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January - March 2022

Kashmir and Shri Kanchi Shankara Matham

Kashmir is known as the land of sage Kashyapa, who was instrumental in draining the huge mass of waters of Satisaras with the blessings of Shiva and Vishnu and rendered the land suitable for human habitation. The land is hailed as the playfield of Shiva, Devi and Vishnu in all the ancient texts of Kashmir. The bonds of Kashmir with the venerated Kanchi Shankara Matham are very old, close knit and ever new. Adi Shankaracharya, during his Digvijaya all over Bharat, went to Kashmir, worshipped at the celebrated Sharada temple in Sharada Peetham (now in POK) and at Jyeshtheswara temple in Gopadri hill, now known as Shankaracharya hill, in Srinagar. There is in fact a local legend in Kashmir that Adi Shankara composed Soundaryalahari in this Jyeshtheswara temple.

The sixteenth Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Shri Ujjvala Shankara who was very powerful in curbing anti-Vedic religions, spent his last days in Kashmir and attained Siddhi there. The 17th Acharya Shri Sadashivendra Saraswathi was the son of one Deva Mishra, a brahmana minister of Kashmir. The 20th Acharya, Shri Muka Shankarendra Saraswathi, the composer of the devotional classic, Muka Panchashati, counted among his close disciples Matrugupta of Ujjain, who was king of Kashmir for some time and Pravarasena, who succeeded him on the throne; they considered it a rare privilege to serve at the feet of this great Acharya. The 31st Acharya, Shri Brahmanandaghanendra Saraswathi was highly venerated by King Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir and by the great dramatist Bhavbabhuti. Lalitaditya had established a great Annadana shala in Kashmir in the name of the Acharya.

The 38th Shankaracharya, Abhinava Shankarendra Saraswathi, a great philosopher and dialectician, ascended Sarvagna Peetham in Kashmir. He ended his mortal sojourn in this world by becoming invisible in a cave in the Himalayas. The 47th Acharya, Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi IV was served by Jayasimha, the king of Kashmir with devotion. The Acharya was held in honour by a physician of Kashmir and author of a medical lexicon known as Vaidyabhidhana Chintamani.

It can thus be seen that there has been close and continuous contact between Kanchi Shankara Matham and Kashmir, though separated by a long distance and many languages and practices in the regions in between. Kashmiri Pandits, the residents of this hoary land, belong to a rare branch of the Krishna Yajur Veda called the Katha Shakha and some might have belonged to Sama Veda. Katha Shakha has many mantras which are identical with Rig Veda and Taittiriya Shakha of Krishna Yajur Veda. They follow rituals prescribed by the Lougakshi Gruhya Sutra written by Lougakshi Rishi. Gobhila Gruhya Sutra is also followed. The procedures mentioned therein for performing marriage and other functions have a lot of similarity with the South Indian

traditions. There are a few procedures mentioned in those texts, praying for the protection of cattle from diseases, which are unique. The Shankaracharya Hill which is situated in the heart of Srinagar is a place of great significance to the people of Kashmir. The Kashmiri Pandits till date chant in their homes a hymn known as Gauri Dashakam composed by Adi Shankaracharya.

Rivers Sindhu and Vitasta are two of the sacred rivers of Kashmir, finding mention in Rigveda. The ancient religious texts of Kashmir, Bhringisa Samhita and Nilamata Puranam and the historical chronicle of the kings of Kashmir, Rajatarangini make detailed reference to the wealth of rivers, tirthas, springs and temples of Kashmir. Many are the temples dedicated to Shiva, Devi and Vishnu, erected by kings, queens, ministers and commoners that dotted the entire area of Kashmir. Some of them are Shakti Peethas.

Of the many diverse cultures that we come across in India, Kashmiri culture & tradition is a very unique and an important one. Kashmir was an ancient centre of learning on the lines of Nalanda & Takshashila. The very fact that the Devi of learning, Sharada Devi is blessing the land is a testimony to this truth. Great literary works in Sanskrit and devotional treatises have sprung from Kashmir. Mammata, Udbhata, Vamana, Anandavardhanacharya, Abhinavagupta, Kalhana and Bilhana are some of the great poets who hailed from this land. Kashmiri Shaivism is very famous and is studied and researched all around the world with great interest. Kashmir also has its unique script called Sharada which is now used only by a few. Ancient manuscripts of the region have been written mostly in Sharada script.

