Exploring Sharda Temple in Azad Kashmir
After having stayed our first night in Keran, Neelum Valley, next morning we started our journey for Sharda. It was raining since last night and was quite a cold morning, on our way we stopped at a local Dhaba to have some tea and pakoras, we met some local people there who were also enjoying tea in the chilly weather, they told us about the scenic spots that were there on our way to Sharda. It took us around 2 hours to reach Sharda from Keran. After reaching Sharda, we were in awe of the sceneries that we had around us. We had to cross the bridge over the Neelum River to enter the vicinity of the Sharda University (Temple) and took the popular 63 steps stairs that lead to the temple.
Located at a distance of 136 kilometers from Muzaffarabad, Sharda is a fascinating place having lush green plains and roaring ‘River Neelum’ which flows through the valley. Sharda, lying between Keran and Kel is a popular tourist point that offers beautiful weather in summers and snow covered mountains in winters, picturesque views, jet skiing in River Neelum, riverside camping and much more. However, the village is more famous for its ancient Sharda University known to be a prominent institution of the Asia in Buddhist era. It was once the center of the spiritual education for Buddhists and Hindus.
The Hindu Pandits and scholars of Sanskrit used to pay their visit at the Sharda University from the far away of the Sub-continent. The Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang visited this place in 632 CE and stayed there for two years. In addition to Buddhist studies, this university was a source of learning history, geography, physics, and philosophy. This institution had its own script named Sharda script which was developed in the 9th century.
Sharda University aka Sharda Peeth temple was dedicated to Sarasvati Sharda, a Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. There was a sandalwood idol of Saree Sharda Devi in the temple which does not exist there at the present and is believed to be taken away by Shankaracharya. The Hindus believe that their goddess was the resident of Kashmir, and that is why they named Kashmir ‘Sharda Desh’.
Sharda Village has several tourist resorts, small markets having traditional food outlets and shops having the popular Kashmiri shawls. Tourists from all around the world visit and stay here, it also provides them a convenient access to popular nearby tourist spots like Kel, Arang Kel and Taobat.
This is definitely a must see destination.
After visiting the Sharda temple and spending some time around Neelum River playing with the snow, we went to a nearby restaurant and had the delicious Daal Chawal that is quite popular throughout Kashmir. We also did some shopping and bought the popular Kashmiri Shawls.
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