and Scholars. The area where the temple is situated, was not under the sovereignty of the Rulers of Kashmir in continuity, and intermittently, the area of Sardi was out of bound  for rather long stretches of time. This political constraint dissuaded the Kashmiri Hindus to visit this place as frequently as they used to,  when it was a part of the Kingdom of Kashmir. The rough terrain  and the inclement weather too ensured that the Temple maintained its Aura of mystery , solitude and Spirituality.

For some reasons, I was intrigued to know that  there was a wooden(sandalwood) image of Goddess Sarda at Shardapeeth(Kashmir) and that the original idol was taken away by the Shankarachraya.It crossed my mind that If the original idol was taken away by Shankaracharya,; was the wooden idol of Sarda at the time of Zain-ul-Abidin, a different one then!

Traditionally, and may be historically, if we look into the past, we can easily conclude that the KP’s worshipped the God/Goddess mostly in their natural state/form. For example, KP’s worship Goddess Sharika as a ‘Srichakra’, believed to be inscribed naturally on a Boulder, smeared in vermilion. Again at Raithan temple, Goddess Ragya is venerated in the form of a natural Boulder. A Stone slab is revered as Goddess Bala Devi in Balhoma. Mata Jwalaji in the form of  an uninterrupted, continuous flame is worshipped at Khrew. There is also a stone slab, that too is venerated by the devotees. At other places, the object of worship is either a natural spring or a lake. The exception is for the Stone Shiva-Linga, which is widely worshipped throughout the state.

But a Wooden Idol, and that too of Sandalwood ! seemed incongruous. Before coming to any conclusion, some historical facts documented in the form of Books of History and legends can not be ignored.

The legend of Sharda

According to Mahatmaya, The sage Sandilya, son of sage Matanga, was practicing great austerities, in order to obtain the sight of the Goddess Sarda, who is a shakti embodying three separate manifestations. Divine advice prompts him to proceed to the place-Syamala. There at GHOSA, i.e ‘Gus’, appears to him ‘Mahadevi’, and promises to show herself in her true form( Shakti) in the Sarda’ forest. The Goddess vanishes from his sight at Hayasirsasasrama, (Hayhom), situated about 4 miles to the N.N.E of Gus.

The Sage next proceeds to the Krisnganga, a spring now usually known as Krishnganga, in which he bathes. Thereupon,  half his body becomes golden, emblematic of his approach to complete liberation from darkness. The Naga is situated above the village of Drang also known as Son-Drang. It is this appellation which the Mahatmaya wishes to reproduce by calling the place of Sage’s miraculous transformation ‘Suvarnardhangaka’.

From thence, Sandilya ascends the mountain range to the north, on which he sees a dance of Goddesses in a forest called Rangavati (Rangvor), immediately below the pass by which the route leading from Drang towards the Kisanganga crosses the watershed. He then passes the Gostambhana forest, i.e, the Marg Gthamman and arrives at TEJAVANA, the residence of Gautama, on the bank of the Krisnganga. The Mahatmaya describes at some length, the sacred character of the latter place which is identical with Tehjan(Thagain), a small hamlet on the left bank of the Kisanganga. It then relates how the sage after crossing on the way a hill, on the east side of which he sees the God Ganesha, arrives in the Sardavana i.e, at the present Sardi. After a Hymn in praise of Sarda in her triple form of Sarda, Narada(sarswati) and vagdevi, an account is given how the goddess at that sacred spot revealed herself to the Sage and rewarded his long austerities by inviting him to her residence on Srisaila.

Pitrs also approach there to Sandilya and ask him to perform their Sraddhas. On his taking water from the Mahasindu for the purpose of the Tarpana rite, half of its water turns into honey and forms the stream hence known as Madhumati. Ever since baths and Shraddhas at the Samgama of the Sindhu and Madhumati assure to the pious complete remission of sins, etc.

The mention of this confluence leaves no doubt as to where the Mahatmaya places the site sacred to Sarada. By SINDHU can be meant only the Kisanganga which, as in Kalhana’s days, is still locally known merely as ‘Sind’ , the river. Madhumati  is the name which local tradition gives to this day to the stream that joins the Kisanganga at Sardi from the south.