In recent times many efforts have been undertaken by Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham to bring back peace to the Kashmir region, so that people from all over the world can visit the holy places of Kashmir, and Kashmir would be truly integrated with the rest of Bharat. Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham has been conducting Vishva Shanti Maha Yagnas at selected places in Jammu and Kashmir. Vishwa Shanti Maha Yagnas are a novel initiative of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham as an attempt to revive Vedic traditions in the distant corners of the country and establish the spirit of faith in Sanatana Dharma and unity among its adherents. Veda Parayanams, Pujas, Homams, discourses, bhajans, cultural events etc. are all part of the Vishwa Shanti Maha Yagna. The first Vishwa Shanti Maha Yagna was performed at Mata Sri Vaishno Devi Shrine and in Jammu from October 28 to November 2, 2010 by the efforts of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham as well as Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. The second Maha Yagna was performed at Jyeshta Mata Mandir, Srinagar, Kashmir and the third Yagna at Mata Khir Bhavani Mandir in Srinagar from 1 to 9 October 2011. Since then the Yagnas are being conducted in Srinagar every year around the time of Shankara Jayanthi. The Shankaracharyas themselves have been visiting Jammu and Kashmir to bless and spiritually uplift the Kashmiris living there. It is also to be noted that Shri Jayendra Sarasvati Shankaracharya Swamiji was one of the key initiators of the current yearly Sindhu Pujan in Ladakh region conducted during Guru Purnima, in which the representatives of many religions meet in peace and offer their respects to the River Sindhu. Pujya Swamiji has also constructed a temple for Devi Saraswati in the late eighties in Ramban, which lies in between Srinagar and Jammu. It is

the desire of the Shankaracharyas that all devout Hindus may visit the Kashmir region, have darshan of the various kshetras and tirthas there, and contribute in whatever way they can for bringing back peace and upholding Sanatana Dharma in the region.

Once upon a time, Sharada Peetham housed the greatest university and several valuable manuscripts were preserved in libraries in Kashmir. In this context, it was felt necessary to reprint, record and restore the ancient literary treasures of the land, which can now be retrieved from Kashmir from different sources. Sri Kanchi Peetham located with the active help of the local Pundits a book, “Lougakshi Grihya Sutra” and published and released the same on 10th October 2011 in Jammu, printed with support from Venkateshwara Vedic University.

Vaidika Mantra Kalpalata like Lougakshi Gruhya Sutra also has been authored by Maharshi Lougakshi and it contains the various mantra prayogas starting from Kushmanda Homa, Kalasha sthapana, Svasti Mantra, Gayatri Mantra Brahmana, Navagraha Homa and Japa Vidhi, Rudradhyaya, Chamaka and other important mantras and Suktas like Purusha sukta, Bruhat Purusha Sukta, Shri Sukta, Devi Sukta, Ratri Sukta, Rakshoghna Mantras etc. The book, Vaidika Mantra Kalpalata, earlier printed in Shri Pandit Vishwanatha Sharma’s own printing press named as “Pratap Steam Press” though a century old, which was brought to the notice of our Shankaracharya in Srinagar, looked intact but for a few missing pages. In the introduction the writer mentioned that

“ ततः  काललीलया            अि मन्                                                       दशे ुित मृितिव वंिसयवनरा य ाब यात्   जा ोभाध

एवंिवधािन याकािडपु तकािन ायशोलुम ायािण बभूवुः। यािन पुनरधुना अविश-ािन तािन

च असतय0पद१छेदिव८यासात् ायशः अशु4ािन कु हिचत् कु हिचत् ज-ा  रािण च दरीद7य८त

इ9यतोिवदषां मनः 0लेशमेव जनय८तीित न काूय9युिणः।

Dतीता्दाधेश9यामिप क7मीरभूमौ एवंिवधानां दरवगहानां कायाेणां बIJD यबसा य9वात

अ८य मा9क माि9चत् एवंिवधात् हतोः जाभाLयवैक येनन के नािप िवोोरेण एतद4ारे  यबः

ि  तः।

अधुना  िनसीमदयाभ=रत ी१०८म८महाराजािधराज तापकसंह भूणामााामवाूय                                                                                               तदीय साहालयं  ”

“Due to play of Time, in this place (Kashmira), continued political turmoil by invasion of the Yavanas who are oppressors of the Shrutis (Vedas) & Smritis which resulted in disturbed mind set of the people, many ancient books connected with Yagna Kanda were destroyed and lost. The books which survived the onslaught are not complete, with many words and alphabet letters lost, wrongly laid out, and that it is causing much anguish to the scholars is not an over statement.

Even in the past fifty years, even when efforts were made to reprint, due to economical constraints and other reasons, much to the misfortune of the people, many a scholar could not take up such works. Now with the permission and support of the ever compassionate Maharaja 108 Shri Pratap Singh ….” and the introduction stops due to the missing pages.