Shree Sharika Peetham – Kashmir
The valley of Kashmir is known as Deva Bhoomi i.e. the abode of gods. It is situated in the lap of the Himalayan mountains. The seat of Sharika Devi, the ‘Cosmic mother’, is one of such divine centres. It is the abode of three crore gods; hence in Sanskrit, it is called Vaas Bhoomi of Trikoti devtas of the Hindu pantheon. The devout have always found great spiritual solace and bliss here. It is also known as “Pradyuman – peetham” – the wish-fulfilling seat of the cosmic Mother.
Kashmir’s deshny is settled here at the lotus feet of Jagad Amba. This spiritual seat is situated on the western top of mount Hariparbat. It was at this very spot that the Divine Mother destroyed the demon “Jaloudbhava” that existed in the deep waters of the Sati-Sar. This terrible demon used to give trouble to the inhabitants that lived then on the hilltops surrounding that pretty sea Satisar now called ‘Kashmir’.
Kashmir has seen many natural calamities from time to time during its history in the shape of floods and rains. The cosmic Mother here represents solar energy, having seven components. The number ‘seven’ represents seven colours of light, seven Rishis of the Veda Vidya, the seven worlds. It is for this digit seven that the divine Mother’s seed letters are seven in number, corresponding to the seven basic ‘Swaras’ of the Sangeet Shastra. She is the protector of her Bhagtas from all the opposite aspects of existence. The energy here is personified as heat or the ‘Solar Energy’.
The old city of Srinagar is situated at its foothill in the west. The Divine Mother Sharika has all along been the ‘Ishta Devi’ i.e. personal goddess of the royal dynasties that ruled over Kashmir from time to time. One of the most famous among these kings was Pravar Sen, the son of the great Buddhist King ‘Megha- Vaahana’ who ruled the land at the end of the 6th century A.D. The city of Srinagar is known as Pravarpura i.e. the city laid out by king Pravara Sena. “Shri Chakra” is worshipped here as the cosmic form of Divine Mother. It is engraved on a green, circular-shaped stone of Sapphire. The Bhawani Sahasranama says thus.
The Meaning of Shri Chakra
The Mother exists here in the form of a diagram. She is within its orbit. Even the triangles that shape the corners of the Shri Chakra are the forms of Devi. All these 43 triangles and lotuses vibrate from the very basic central point that represents the core of the whole cosmos. It has 3 circles around it and 4 gates to enter into it. It originates from one central point.
This diagram is also known as ‘Matra-chakra’ established here by king Pravar Sena. Historian Kalhana writes: <sanskrit sloka>
There was a Murti of Sharika Devi made of glazed black stone. The same was taken away to Sarthal Kishtwar by king Ugra Deva in 1170. A.D. Kashmir was in a state of turmoil then. The following shloka throws light on this Sharika Murti <sanskrit>
Sharika Devi’s Murti is beautiful. Her, image is made of black stone. She is Mother Durga having 18 arms. The Cosmic Energy is beyond any name and form and She is the Eternal force of God. She is matter (Sat), soul (chit) and bliss (ananda). I offer Pranams to Her to protect me, the seeker of asylum under her pious feet.
The Surroundings of Hari Parbat
The famous Dal Lake is in the East of the Parbat and Rainawari, a township established by king Rana Ditya (hence its original name was Ranapuri, situated close to the southern edge of this hillock). An ancient Durga temple is at the top of this very mount. Hari Parbat is a big ancient fort site with all the required facilities, like availability of drinking water, a space for the armoury, residential huts and storage for provisions etc. etc.
Its eastern foot-hill area was used as a cantonment for the army. This area is protected by an all-round wall covering its adjacent land strip from the southern end to the northern end inclusive of the western strip with a magnificent gate “Kashtadwar”.
Its western strip is known as Devi Aangan where Kashmiri Pandits would collect in thousands to offer prayers to Devi on the Hora Ashtami night.
