Home South Asia India Pakistan’s Promise to Hindus Pilgrims: Sharda Temple Corridor

Pakistan’s Promise to Hindus Pilgrims: Sharda Temple Corridor

After the successful inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan is all set to give a green signal to the Sharda Peeth temple corridor. Pakistan will allow access for cross-border pilgrimages, while Hindus from across the country will also be able to visit their religious site.

Sharda Temple

After opening up the Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan is ready to give a green signal to the Sharda Temple Corridor in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) for Hindu pilgrims in India and across the world.

The idea was initially launched in March this year, but after the successful inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor and its unprecedented success amongst the Sikh community, Pakistan is even more devoted to fulfilling a commitment towards its own religious minorities, and those across the world.

Sharda Temple Corridor

Media reports reveal that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had already dispatched a proposal to New Delhi to open the Sharda Temple Corridor in AJK, allowing Hindus unrestricted access to their revered religious site.

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In March, Dr. Ramesh Kumar, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNA and member of the National Assembly, had said, “Pakistan has decided to open the Sharda temple, and I will be visiting the site in a few days. I will provide Prime Minister Imran Khan a report on the temple, and work on the project will begin during the current year, after which, Pakistan’s Hindu community will be able to visit their site.”

Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of Occupied Kashmir also actively campaigned for the opening of the Sharda Peeth temple in order to allow Kashmiri Pundits access to their religious site. Mufti had advocated that this project would decrease tensions between the two neighbors and pave the way for peace.

Speaking to the press at the time, Mufti said that opening the Sharda Temple Corridor is a long-standing demand of Occupied Kashmir’s Hindu community, and she appreciated the gesture by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Currently, Mufti is under house arrest by the Indian government after the August 5 revoking of Articles 35-A and 370.

Sharda Peeth: Ancient Hindu Temple

One of the oldest ancient Hindu temples, the Sharda Peeth is around 5,000 years old, established back in 237 BC during the reign of Asoka the Great. Sharda Peeth loosely translates into the “the seat of Sharda”, and Sharda is the Kashmiri name for the revered Hindu goddess, Saraswati.

Sharda is also related to the Kashmiri term “Sarv”, which means flow or stream at the tip of a rock, and denotes the fact that the temple is located at the confluence of three streams, in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Dedicated to the goddess of learning, this Hindu temple is one of the most celebrated temple universities of Hindu faith in the Indian subcontinent.

Tucked away in the heart of the picturesque Neelum Valley, this stone temple is erected in the midst of a stunning landscape dominated by soaring vistas, snow-laced peaks and lush greenery. 11th Century poet, Kashmiri Bilhana described the temple as the source of Kashmir’s reputation as a centre of learning.

Bilhana described that the goddess Sharda resembled a swan, gushing through the water as her gold washed from the Madhumati River, ancient name for the present-day Neelum River. In the 13th century, The Sharda Peeth was the only temple with a library that hosted revered Hindu works in their complete form, including the Prabhāvakacarita.

Jonaraja, a 15th Century historian writes that in 1422 CE, Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin, the 8th Sultan of Kashmir visited the shrine. Jonaraja writes that the Sultan grew angry at the Hindu goddess Sharda for not appearing to him in person. However, that night, Zain ul Abidin slept in the court of the temple and saw the goddess in his dream.

In the 16th Century, Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak revered the Sharda Peeth temple as a powerful symbol of “great veneration”. Popular beliefs narrated by Fazl ibn Mubarak reveal that the shrine is revered for several miracles. He said that on every eight tithe of the bright half of the month, the temple begins to “take shake and produces the most extraordinary effect”.

For centuries, it has hosted revered Hindu scholars from the medieval Kashmir and Middle Republican periods, including Kalhana, Adi Shankara, Kumarajiva and many others. This temple is recognized for its instrumental role in the emergence and promotion of the Sharda script in Northern India and Kashmir.

Due to the influence and popularity of the Sharda Temple, Kashmir was once called the Sharda Desh, and considered a powerful epicenter of knowledge and education. Some legends say that the Sharda Peeth temple symbolizes the fallen right hand of the Hindu Goddess Sati. Next to the temple is a sacred pond, known as the Madomati, and much like the water of the Katas raj Temple, it’s water is considered blessed by the Hindu community.

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The Sharda temple holds immense significance amongst the Kashmiri Pundit community and Hindus from all across Northern India. Many leaders from Indian occupied Kashmir have urged Indian and Pakistani governments to open the access routes and facilitate cross-border pilgrimages.

Many Indian politicians have urged Pakistan, in the past, to renovate the temple. In March 2019, Ministers and members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government revealed Pakistan’s agenda to open the corridor for Indian and Pakistani pilgrims. Pakistan will construct a corridor, and renovate the temple.

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