The temple is believed to be one of the Shakti-peethas(out of 51).It is believed that the right hand of Shiva’s consort-SATI-had fallen here.

 

 

The Mystical wooden(Sandalwood) idol of Sharda

A.Stein has mentioned that the Sharda temple is found in “Jonararaja’ Chronicle. The passage containing it belongs to those additions of the text with which Professor Peterson edition(1896) had first acquainted them. It is mentioned that the tolerant King Zain-l-Abidin(Bada Shah), whose attitude towards his Brahman Subjects was well Known, is believed to have accompanied the regular pilgrimage, apparently in the year 1422 A.D, in order to witness the miraculous manifestations of the Goddess. From the description in the  verse 1057, it seems that these were ordinarily the appearance of Sweat on the face of the image of the Goddess, the shaking of the arm, and a sensation of the Heat on touching the feet.

After bathing and drinking at the Madhumati Stream, the King seated himself at the Sacred spot which was thronged by pilgrims and Temple priests. Owing to the baseness, he witnessed in these people, the King is said to have displayed anger and to have lost faith in the goddess. Having failed to see her manifest herself in a visible and material way, which Jonaraja plausibly explains by a reference to the Kaliyuga and the want of faith in the worshippers, he then endeavored to obtain her sight in a Dream. For this purpose,   the King went to sleep on the night of the 7th day of waxing moon in the month of Bhadrapada in the court of the temple. Sarada, however refused to vouchsafe any sign of her presence to the King in his sleep either. From due regard for the prince’s high personal qualities, the author is forced to ascribe this disappointment to the Wickedness of his servants and the conflux of Mlecchas. Having thus disappointed, the virtuous Zain-ul-abidin, the goddess is said to have, herself, crushed her image to pieces.

It is mentioned unambiguously,  that the idol self-destructed itself. However much later, Alberuni , too has written that a miracle-working image of Sarada, was yet in existence in the early part of the fifteen century, and that its destruction, rightly or wrongly, was connected with a pilgrimage which Zain-ul-abidin made to this site.

In the Sixteenth century, the temple of Sarda must have enjoyed yet considerable reputation in Kashmir itself. This is proved by “ABU-L-FAZL’s” notice of the site(Ain-Akb.,ii.p 365): “At two days distance from Hachamun is the river named padmati(Madhumati), which flows from the Dard(Dard) country. Gold is also found in this river. On its Banks, is a stone-temple called “Sarda”, dedicated to Durga and regarded with great veneration. On every eight tithi of the bright half of the month, it begins to shake and produce the most extraordinary effect.”

Here Haehamn stands plainly for Hayhom: Padmati is an evident clerical error for Madmati, i.e, Madhumati. From the statement which makes this River come from the Dard country, it appears that there is here some confusion between the Madhumati and the Kisanganga, which latter alone can be described as flowing from that region. It must, however, be noticed that a not very clear passage of the Sardamahatmaya,120, seems to ascribe to the Kisanganga also the second name Madhumati.

The notice of Gold being found in the river clearly applies to the Kisanganga, which drains a Mountain region known as auriferous to the present Day. The story told of the Sarada temple Shaking on the eight sudi of each month, is evidently a lingering reflex of the miracle ascribed to Sarda’s image in Jonaraja’s account.

The date indicated is that still observed for pilgrim’s visits to the Shrine, but when A.Stien visited the site in Sep 1892, The legend of the Shaking of limbs or sweat from the forehead of the idol of Sarda was unheard of. In fact, there was no idol of Sarada at all. Instead, a large rough slab on the ground which measures about 6 by 7 feet, with a thickness of about half a foot is worshipped as Goddess Sharda.This stone is believed to cover a KUNDA(spring-cavity), in which Sarada appeared to Sage Sandilya, and is the object of the Pilgrims’ special veneration. At the time of “Stein’s” visit to the temple, a red cloth canopy with plenty of tinsel surmounted the sacred spot. Conches, bells, and other implements of worship filled the remainder of the interior space.