It was at this very seat and shrine of the cosmic Mother that MaharajaJai Sinha (1128 – 55) gave a start to his Vedic renaissance programme with the intention of inspiring confidence among his masses. He dug deep foundations for the preservation and promotion of the Vedic Dharma. This renaissance programme was launched in the form of “Shakti- Upasana” The Maharaja gave a new direction to his masses. It was the Shakta cult that he stressed upon for his subjects.
Before Jaya Sinha’s advent to the throne of Kashmir, the country had faced the first foreign invasion by Mohd. of Gaznavi. The Kashmiris had faced great trouble due to this invasion and multidimensional devastation had taken place as a result of it. Later also the Kashmiris had seen bad days during the rule of king Harsha (1089-1101 A.D.) whom Kalhana calls a ‘Rakshasa’. He had indulged in plunder and destruction of the Hindu shrines. In his reign, Deva Murtis were desecrated. He had recruited the Turks as his army generals and soldiers. He worked under the influence of some non-Hindu mendicants and took such steps to save his kingdom. This was all based on his wrong notions. The happenings compelled Jayasinha to follow the Shakta Marga. This background has been hinted at in the Bhawani Sahasranama thus.
Here the word ‘dushta’ has been used for kings like ‘Harsha’ and the word ‘Malecha’ indicates the invader ‘Gazanavi’ who had surfaced during the rule of Sangrama Raja (1003 – 28 A.D.). One more factor that had contributed towards this “Renaissance Movement” was the Historian Kalhana who had compiled his great work ‘The Raj Tarangini’ during the rule of Maha RajaJaya Sinha from 1148 to 50 A.D. MaharajaJaya Sinha’s greatness also has been acknowledged in the Bhawani Sahasranama: Jagad Amba Sharika is Herself Jaya’s Administration, Guide to his victory, the Bestower of victory and Sustainer and Supporter of this visionary king Jaya Sinha. Under the influence of the unmanly concept of non-violence, escapism and falsehood were practised in the name of devotion and salvation with the advent of non-Vedic paths. This had compelled the Kashmiris to feel concerned about their social existence and preservation.
The Bhawani Sahasra Nama
This grantha, composed in praise of Devi Bhawani’s one thousand pious names, throws enough light on the Shakta cult. All these names enable us to grasp the main features of the Vedic Dharma i.e. social consciousness, service to mankind, compassion, sympathy, moral values, etc. Shlokas from the granth use to be recited by the devotees regularly as they performed Parikrama (when there was normalcy in Kashmir). The text consists of three parts. The first part throws light on the creation of this universe, the eminence of the Bhawani Devi, the source of the elements that make up the existence of the Prakriti. This grantha tells us that even Lord Maha Deva is born out of cosmic energy. Maha Deva is thus a devotee of the Mother. “Maha Deva” also happens to be the name of the Rishi who has given an account of his mystic experience, that he had got through the constant recitation of this grantha.
Other Works on this Subject
Bhavani Sahasranama is a Samvada, comprising of questions put forth by Nandiji and the answers given by Maha Deva, the Lord. The word ‘Rishi’ used in the text suggests that it is a revealed book. The Vedas say in the “Vag – Ambhrani” sookta that it is the Mother’s grace that makes a person into a Rishi, who reveals the truths to the world. It is the Mother again that carves a heroic personality out of a simpleton besides giving birth to a great scientist.
It was prior to the period in which Bhavani Sahasranama appeared that the “Panchastavi” was composed by Dharma Acharya. This work consists of hymns on the Devi and it lays stress on the Mother’s worship. Even the Adi Shankara had composed his great work “Soundarya – Lahari” with the same objective in view, to make the Indian society aware of the Mother’s eminence, four centuries before the Bhavani Sahasranama was revealed.
A few names from the 2nd chapter of the work signify: That the mother is enlightenment, Mother of the whole cosmos, She is Mother of the Vedas; She is Courage, Love, Tradition, the Earth; She is the real ruler, Truth, Omkara herself. She is the mother of Buddha and Mahavira She is diplomacy and penal code, besides She is Ganga, Yamuna and all other rivers that flow through the Indian subcontinent, She is an Army herself and victory as well, She inspires the devotees to attain the four-fold aim of the human life.
