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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXV (2001-2002)

Sarada Legends - Different Versions
Dr. Romesh Kumar, Jammu

So integral is Sarada tradition to Kashmir, that Kashmir is more often called by the name of Saradadesha. Goddess Sarada is the presiding deity of Kashmir. Besides Kashmiri Hindus, Saraswat Brahmins, presently scattered along the Western Coast of India, Venerate Goddess Sarada as their principal deity. The puranic literature is replete with details about goddess Sarada's journey to Kashmir.

Two Sarada mahatmyas are presently extant. These describe the significance of pilgrimage to Sarada. One is a part of Bhrngisa Samhita, while the other is based on Adipurana. Pandit Sahib Ram's excellent composition, Tirthasamgraha is also a valuable source on the history of Sarada Tirtha. An attempt is made in this article, to reconstruct the origins of Sarda pilgrimage, based on the oral tradition, collected from the Pandits of village Gushi (ancient Ghosa) and Lidderwan, the villages intimately connected with Sarada pilgrimage.

Origin of Sarada Tiratha

Ravana was a great worshipper of Lord Shiva, who had bestowed him with extraordinary powers. Goddess Parvati was also kind to Ravana. One day Parvati told Lord Shiva, "We don't have a house of our own," and desired one. Lord directed Vishwakarma to construct a house for them in Lanka. During the Greh Pravesh ceremony, Ravana was also among invitees. Ravana wondered why a godly saint with ashes smeared all around his body needed a house of his own. He asked Lord to hand over the house to him. So long as the Lord was in the house, he ignored Ravana's pleadings. After the Lord and Parvati left the house, Ravana was asked to take over the house.

Meanwhile Ravana was engaged in war with Rama. The former asked Lord Shiva for his blessings. The Lord gave him a Shivling and told him that "so long as it remains with you, no body can defeat you". He warned him not to put it on ground. Narad, an old man happened to pass by : Ravana went somewhere and handed over Shivling to Narad. The latter told him that he had a curse that he could not stay at a place for more than half an hour. Ravana agreed and said he would return quite soon, but more than thirty minutes passed. Narad put the Shivling down and left. On return, Ravana became sad on finding that Shivling was missing.

Knowing that Lord Shiva was angry with him, Ravana turned to Goddess Durga. She asked him to perform Yagna but told Lord Rama, "If I stay here, you cannot destroy Ravana. Take me from here to Utterkhand". Lord Rama asked her, "How could I take you". She replied, "You have Hanuman". Hanuman was called but he refused, arguing he would not take a female along with him. Parvati replied, "I will go in the form of water. You have only to lift the Kamandal and drop me where I ask". Hanuman agreed. In a slightly different version, it is said that it was after Lanka (Lanka dahan) was set on fire that Parvati asked Lord Rama to take her out of Lanka.

Hanuman took the Handawara (ancient Hantwara) route to Gushi, passing by Masabhavan spring. As he crossed the place where Masabhavan spring is situated, a drop of water from Kamandal fell down to form the spring Masanag (Masa literally means fish). After resting a while at Gushi, Hanuman went to Tikr. Here again a drop of water fell down from Kamandal to form Devibal spring. The water of the spring demonstrates different colours at different times, like the famous spring of Khirbhawani. A little above the Devibal spring, Parvati asked Hanuman to stop a while. Goddess rested here. This place presently has seven Chinars. There is a temple of goddess Sarada, along with Srichakra.

The next destination of Hanuman was Hayhom, eight miles away and Krsnag, Hayhom spring has an area of hundred square feet but is not much deep. Sarda yatris take bath at Krsnag. From Krsnag Hanuman went to Tehjan. There is also a spring here. Three miles ahead, on the banks of Madhumati on a hillock, Parvati asked Hanuman to end the journey and keep the Kamandal down. She asked Hanuman to leave.

The place, where Hanuman kept the Kamandal is the Sanctum Sanctorium of Sarda shrine. Originally a spring, presently it is covered by a large rough slab, measuring 6 by 7 feet, with a thickness of about half a foot. This spring or Kunda is the object of special veneration for pilgrims. There is another spring which lies a little higher up but within the precincts of Sarada shrine. It is said that water from that spring flows into Sarada Kund. Same story is told about Masabhavan spring whose waters are reported to reach Sarda spring. A legendary account of Dandhori is given in this context.

This story is based on the oral tradition conveyed by Sansar Chand Raina of Gushi and Nand Lal Pujari of Sarada to his descendants. Masabhavan spring is a large spring with an area of seven hundred square feet. Its good depth gives the water a blue hue. There are two big Shivlings in the spring. The sanctity of Shivlings in the spring has been validated by a unique incident in recent times. Jagarpur village is irrigated by the waters of Masanag. In early seventies local villagers wanted to clean the spring but could not do it fully. They asked Pandits of Nagari village to shift the Shivlings. They complied and Shivlings were shifted to a nearby temple. Incessant rains followed, leading to flash floods. Jagarpur villagers got worried and went to seek intervention of a Kraal Derwish, Qadir Saab at Heer, four miles away from Kupwara. Acclaimed as a good antaryami, he told the villagers, "I cannot do anything, when you have removed it." People could not discern its meaning.

