Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Sketches
The Sarvagya Peetham, Kashmeer
After establishing the Sree Sharada Peetham at Sringeri, Shankar started on a tour of Dig-vijaya all over the country with a view to spreading the message of A-dwait Vedaant. The various places of his visit are narrated in different orders in the different Shankar Vijaya. Though the order of visit varies, they, more or less, agree on the places visited by him. In most of the places which he visited, Shankar either performed a spiritual miracle or initiated a great philosophical debate and won.
One of the places covered by the Aacharya was Kashmeer. For ages, Kashmeer has been the centre of worship of goddess Saraswatee (Shaaradaa). This has been well authenticated by the famous Kashmeeree poet Kalhan in his magnum opus "Rajataranginee" which is a chronicle of the history of Kashmeer and its rulers in Sanskrit in the form of verses. According to Kalhan, goddess Saraswatee was here seen in the form of swan in a lake near the peak of the Bhed Mountain hollowed by the river Gangaa. It is said that the goddess appeared in this form of a swan to bless sage Shaandilya thousands of years ago. According to history, there existed a temple for Saraswatee in the vicinity of this mountain on the banks of the river Madhumatee, a tributary of River Gangaa. This temple attracted pilgrims from far beyond Kashmeer but in course of time it has been not used much. In its heydays, this temple was the center for many sages and scholars who went there for intellectual and philosophical debates. A special seat was reserved for a scholar in this temple who would be designated as Sarvagya and who would establish a claim for his versatility as a poly historian. This special seat was therefore popular as a Sarvagya Peetham which means "The throne of the all-wise".
According to the history, many scholars all over the country competed for this rare honor of adorning the Sarvagya Peetham but it was Aachaarya Shankar alone who could achieve it. The temple, as it stands today, is known as the Shankaraachaarya Temple and is now located in Srinagar. The temple has 64 steps, symbolizing the 64 Vidyaa, known as "Chatu-shashthee Kalaa" in Sanskrit and the one who has perfected all these 64 Arts of learning alone could climb up all the 64 steps and ascend to the Sarvagya Peetham. The temple is built on a high octagonal plinth which could be approached by a long row of steps. Neither the temple nor the place is called by the ancient name associated with goddess Saraswatee today, nor an idol of Goddess Saraswatee exists today.
Abul Fazal, the chronicler in the court of Akbar, notices this shrine as one dedicated to Goddess Durgaa, where were witnessed many miracles. In course of time, the Afridis and other tribes desecrated the temple and pulled down the structure. Substitute Shaaradaa shrines were established in the Kashmeer Valley. After the establishment of the Dogaraa rule in Kashmeer, Mahaaraajaa Gulaab Singh from the Dogaraa dynasty who ruled Kashmeer State renovated the temple and arranged for proper worship. The temple is now near the ceasefire line and is all but lost to us.
According to tradition, when the Saraswatee temple was in existence, it had a Mandap at the top with an approach by four gates from the four different directions namely, North, East. South and West. As per the Sthal Puraan, these gates would open only when approached by a scholar of extraordinary merit (Sarvagya) from a region facing that particular gate. It is said that the Southern gate got opened only when Aachaarya Shankar on his Dig-vijaya Yaatraa approached it. Shankar got the gate opened and ascended the Sarvagya Peetham (Throne of the Omniscience) after inviting Vaidik scholars from all parts of India representing 72 different schools and defeating all of them in an intellectual exercise. He thus established his claim to the Sarvagya Peetham, established the supremacy of A-dwait Vedaant and became a Jagadguru or World Teacher.
It is said that while ascending these 64 steps, one of the questioners (called Pruchchak in Sanskrit) asked Shankar whether he knew the Art of Cobbling (shoe repairing) and gave him an awl (stitching needle) and a piece of leather to demonstrate. Shankar took the awl and rubbed it against the bridge of his nose in the hot sun before putting the stitch. It may be noted that this is a typical characteristic of a cobbler who resort to this action in order to grease a blunt needle which is the only source of lubricant available in the form of sweat on the bridge of the nose. By this act of Shankar, the questioner was convinced that Shankar knew the art of cobbling.
"And still they gazed; and still the wonder grew, That one small head could carry all he knew" --Oliver Goldsmith in "Deserted Village"
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 12/12/12