Other names convey that she loves dancing and singing. She is the composition of poets and the wise. She has a great liking for saffron flowers. She is the land known as Kurukshetra where the Maha Bharata was fought. She is both Shri Ram’s and Shri Krishna’s birthplace. She is the social code, the digestive system, the system that is responsible for the creation of the human body. She is beautiful and a reverential feeling for the mother. It is she that shapes future generations. She is in all forms of Expression. She is both science and spirituality. She is the service to mankind to sustain this world. She is the armoury. She loves horse riding. She is the sheath and the sword. She is the heroic mother that gives birth to brave sons and daughters. She is herself on the battlefield. She is benevolent to all.
The third chapter deals with fal shruti. It mentions the set of benefits one derives from its recitation. These benefits are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
In the end, it is emphasised that we should make it our daily practise to recite the text with devotion and dedication. The set of one thousand names includes one hundred names from the “Lalita Sahasranama”, the pious names of Mother Lalita’s eminence. The cultural and territorial identity of India is the Divine Mother herself.
The Mystic Chakra of Sharika Mata (Tripuasundari) at Hari Parbhat
“Hari Parbhat” also known as “Sharika peeth” is one of the holiest sacred Place for the Hindus of Kashmir. Legend says that at this Place, Goddess Sharika killed the demon “Jalodbhava”. The Goddess in the form of “Haer”(Myna) at the behest of her devotees dropped a Pebble from above on Jalodbhava. The pebble became larger and larger. When it Hit the Demon, the pebble had grown to the size of a Hill. The Demon was crushed under the Hill. The Hill that dropped on the Demon came to be known as “Hari Parbaht”. The Mother Goddess resides there by the name of “Sharika” or “Tripursundari”. The eighteen-armed Goddess is considered as the presiding deity of the Srinagar city. She resides here in the form of syabu “Sri-Chakra”, also known as “Maha yantra”.This mystic Chakra is self-engraved on the Holy Shila( a vertical rock smeared indoors). Since the Divine Mother resides in the form of a “Chakra”, hence, she is also locally known as “Chakeshwari” and the place/temple as “Chakrieshwar”.
The significance of Sri-Chakra is written on a Board in the premises of the temple. I am merely reproducing it verbatim.
The sacred “Sri Chakra”, commonly known by the Hindus as “Sri Yantra” is composed of circles and the lotus petals contain nine independent trikonas(Triangles), mystically drawn within the other. The four Triangles that point upwards represent “Shiva” and the other five pointing downwards represent “Shakti”.The Shiva Triangles are called “Sri Kanthas” or Shiva element, and the Shakti triangles are known as “Shiva-yuvatis” or Shakti element. All these are quite independent of the central Bindu and are formed by the Mulaprakrati of Shiva Bindu.
The intersecting triangles represent the play of creation, protection and absorption of the whole universe by the pure divine force known as “Sudha Shakti”.The central point in the Chakra is Bindu which symbolizes the union of “Shiva with Shakti” or “Kameshwar with Kameshwari”.
“Sri Yantra” is, in fact, the most magnificent composition of nine independent trikonas, charged with supreme occult significance. The Trikonas in their upward and downward positions intersect one another and form themselves into forty-three big and small triangles. All these triangles are enclosed in the first inner circle on which is drawn one Lotus with eight petals called “Ashta Dal”, which represents the mystical lotus of creation. The other circle following this with sixteen petalled lotus, drawn on it is called “Shada-shadal”. This Lotus is significant of sixteen kalas or phases of the moon. The whole set of triangles and the Lotus petals are further enclosed in triple concentric circles or three-fold girdles called “Trimekhla”, The whole diagram, forming the mystical chakra, fixed in a square, with triple parallel lines, having four openings or gates on its four cardinal points make up Devi’s mansion. In the centre of the whole composition lies the Bindu(point) which, in fact, is the mysterious matrix of the Maha-Yantra. The description of this “Yantra” is given in sloka 11 of “Sundaryalahri”, reproduced just below the Yantra itself.