Adi Shankaracharya’s visit to Sarda temple and Kashmir

Most of the Scholars believe that Adi Shankaracharya (A.D-788-820) visited Kashmir in the first quarter of ninth century A.D.

Adi Shankaracharya, a great philosopher is believed to have visited Kashmir in the first quarter of 9th Century (788-820 A.D) .According to writer of ‘Sankara Digvijaya’ — ‘Sankara visited Kashmir after giving a final blow to Buddhism in the rest of India”. PN Magzine,  a research scholar of repute, writes in ‘Shankaracharya Temple and Hill’ that Shankaracharya visited Kashmir with the intention of advancing Vedantic knowledge. That time Kashmiris were culturally and spiritually much advanced and believed strongly in the greatness of both Shiva and Shakti. Shankara did not, at that time, when he visited Kashmir, believe in Shakti cult . PN Magzine mentions that Shankaracharya with his party camped outside the city of Srinagar, without any boarding and lodging arrangements. Seeing the plight of visitors a virgin was sent to meet Shankara. She found the party uneasy and frustrated because of not being able to cook as no fire was made available to them. The first glimpse of Shakti was exhibited to Shankara by this girl, when Shankara expressed his inability to make a fire, in reply to girl’s question that you are so great, can not you make fire. The girl picked up two thin wooden sticks (samidhas) into her hand, recited some mantras and rubbed the sticks and fire was produced to the surprise of Shankara. PN Magzine further adds that later a Shastrarth (religious discourse) was arranged between Shankara and a Kashmiri woman. This discourse continued for 17 days. Shankaracharya yielded before the lady in discussion and accepted the predominance of Shakti cult (greatness of Devi).

According to PN Magzine, after accepting predominance of Shakti cult, Shankara wrote Saundarya Lahari, in praise of Shakti, at the top of the hill, known till then as Gopadari Hill. Pandit Gopi Krishan writer that Panchastavi–gamut of Shakti Shastra–a priceless gem — a peerless hymn of praise addressed to Kundalini. The work has been cited as source book by several eminent scholars, but the name of the author has remained undisclosed”. According to him the only other work in whole gamut of Shakti Shastra in the country, comparable to Panchastavi is Saundarya Lahari. PN Magzine says that Saundarya Lahari is acclaimed as master-piece in Sanskrit literature. After the visit of Adi Shankaracharya to Kashmir, he became staunch believer of Shakti-Shri Chakra – the symbol of Devi (Goddess) as mentioned in ‘Shankara Digvijay’ – Life history of Shankaracharya. Thus we know that even, a very knowledge philosopher, a Saint of greater order- Adi Shankaracharya – gained further depth in spiritualism and mysticism in Kashmir.Kashmiri Pandit – great ‘Mehman Nawaz’ – highly appreciative of knowledge (which has at time proved undoing for them), awarded a degree of the Sharda Peetha, the highest honour conferred on any dignitary of knowledge when Shankaracharya visited Sharda, a famous temple, Shrine of Goddess Saraswati and a famous university of learning.

 

It is believed that was  Adi shankaracharya entered the Sarda temple from its Sothern gate and had a debate with the Scholars of that Area/Temple. He emerged as a winner and was conferred to sit on Sarvanjnanapeetham or Sarvajna peetha(Throne of Wisdom).In his Honor, the southern gate of Sarda temple was closed for ever. The Śāradā image at  Shringeri Shardamba temple was once said to have been made of sandalwood, which is supposed to have been taken by the Shankaracharya from Sarda temple Kashmir.

Adi-Shankaracharya according to Sringeri Sharda peetham

Jagadguru Sri Adi Shankara Bhagavatpada established the first of the four Amnaya Peethams at Sringeri more than twelve centuries ago to foster the sacred tradition of Sanatana Dharma.

Hallowed for all times by Sage Rishyashringa who stayed and performed Tapas here, Sringeri attracted the great Acharya with a remarkable sight.