Meanwhile, DC Baramulla in a dream saw somebody catching him by the neck. He told him, "If you do not put me back in the spring, even your smell will not stay." DC woke up that very moment, 12 O'clock in the night and rushed to Jagarpur. He called the villagers and asked them to put the Shivlings back in the spring. He warned them, "If you fail to do so, you will die along with me". The Shivlings were brought in a truck and under the direct supervision of DC, these were lowered into the Masabhavan spring. Rains stopped immediately in the morning and villagers heaved a sigh of relief.

Pt. Shamboo Nath Thusu of Lidderwan gives a different version of the legend, which explains the origin of Sarada spring. Pandit Ganmalo of Seer Jagir (Nandkishwar) was a Pujari at Sarda, appointed by Dharmarth Trust. Ganmalo was well versed in scriptures and a poet also. In 1940, when he had put ninety years behind him, he retired. He often talked about the origins of Sarda tirtha to his nephews, Satlal and Niranjan Nath and to Nandlal Pujari at Sarda in 1947. Pt. S. N. Thusu heard this story from them.

Once Samundar Mathan (cleaning of ocean) was under-taken by fourteen ratans, with an objective to get Amrit. In the process, Amrit fell into the hands of dyats and not devtas. It was a fearful situation. Devtas, thought of a compromise. Goddess adopted `Mohini Roop' and agreed to distribute Amrit. As expected dyats fell out. In the process the goddess left along with Amrit to Sardaji. Goddess Mohini poured it over a place, now known as Sarda spring. Dyats would come and desecrate it. Goddess put a shila over it to prevent desecration.

Legends of Muni Sandilya

There are two different versions on how Muni Sandilya reached Sarda. The first version is based on what Sansar Chand Raina and Nand Lal Shardi relate. The other version is based on Bhrnghisa Samhita and is recorded by Sir Aureil Stein, in his translation of Rajatarangini.

Rishi Agastya was a brahm rishi. He performed tapasya in a forest. Rishi was childless. One day his wife told him that she desired a child. Rishi kept quiet. When she persisted, Agastya suggested to her that she should seek the divine intervention for this. He advised her, "you get up at 2 AM and pour eleven tumblers of water over Shivling, everyday for forty days. You may get a child after that." Rishi however told her that no one else should see her performing this unique puja. A Coirmaker overheard this conversation. He too was childless. He was on way home from the forest. As it rained heavily, he took shelter under the cover of roof projecting out. Matanga, the coir-maker went home and asked his wife to try this `formula.'

Soon both ladies gave birth to sons. Matanga's son Sandilya, was of a very dark complexion. As he grew up, he would frequently visit men of religious merit and thus came in contact with Acharya Agastya.

Sandilya began visiting Rishi Agastya frequently. The latter told his wife that though Sandilya was born in identical circumstances as her son but he was higher in wisdom. When he reached ten to twelve years of age, Sandilya asked Rishi Agastya for `Guru Shabad'. Rishi told him, "You cannot get it. Only those who have undergone Yagneopavit ceremony qualify for it." Sandilya in his innocence asked the Rishi to perform his Yagneopavit ceremony. Agastya told him that only Brahmins can undergo Yagneopavit ceremony. Sandilya did not relent. Then Agastya suggested, "There is a way out. You go to Sarda and offer penance to the goddess. If she is kind enough, then your Yagneopavit ceremony is possible". Agastya told Sandilya that the goddess lived in Utterakhand.

Sandilya began wanderings in search of the goddess and found out from people that the goddess lived in Kashmir. It took him two years to reach this region. He followed the track taken by Hanuman in carrying goddess Parvati. Sandilya took the traditional bath at Krsnag and came to Tehjan. He mistook Tehjan spring for that of Sarda and camped here. Goddess Sarda came to him in a dream.

This confirmed the authenticity of her abode. Sandilya began his tapasya. Goddess came to him and asked what he wanted. Sandilya told her, "I need no riches. Nobody is agreeing to perform my Yagneopavit ceremony. Only you can help me. For my Yagneopavit ceremony you be the Jajmanbhai and rishi Agastya the Brahmin." Goddess Sarda, the incarnation of Parvati agreed. Yagneopavit was performed and Sandilya received `Guru Shabad' from Agastya. Thus it is on the soil of Kashmir that caste system was delegitimised by none other than the presiding goddess Sarda. Caste system remained extremely weak here. Its historical significance is outside the scope of this story. Devtas, had lost contact with goddess Parvati, when she escaped from Lanka. It was Sandilya, who led them to Sarda.

Sir Aureil Stein gives a different version of the legend, based on Bhrangisa Samhita. Muni Sandilya was practicisng great austerities in order to obtain the sight of the goddess Sarada. Divine advice prompts him to proceed to Syamala, Maharashtra, the present region of Hamal, Dengiwacha. At Gushi Mahadevi appears to him and promises to show herself in true form in the Sarada forest. The goddess vanishes from his sight at Hayasirsasrama, present Hayhom, four miles from Gushi. Sandilya next proceeds to Krsnag and takes bath in the spring. After emerging from the spring, half of his body turns golden. This is interpreted by Stein as complete liberation from darkness. Since the Krsnaganga is situated above the village of Drang, local Brahmins also call Drang as `Sona-Drang' or `Gold Drang' (Suvarnardhangaka in Mahatmya).