The “Yantra” is adopted for the worship of the mighty “Shakti-Lalita Devi” and is considered to be the most popular symbol that the Icon or image of “Srividhya” i.e “Tripursundari” herself.
The mystery of “Sri Yantra” is quite remarkable. Its secret doctrine is largely acknowledged even by renowned foreign authors and scholars. While acknowledging the mystical performance of these mysterious Yantras and Mandals, a foreign Scholar “Shree Guiseppe Tuccti” has stated In his book, “The theory and practice of Mandals” that the best example of Hinduist Mandal is the one called “Sri Chakra” or the wheel of “Sri” i.e the mystic wheel of “Shakti” or divine power, which is the motive force of the universe and by virtue of which God manifests and displays himself in things which are all of the necessity the effect of Shakti itself. Since without “Shakti”, God can do nothing. One can well imagine and understand the might of this “Shakti”, which the God himself has acknowledged as stated in “Sundarya-Lahiri” that only conjoined with thee Oh! “Shakti” have I the power to be the absolute lord otherwise I would not be able to move. Such is the mighty “Shakti-Lalita-Devi”, the ruling Deity of this celebrated “Maha Yantra”.
The “Yantra” can be described in two ways. It may be started from any of the four gates of outer Chakra and worked inwards towards the central Bindu or in the reverse order, It may be started from the Bindu and worked outwards towards the gates. The former process is called “Layakrama”(involution) and the latter “Srashtikrama”(Evolution). Here it is described in the latter way.
Starting from the central point (Bindhu) and ending with the gates the whole complex is divided into nine Chakras or wheels called Yantras which according to “Tantraja Tantra” are:-
1.Central Red Bindu described as …………………………Sarvanandmaya.
2. Central White Triangle, described as..………………….Sarvasidhipradha.
3.Eight red Triangles, described as ………………………Sarvaroghara.
4.Ten Blue Triangles, described as…..……………………Sarvarakshakar.
5.Ten Red Triangles, described as………………………..Sarvarthasadhak.
6.Fourteen blue triangles, described as………………… Sarvasaubnagyadayak.
7.Eight Red Lotus petals, described as…………………. Sarvasamksobhan.
8.Sixteen blue lotus petals, described as ………………..Sarvaparipuraka.
9.Surrounding Yellow ground between the outermost circle and four gates……………………………Trilokyamohan.
Explaining the complexity of these yantras the sacred, “Tripuramahimstrotam” says that the same “Mulavaidyaksars” as having contributed towards the unfolding of this “Sri Yantra” are responsible for the evolution of this universe as well when it says that:-
(a) From the “Lakar”, which, according to “Laya-Krama” represents the first outer chakra i.e the yellow surrounded ground, This “Pararupa” earth on which we live has been born and on which there are Mountains, Forests, Grooves, fifty peetas(Seats), all places of pilgrimages, all Ganges, all “Khetrasthanas”, this chakra is known as “Trilokyamohan”, that is the Enchanter of the Universe.
(b) From “Sakar”, representing the second chakra of sixteen blue petalled lotus, it took the form of the Moon, Stars, Planets, Zodiac(Rashi Chakra). This Yantra is described as “Sarvasanksobhan”.
(c) In “Ikar”, which is represented by the fourteen blue triangles, It is “Turyamaya” or the creator of the universe. This yantra being fourth in the order is described as “Sarvasaulhagvadayak” i.e all auspicious.
(d) In “Ekar”, which obtains the fifth place in the order and it is represented by Ten Red Triangles the “Vishavi Shakti” manifests herself as one engaged in “Vaishvaplan” (preservation of the universe). This Yantra is described as “Sarvarthasadak” or fulfiller of all desires.
(e) In “Rakar”, which is represented by ten blue triangles and is the sixth yantra in order, all luminous and the most flaming aspect of the deity is revealed. This Yantra is described as “Sarvarakshakar”-That is all protecting deity.
