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.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Historical Monument in Utter Neglect

Iqbal laments about the sad state of a recently explored historical site in Budgam District

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

Kushan Remains at Ishrat Nar in Utter Neglect

Like many historical monuments of Kashmir, which have been left at the mercy of apathy and lethargy shown by Government in their preservation and maintenance. The historic remains of the Kushan period at Ishratnar in Budgam District adds to the list of such fateful historical sites, which are on the brink of losing their permanent historical value, as the government has almost shut its doors, towards these sites. Almost a decade has passed and elapsed now as the systematic excavation task at this site could not still be resumed. The reports suggest that the major finds of the site are still under unremoved debris. The concerned department has totally neglected the site as it has not even rendered its help in scientific clearance of the remains.

It was in the year 2002 that the Kashmiri archaeologists, during their survey of the Budgam District, came up with the remains of an ancient settlement in the Gurveith forest range. The remains were found lying unattended along the banks of the Shaliganga Nullah on several terraces. The settlement is believed to have flourished in the earlier centuries of Christian era. It was the period when Kashmir was under the rule of Kushan emperors

The trial excavation, then conducted here by the archaeologists revealed that the fragmentary artifacts of baked terracotta tile pavements, Grey ware pottery and earthen water pipes had scattered on the upper layers of the site.

The site as well as the unearthened material had great historical and cultural significance. The investigations conducted by the experts have revealed many interesting things related to the site.

The site investigations revealed the settlers' choice of an upper land for their settlement. They had chosen a fine location on the banks of Shaliganga where they had easy access to the waters of the Nallah. It is observed that they had deliberately avoided to settle in the plains due to the fear of floods. In order to avoid this calamity, the Gurveith settlers looked to have preferred this plateau for their settlement.

It is in place to mention here that most of the settlements of ancient Kashmir had flourished on upper lands and along river banks. It suggests that either plain had been under the water or were disturbed frequently by the floods. The Kashmir valley in ancient times as recorded in its classical literatures was a vast lake and it took thousands of years in draining out of its water. This is also evident from the fact that none of the ancient settlements had been found in its plains. The early historical settlements of Harwan, Hionar, Hutnur and Kutbal have all been discovered on plateaus and riverbanks. The Gurvieth discovery has once again led us to believe that during those periods, the valley plains were not suitable for human habitation.
The presence of baked terra-cotta pavements at the site did not indicate anything in clear manifestation. But the questions that arise here is that, what would have been the purpose of such tile pavements is also not properly established yet? Such pavements had also been found earlier at Harwan and Dardkote sites. More recently one another tile pavement was also found at kutbal in Anantnag District. Few experts were of the opinion that these pavements had been laid for certain religion purpose of the respective settlers, but this fact is also not collaborated by any such findings. Therefore, the onus now lies on the archeologists as they have come forward and initiative pursuits in relying this question.

The Israt nar site tiles exhumed from the site are in various shapes and sizes. One of the tiles measured 36cm x 49cm. The face of the tiles carried, besides geometrical and floral designs, the motif of Swastika and Khorishti numerals stamped on their faces.

Swastika is the symbolic representation of Buddhist culture. It had earlier been identified on various prehistoric archaeological materials of South-Asia and on a few tribal coinages of north India. It is for the first time, when man has come across this motif, existing on the Kashmir terra cottas. It has attributed this site to Buddhists and when trial excavations are conducted here, it is expected to reveal some ruins of Buddhist structures too," writes the founder of the site.

The Kharoshti numerals stamped on these tiles were probably put by the craftsmen who manufactured these tiles so that during laying them, the order of the tiles is maintained. It indicated that tiles were not laid in haphazard manner but set patterns were followed.

The discovery of earthen water pipes suggested that the settlement had been an advanced one and settlers were not only knowing the skill of manufacturing water pipes but even good experts in carrying water from one place to other through these pipes.

These cultural materials had already been exposed at the site but despite its rich potential the site still await its systematic excavation. Experts view that if excavation process is resumed at the site it would open up yet another glorious period of our ancient history.

Since the primary investigation of the site reveals that the site belongs to the period of mighty kushans who are recorded to have ruled this country during the first centuries of the christen era. The site needs to be fully excavated and brought under the purview of heritage tourism which can help us to explore the cultural tourism of the Budgam District.

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