While ascending the mountain range to the north, Sandilya sees a dance of goddess in a forest called Rangavati. He then passes the Gostambhana forest and arrives at Tejavana, modern Tehjan, the residence of rishi Gautam. Then Sandilya crosses a hill and sees the God Ganesa and finally reaches Saradavana. It is at the Sarada spring, the sancutm sanctorum of the shrine, that the goddess appeared to Sandilya. She rewarded his long austerities by inviting him to her residence on Srisaila.

Pityrs also approached Sandilya and asked him to perform their Sraddhas. On his taking water from the Mahasindhu for the purpose of the Tarpana rite, half of its water turns into honey and forms the stream hence known as Madhumati. Mishra (Gangetic Plain), Saproos, Sadhus (Kashmir) trace their Gotra to Sandilya.

Places of Sarda Pilgrimage in Kashmir

As per religious tradition in Kashmir, Gangashtmi is observed every alternate year as Saradaashtmi. On Gangashtami day, Kashmiri Hindus visited Gangabal lake to immerse ashes of the dead and offer shraddhas. Many of the pilgrims who could not reach Sarada shrine on Saradaashtami, would however visit places connected with Sarada goddess in Valley proper itself. Presently there are five such places in the Valley proper, two of these being in and around Bandipore town itself.

In the Saradamahatmyas, only Sardakunda at the village of Tsatsa, close to Harvan and Sarada at Khuyhom is mentioned. The former is located about one and a half miles from the north-east corner of the Dal Lake. Stein has recorded this Sarada and says, "owing to the place being so near to the city and easily approached by boat, large crowds of pilgrims assemble from Srinagar to pay their devotion to Sarada". This spring was visited on Sardaashtami day only.

Sarada at Khuyhom, Bandipore is recorded by Pandit Sahibram in his Tirathasamgraha. While Sahib Ram describes its location in village Kulyandi, Prof. Buhler mentions the place as Horil, also in Khuyhom. Kashmir's celebrated historian, Hassan, who lived in 19th century belonged to Khuyham.

In Yachkoot, near Budgam and slightly away from the Pandit locality is a groove of 5-8 Chinars. In the hollow of a Chinar is housed the idol of Sarada goddess. A clay wall encloses the Chinar groove. This served as a local temple. On Chitrashtmi and Navmi, Pandits of Yachkoot and surrounding villages performed havan. Pandits describe the place as asthapan of Saradamaji.

Traditions linked with the origin of the above mentioned places, connected with Sarada worship seem to have been lost in the folk memory. It is only incase of Saradabal at Kaloosa, Bandipore and at Tikr and Gushi that the tradition is still well preserved.

Sardabal at Kaloosa is located on the right bank of Madhumati. The river on which the historic shrine of Sarada is situated is also known as Madhumati. Kaloosa's old name was "Kalash". Sarada asthapan in Kaloosa has a big spring with two shilas on two Celtis (Brimij) trees. There is a fencing of stone wall with a raised platform. The temple on its left was constructed in 1925. Previously Pandits used to perform havan on any day during the year. For the last forty years havan is performed only on the day of Saradaashtami.

The legend describing the origin of Sardabal is not dissimilar to the ones describing the emergence of Venkur and Saadmalinu as places of Ganges worship. Pandit Akalal's ancestor was a great devotee of goddess Sarada. He visited Sarada on every Saradaasthami. When he grew old, the goddess came to him in a dream. She told him, "Now you are old. You need not come here. I myself would come and reside at your place." The devotee was astonished and asked her how would that be possible. She replied, "there would be heavy rains, followed by floods. In a mulberry garden, you have to watch the movement of a crow resting on the branch of a tree. The moment the crow starts flying, you begin pulling the branch of the tree. A spring will emerge, with two small pebbles in it. Take these pebbles home and put these in a Puja room - Thokur Kuth, duly cleaned for the occasion. Thokur Kuth is not to be opened for seven days."

The devotee complied with the divine message, but his strong curiousity drew him to open Puja room only after three days. Pebbles did grow in size but remained small. These shilas are worshipped in Sardabal temple. As per the tradition prevalent, the Goddess told the devotee that he would not have son for seven generations, for not complying with her instructions fully. Pandit Manohar Bhat is the direct descendant of this family.

Gushi and Tikr are the places, where Sarda goddess took rest, while on her way from Lanka to Sardi. In Gushi the sacred site is situated a little above the groove of Rangvor. There is a small walled enclosure, which houses ancient idols. At Tikr on the sacred site there are seven Chinars besides a temple alongwith Sri Chakra.


The author is renowned physician having great interest and scholarship in Kashmiri Pandit history, culture and literature.

Mailing Address : 301, Colonials' Colony, Bohri, Talab Tilloo, Jammu-1880002


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