(f) In “Kakar”, the shakti is radiated as “Kamda” or granter of all desires, “Kamrupni” or changer of form at will and “Avaya” or eternal. This Yantra, represented by eight red Triangles and occupying the seventh position in the order, is described as “Sarvaroghara” or curer of all diseases.
(g) The eighth Yantra which is represented by the crescent-shaped central white triangles is known as “Vishvayoni” or the Womb of the Universe signifying the Karnam or the cause. Here Shakti is identified in “Shunyarpa” (Zero or void form) of the Bindhu Rupa Shiva. This Yantra is described as “ Sarvasidhiprada” or giver of all Siddhis.
(h) The ninth and the last Yantra, represented by the central Bindu, is described as “Sarvanandmaya” i.e all-pervading and all blissful flaming Shiva or “Shivajyotimaya”.
The wheel of the universe( Sansar Chakra) is thus equated with the “Mulavidya” and identified with the “Sri Chakra”.The letter established in Lakar, Sakar, Hakar, Ikar, Ekar, Rakar, and Kakar and associated with various Yantras described above, is its “Beejaksharas”(seeds) and the protecting deities, which are symbolic tattwas, are the Shivas themselves.
The central Bindu has threefold aspects. It is called “Bindu Triya”.The upper part of this focal point represents the face of Devi and the two below it, her breasts. This is the symbolism of worship in which such anthropomorphic forms are employed by the worshippers who clearly see such images as they are carved or conceived in their minds during their worship. More abstractedly the three Bindus are compared to the Sun, Moon, and the fire representing the names given to the aspects of “Para Bindu”.
While commenting upon the Yantra worship, Sir John Woodroff, (Arthur Avalon) another learned Scholar and noted Author says, “that the more experienced and correct view is that the mind is shakti, which is a particular manifestation of it. By continual and repeated practice in that Chakra after Chakra everything becomes divinized” and again hesitates that “Practice of the ritual transforms the mind itself and what is at first seen merely as an external Yantra with lines, curves, and petals becomes a purely mental state in the Sadhka himself. He too is a “Sri Yantra” and realizes himself as such. The body of the Sadhaka is thus identified with “Sri Yantra” and its nine apertures (Naudwar) correspond to the nine chakras in the Yantra. The Human body is as such considered like an Island of nine gems which are described to be:- Ajas, Sukra, Majja, Meda, Asti, Mamsa, Roma, Tvak, and Rudhir. “The object of the worship of these chakras, as such is the realization of the one Abedabhavana of the Knower who is the one’s own self-(Swatma) or the worshipper, the knowledge and the object of the Knowledge i.e the “Sri Chakra” itself. In fact worship of sri yantra is the unification of this three-The knower of the Knowledge and the object of the knowledge.”
“This celebrated yantra”, says Sir John woodruff further, represents the human body, the whole universe, and the man for what is in the former is in the latter and vice-versa as also the Shiva-Shakti Swarupa or Atma. It is thus the symbol of Devi as she is in her own form (Swarupa) and as she is in the form of the universe (Vishwatma).
According to the TANTRAJA TANTRA, there are 960 yantras that are assigned to ADYA, NITYA, AND LALITA, the three Goddesses, who are known as “Tripurasundari”. Conjoined in one.
Different fruits are gained by worshipping different Yantras. Of the 960 Yantras the principal ones are- Sri yantra, Puja Kamal Chakra, Amritghat, Siddhavajra, Kesthavajra, Wajralinga, Merulinga, Yoni, Vajravajrak, Maha Vajra, and Vajra.
Yantras are purely linear diagrams. They are drawn provisionally or permanently. When it is desired to be drawn permanently, It is inscribed on a stone or on copper or Bronze Plates that are often seen in Hindu temples, Shrines, and other places of worship. Righteously, the Yantra deserves a place in every Hindu Home if one desires to be happy, prosperous, and free from ailments.