|Early Times Report|
Srinagar, Mar 26: After reports of the Pakistan government approving a proposal to establish a corridor to the ancient Sharada Peeth, situated across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), here is tremendous happiness and hope among the Valley's Pandits. For them, it will be a dream come true.
The corridor, if opened, will be the second religious tract after Kartarpur and is likely to bring the two hostile neighbours closer.
After Partition in 1947, the temple went under the control of Pakistan. It is about 150km from Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, and about 130km from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. The peeth is also considered a historical seat of learning.
It is located in Sharda village, which is now a tehsil headquarter, and where the Kishanganga (Neelam) river and two streams Madhumati and Sargun meet.
Kashmiri Pandits consider Sharada as their "kuldevi" or principal deity.
The Sharada Peeth is believed to be one of the foremost temple universities of the subcontinent between the 6th and 12th centuries CE.
There are competing theories about when it was built, but it has been suggested that the temple is over 5,000-year-old.
Ravinder Pandita, head of the Save Sharada Committee, which has been campaigning for access to the temple, "We fervently appeal to the PM (Narendra Modi) to accord approval for the annual Sharada pilgrimage, as well. Our demand is pending since the last 70 years."
"A mechanism is already in place since 2007 wherein people along both sides of the LoC can travel to meet their relatives on LoC permit," said Pandita.
"We stand with the government of India. If the Pakistan government is serious, it should raise the issue with our government," said KC Bharti, spokesperson of the All Party Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC).
"After Kartarpur, there is tremendous hope among Kashmiri Pandits. We are enthusiastic. Even earlier, Sikh pilgrims could travel to Kartarpur on a visa, but no Kashmiri Pandit has ever been able to do so," said Bharti.
The only person who has been able to travel to Sharada Peeth is professor Ayaz Rasool Nazki, a Kashmiri scholar, who has also been the regional director of the Jammu & Kashmir chapter of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
"I am the first Indian to travel to the peeth and the spiritual experience there is beyond words," Nazki told national channel recalling his 2007 visit.
Nazki had gone to Muzaffarabad to attend a wedding and it was his third attempt to travel to the temple about which he had heard a lot.
"It was after a lot of effort that I got permission to travel to that place. As it is close to LoC, there are restrictions for outsiders," he said.
Nazki was able to spend a night at the temple which left him with a life-changing experience.
"Sharada is something out of this world. Its beauty is unmatched. One wouldn't want to come back from there," he said.
On return, Nazki even wrote about his experience 'In search of roots', a chapter in the anthology, Cultural Heritage of Kashmiri Pandits, edited by SS Toshkhani and K Warikoo.
"The river goes on increasing in beauty and grandeur. On way one can see the town of Karna on the Indian side and one can call from across the river from Pakistan side and be heard on the Indian side. One can count the chickens in the yard of a farmer on the Indian side from across the border. Anyhow, as Sharada appears, one can sense the change in the air," he wrote.
Regarding Sharada being a seat of learning, Nazki wrote, "During the reign of Kanishka I, Sharada was the largest academic institution in the entire region of Central Asia."
"Side by side with imparting education in Buddhist religion, history, geography, structural science, logic and philosophy subjects were taught to perfection. This university had evolved its own script which resembles Devnagari and was known as Sharada," he wrote.
Nazki had clicked a few photographs with his mobile phone circulated them among members of the Pandit community, who received it as a cherished gift.
Nazki said, "I will go there anytime, if possible. Let us hope that it happens. It will be great and will ease the tensions between the two countries."