800-year-old Sharda Devi idol surfaces in Handwara
Muslims preserved the antique, passed it on to Pandits through Magistrate
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Forty-five days ago, it was exactly on the day of Eid-ul-azha that an antique idol surfaced during an excavation in the premises of one Ghulam Qadir Khuroo at Gonipora, 2 miles from Handwara, in Kupwara district. Members of the majority community lost no time in establishing contact with President of Sanathan Dhram Sabha, advocate Bhushan Lal Pandita, who has been practicing in
after displacement in 1990 but frequently visiting Handwara. Pandita has already created huge assets at the Jammu in Handwara and has been taking care of several temples in his home district. Shankar Temple
Concerned about legal hassles, Muslims of Gonipora preserved the idol for several days in safe custody and later handed it over to Pandita and other members of the minority community through Tehsildar of Handwara on Friday. With full reverence, it was later temporarily installed at
in Handwara as neither the Muslims nor the Pandits were sure whether it was that of Mata Sharda Devi or some other deity. While Sharda Devi idols are essentially installed and preserved at Sharda Temples, idols of only Lord Shankar are supposed to be worshipped at Shankar Temples. Shankar Temple
Kashmir valley, there are three Sharda Devi temples at Guchhipora (Kupwara), Ichhikote (Budgam) and Kaloosa (Bandipore). Interestingly, after the displacement in 1989-90, Kashmiri Pandits have created replicas of all the three temples in where special sessions of worship are performed on particular auspicious days and all related rituals are performed. Replicas of the temples of Guchhi and Ichhikote have been created at Ponichak and that of Kaloosa at Bantalab, in outskirts of the capital city of Jammu . Jammu
Advocate Pandita told Early Times that a partly broken idol of Sharda Devi had been recovered from an excavation at Zachaldara, capital township in Rajwarh belt of Handwara in around 1988. That too stands preserved at the Shankar Temple of Handwara. He said that devout Hindus can not worship the broken idols and explained that these however have to be preserved with full reverence. He said that Pandits organized a special session of prayers for Sharda Devi yesterday as the newly recovered idol is neither deformed nor obliterated, cracked or broken. He said that a large number of Muslims were present on the occasion.
“It’s the greatness of our Muslim brethren that they not only preserved the idol with respect but also informed us about it so that it was properly preserved, installed at a temple and worshipped”, Pandita said. He said that he and his associates would soon contact experts to ascertain whether the idol was really of Mata Sharda. He said that about 30 inch long monolithic stone was sculpted cleanly on its facade while as its back and remaining four surface sides were all rough. It was believed to be at least 800 year old as the last Hindu king had ruled the Valley over 800 years back.
That the idol is centuries old, was further clear from the fact that for hundreds of years there was no evidence of Pandit habitation in Gonipora. “Had it been recovered from other Pandit population villages like Anantpora (Handwara), Machhipora, Panditpora or Badarhair, there would have been a possibility of its sculpture during the Muslim rule and its succeeding Sikh or Dogra regime”, Pandita said. “However”, he added “the final opinion would come only from the subject experts and archeologists”.
Set up in Muzaffarabad-Neelam belt across river Kishen Ganga in the area now under the control of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Sharda Devi university was one of the most famous centers of learning in the world for hundreds of years in the pre-Muslim era in
Kashmir. It had been named after Mata Sharda Devi. Mata Khirbhawani and Mata Badarkali are other most revered deities of the Pandits. Their temples in Tulmulla and villages in Handwara area are regularly visited by thousands of devotees every year. village of Ganderbal