Tradition has it that after the Acharya had dispersed all the non-Vedic creeds prevailing in the country, He was on the look-out for a convenient and holy place where he could establish an institution to spread the truths of Advaita Vedanta. When the Acharya came to Sringeri, he saw an unusual sight on the banks of the Tunga. A cobra was seen spreading out its hood over a frog in labour pains, to give it shadow from the scorching mid-day sun. Struck with the sanctity of the place, which could infuse love between natural adversaries, the Acharya chose this very location to establish His first Math.

The Madhaviya Shankara Digvijayam describes that the Acharya came across many virtuous people at Sringeri and taught them the doctrine of Advaita. He then invoked the Divinity of Knowledge, Goddess Sharada and consecrated an icon of the Goddess. Thus the Peetham He founded at Sringeri in South India for fostering the Vedas and the sacred tradition of Sanatana Dharma came to be known as the Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham.

The Acharya appointed his prime disciple, Sri Sureshwaracharya as the first Acharya of the Peetham. Since then, the Peetham has been blessed with an unbroken Guru Parampara, a garland of spiritual masters and Jivanmuktas representing Sri Adi Shankaracharya. The succeeding Acharyas have led a life of such austere penance that it has led disciples to adore in them the radiance of Sri Adi Shankara Himself.

Sandalwood Idol of Sarda Mata at Sringeri

 

The ancient temple of Sri Sharada, the presiding deity of Sringeri has a glorious history that begins with the setting up of the Dakshinamnaya Peetham by Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada. Originally it was an unpretentious shrine with the Murti of Sharada made of sandalwood, installed over the Sri Chakra that Sri Adi Shankara carved on a rock. Subsequently Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya had a temple built in the Kerala style, with timber and tiled roof. Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha substituted the sandalwood idol with the present golden idol.

However, it is not clear whether, the installed idol was the same Idol, that Adi Sankara had allegedly brought with him from Kashmir.

Geographical Availability of Sandalwood in Kashmir and Karnataka

The availability of Sandalwood is abundantly found in and around the district of Chikmaglur (Sringeri comes in this district) in Karnataka. While as, it is hardly found in and around Kashmir valley. But, before coming to any conclusion; it will be pertinent to discuss again, here, the Temple and Legend of Kapteshwar Temple of Kashmir Valley; where, a mysterious Sandalwood idol of Siva used to emerge from a pond.

The legend of Kapatesvara(From Rajatarangini)

The valley of the Arpath or Harsapatha, which opens to the east of Anantnag, is also known as Kuthar. The name is in all probability connected with that of the ancient Tirtha of KAPATESVARA, situated on the Southern side of the valley close to the village of Kother. The name of the latter is undoubtedly a derivative of Kapateshwara as the analogy of Jyether<Jyeshthesvara, Triphar<Tripuresvara, etc. clearly shows.

The place of pilgrimage is the sacred spring of PAPASUNDA(Sin removing), situated a short distance above Kother near Acchabal. In it Lord Shiva is believed to have shown himself in the disguise(Kapata) of pieces of wood floating on the water. The legend is related at length in the Nilmata, and the author of the Haracaritacintamani devotes to it a separate canto which has now become the Official Mahatmaya of the Tirtha.

According to Nilmata; Once many sages stood in great penance on the sacred bank of Drsadvati in Kurukshetra to have a sight of Rudra-the lord of the Gods. Impressed by their Devotion, Shiva told them in a Dream to go soon to Kasmira where there is a spacious and immaculate abode of the Naga. He told them that there he would be visible in Disguise. Having heard him in a dream they all reached the abode of the Naga. They could not see even a little water, for the water was all covered with pieces of wood. Moving the wooden logs with their hands, the best sages obtained Rudrahood with their bodies by merely taking bath.

However, one vasistha Brahman, named Graparasar neither took the bath nor touched the wooden logs. He went on prolonged fasting and made his body decay. Rudra then spoke to him in a dream and advised him to obtain Rudrahood quickly by taking bath and touching the wooden logs.  Gauraparasara persisted, ‘that you can be visible after the attainment of Rudrahood is a fact, ‘O father of the world! But my mind is not satisfied without the sight of the lord of the Gods. You have said that you would be visible in disguise in the abode( of the Naga).

