Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Forgotten Badshahi Type Monument

Iqbal describes a small but a glorious architectural piece of late Mughal period that is in utter neglect at the left bank of river Jhelum at Shah Mohalla, Safa Kadal

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numastics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Kashmir's Forgotten Assets

We have already lost several archaeological sites and monuments while there are many such sites which are at the verge of extinction and if concrete steps are not taken up at the earliest there is every fear that we may lose many more historic and heritage sites of Kashmir in the immediate future.

For years together the local media has been highlighting the plight of Kashmir monuments and archaeological sites but perhaps there is no one who could listen and take cognizance of these reports otherwise the condition of our built heritage would not have been what it is today.

In fact, the extinction of the heritage still goes on without any check. People have also been crying for restoration of their decaying monuments but no one pays any heed. The masterpieces, which have been pushed into the oblivion, bear an architectural and historical significance and stand live evidences of the Kashmir's glorious cultural and architectural history.

There is an urgent need to identify such places and bring them under the aegis of the concerned monuments preservation authority so that a master plan could be formulated for their restoration. Out of countless forgotten monuments Badshahi type baked-brick work is a masterpiece. It is the shrine of Sheikh Ibrahim (RA) popularly known as Thagh Baba (RA) Sahib. A small but a glorious architectural piece of late Mughal period is seen in utter neglect at the left bank of river Jhelum at Shah Mohalla, Safa Kadal.

The single chambered shrine, basically a mausoleum, which as per local belief houses the mortal remains of the saint and his other disciples. Internally the mausoleum has eight graves in two rows of four. These are covered over by a magnificent set of black tombstones, which represent a high degree of craftsmanship. The pattern on which the tomb stones are laid here is very exciting. The joints, which existed between the actual grave and the tomb, stone arc quite visible to the extent that a thread passes easily through these joints.

Legend has it that two men holding the two extreme ends of a piece of thread, while inserting it from one end of the gap that existed between the actual grave and its tomb stone, would take it to the other end without any obstruction. Many devotees of the shrine have experienced it. "I have practiced this wonder several times with my friend Mushtaq Ahmad," says Bashir Ahmad, a local devotee. Several other locals claim the same and say that each time the inserted thread passes through the gap from one end to other end easily. One wonders on what rests, the weight of these large tombs stones.

It is quite strange and curious to believe but it is a reality. The tombstones on these graves are imposed by a wonderful mechanism, which seems to be unbelievable. "This well advanced and well-ornamented set of tombstones is not seen anywhere else," believe experts. This type is a bit relevant to the tombstones of Mughal mausoleums of Delhi, Agra and Lahore. The other five graves seen in the row belong to the saint's disciples. These graves also bear wonderful gravestones, of terra-cotta type rarely seen anywhere else. "We have heard of terra-cotta tiles, figures and pottery but to hear about a terra-cotta tomb stones is quite amazing," says an archaeologist.

The saints grave is marked by its high and nicely ornamented grave stone. The graves inside the chamber are imposed on a terrace, the border of which also bears ornamentation’s in floral designs. The square chambered shrine itself is imposed on a nicely formed terrace. The chamber of the mausoleum is formed of highly polished baked Badshahi bricks. The external walls have been given such a glazing finish that even joints are not visible.

The chamber has also some arched ventilators, two on each corner. The entrance to the chamber as usual, is from the southern side. Presently the structure is roofed unskillfully and it looks as if no set pattern has been followed while restoring its roof. Originally, the shrine had a doomed type roof which, of late, has crumbled externally but internally its traces are quite visible and seem to be waiting for the fall of the chamber.

As per the local legend the shrine has been constructed by Aurangzeb Alamgir who is also believed to have raised a stone tomb on the grave of Akhun Mullah Tayub (RA), situated only few yards away from this shrine. The genius Mughal emperor is said to have constructed about 500 Khanqahs, Mosques and Hamams in Kashmir. The king had a great regard for sufis and saints.

The Akhund Mulla Tayub (RA) and Sheikh Ibrahim (RA) were the celebrated saints of their time. Mulla Tayub (RA), who served the spiritual guide for Sheikh Ibrahim, himself was a disciple of Abul Fukra Baba Naseeb-ud-din Gani (RA) of Bijbehara.
Historian Hassan traces his origin of being a Sayyied as:

Ai Ki Purse Zi Vasil-e-Syed Ma Sheikh-ul-Din Hadi Inam Bigo

Hassan in his Asarul Khayr has recorded a curious incident of the Pir and his mureed. He states that once Mulla Tayub (RA) was telling one of his disciples that he would be attending on him in another mosque after the Asar prayers. Sheikh, who was also present in a corner, heard it and went to that mosque before his Pir- In the mosque he secretly covered himself under a mat. The Mulla entered the mosque and started his spiritual practice to his attending mureeds. However the pir felt some internal disruption (Batani Khalil).

He searched the mosque and found the Sheikh under the cover of the mat. He told him, oh Thagh you have robbed me of my spirituality. He then titled him as Thagh. The legend accounts that since then the Sheikh assumed this title and is still recognized by it. Later he is said to have followed Islami shariah strictly and used to offer five-time-prayers. When he left for heavenly abode he was laid to rest at this place and the mausoleum was built over his grave.

Although the shrine is a small one, it represents the grace of brick-and-stone work. Unfortunately, at present, the shrine has turned into a neglected monument. The government as well as the people of the locality too have turned indifferent to it. The carelessness has encouraged boundless encroachments from all its sides, which has been causing an alarm to the structure. Its walls are broken redlime plaster vanished and ornamentation's collapsed. The raising dome has externally fallen to ground.

The structure bearing rare monument features requires proper restoration and conservation. The agencies looking after the cultural wealth of the state should come forward and prepare a master plan to restore the shrine and bring it under their own preservation aegis. Otherwise we may lose one more glorious monument of Mughal period.

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