Legends - Different Versions
Dr. Romesh Kumar, Jammu
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
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
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
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
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
".......Remember that I am present in thee
And lose not hope;
Each Effort, Each Grief,
Each Joy and each pang,
Each call of thy heart,
Each aspiration of thy soul......
all, All without exception......
Lead thee towards me......"