The Brahman refuses to leave and continues fasting, Sankara replies:  I have already provided them, my manifestation in the form of the wooden log. Merely by seeing me, they attained Rudrahood, O twice-Born! Now, due to your penance which is greater, I give you the desired boon. Ask for what you desire and Obtain Rudrahood.

The Brahman demands that Mahesvara should manifest in the form of a wooden log, to all the human beings, as it did to the sages. Mahesvara agrees and remarks, ‘O best among the twice-born, all those people who will see(the god) standing in the form of wood, (will see the gods) not always but only occasionally. With a desire to do favor to them, my gana-the Nandi in the form of wooden log shall always be visible to the human beings. And having seen (him) they would attain Rudrahood with their bodies. As I shall appear before men, so I shall obtain the name, Kapatesvara.

Alberuni too had heard of the Kapateshvara tirtha and its legend. He writes ‘ a pond called Kudaishashr(Kapatesvar) to the left of the source of the vitasta, in the middle of the month of Vaisakha, Mahadeva appears annually.’

AB-L-FAZL, Ain-I Akb, ii, p.358, mentions “in the village of Kotihar, a deep spring surrounded by stone temples. When its water decreases, an image of Mahadeva in Sandalwood appears.”

The sacred spring rises in a large circular tank which is enclosed by an ancient stone-wall and steps leading into the water. According to Kalhana’s account this enclosure was constructed, about a century before his own time, at the expense of the well-known king Bhoja of Malava.The latter is said to have taken a vow always to wash his face in the water of the Papasundana spring.

Connection between Sarda temple and Kapteshwar temple

Though, the architecture of Sharda temple (POK) resembles to that of the Kashmiri architecture , which can still be found in the ruins of Naranaag or the the Sun temple of Martand, But for some reasons, Sir A.Stein thought that the ruins of Sarda resemble most to that of Kapateshwara temple.

Also, it is intriguing,   to note that the famous travelers and Historians of the past, like Alberuni and Ab-L-Fazl, both have written that there was the legend of the mysterious and venerated Idol of Sharda at the Temple (POK). Pertinently, both have mentioned that the wooden idol of Mahadeva would emerge from a pond at Kapatesvara, when its water receded.

This clearly indicates, that in Kashmir, there was use of Sandalwood for making Idols of Gods/Godesses; although it is not clear, how it came into existence for religious purposes and how it ended .But, as of today, The Redoubtable temples of Kashmirian architecture, be it Sarda, Martand, or Naranaag are at the brink of extinction and need immediate attention from the concerned authorities. The hoary legends, that once reverberated in the cradle of Kashmir valley, are reduced to dying  echoes .

However, some of the sacred Hymns like- ‘Kashmir Purvasini, Vidhya Dieyinam Shawetambuj Viharinam, Chaturbuj Dharini… Shattantriveena Vadini… Mokshadayini, Papanashneemam … Vitasta Rupenam … Himachidit Girishshobinam … Kalashamrit Dharayae. Translated this means;Residing in Kashmir from ancient times..giver of knowledge.. seated on a white bird {Swan}..having four arms, carries hundred stringed veena.. giver of moksha and forgiver of sins.. just like with grace of Vitasta {Jhelum River}.. gracing a snow clad mountain..carrying a pot with holy nectar-    will remain immortal. And with it, will live- ‘the legend of Sarda ‘ forever.

And so will the mystery…

 

( by:Sandeep Raj koul)

 

 

 

 

 

sharda1 sharda2

(Photo courtesy: Rukhsana Khan)

 

 

References:

the shrine of Sharda-note B-I 37-Kalhana’s Rajatarangini(M.A.Stein)

tirtha of Kapatesvara,p-467,Kalhana’s Rajtarangini-ii volme(M.A.Stein)

http://www.ikashmir.net/saints/shankracharyavisittokashmir.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharada_Peeth

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandalwood

http://www.sringeri.net/history

http://www.sringeri.net/history/sri-adi-shankaracharya/biography/abridged-madhaviya-shankara-digvijayam/part-5

http://panunkashmir.org/kashmirsentinel/maya1999/4.5.html

http://koausa.org/temples/sharda3.html