Government of India in 2021 contemplated to restart the Sharda Peeth Yatra from Teetwal in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district, 3 Muslim men from the remote village came forward and vowed to have their role in its restoration.
The first challenging task was to rebuilt a Sharda temple in Teetwal village since there was no evidence left on ground of its ruins after it was abandoned decades ago following the invasion of Pakistan and capturing portion of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 and since then known as Pakistan occupied Jammu Kashmir (POJK).
“The yatra for Sharda Peeth would begin from Teetwal’s Sharda temple and for hundreds of devotees and it was a halting station,” said Iftikar Ahmad who is principal at local Government High school.
Iftikar shares some anecdotes he has during his life come across from his elders. He has also conducted significant research on this historic site of Hindu pilgrimage.
“The temple located at Teetwal was damaged during a massive fire in the market somewhere in 1947 and after that no evidence on ground was left of its existence. No one even thought of rebuilding it again since the main Sharda Peeth Temple had fallen under the control of Pakistan in POJK,” recalls Abdul Hamid Mir.
In 2021, when the Yatra was held as a symbolic gesture on this side, Ravindra Pandita approached the locals and asked them to make arrangements.
Following the successful culmination of Yatra, Iftikar along with his two friends Abdul Hamid Mir and Ijaz Ahmad asked Pandita to rebuild this temple.
When he along with other community leaders were taken to the site, they were shell shocked with no proof of its existence left.
“On this site some locals were growing crops and Pandita told us that it is difficult to locate the plot of Mandir since it has everywhere residential constructions and open maize fields,” Iftikar told The Legitimate.
The locals, Iftikar said brought some elderly people to the site and to identify the piece of land owned by temple. With the help of them, the plot of the Mandir was traced, therefore, it was decided that temple would be rebuilt.
Following the identification of land, it was decided to build the temple.
“Since I live close to the site of Temple, I was given construction charge. I didn’t know the handling of project would be so tough but we managed it despite hardships,” said Ijaz Ahmad.
“There was no road connecting to the plot of construction and locals came forward and helped us to transport the material. Every brick used in the construction of temple is carried by local Muslims as you can see there is no one present here from Hindu community,” he added.
Hamid Mir and Iftikar Ahmad too engaged in mobilizing locals, preparing documentation of the temple.
This Sharda Peeth temple which also served as University is older then Texla University but due to partition it was abandoned and therefore, its historical significance was overlooked.
With the intentions of GoI to revive the Sharda Peeth annual yatra again, Teetwal and its adjoining villages are hopeful of economic growth.
Once the pilgrimage starts here, it would continue annually since Sharda is widely respected in South India and has its roots connected with the southern region. Our economy will grow, people may find enough jobs as tourist guides, poonywallas, hotels and home stays may also get a flip,” said Iftikar.
Teetwal is one of the closest villages alongside the Line of Control and during the last three decades, it has suffered immensely due to Pakistan army’s firing and shelling.
However, following the prevailing ceasefire agreement between the two countries, the villagers have managed to rebuild their lives and are hoping to reap the benefits of peace.