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.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Traveling Through History

Iqbal wonders if the State government has the sense of heritage to properly preserve history along the Mughal Road

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 49, 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.)

Preserving Histortical Sites Along the Mughal Road

“It is the history associated with this route that makes it essential and fundamentally vital for us. It will be a crude joke and an irony of sorts if we develop the road but neglect the history and heritage!” Although the Mughal road is likely to be thrown open for general vehicular traffic very soon, the heritage sites scattered all along this historic highway still await attention of the concerned authorities. Most of the monuments found on this route are still unpreserved and unprotected and need immediate attention of the authorities for their preservation. The monuments which have already been declared as ‘Protected’ lack basic conservation and necessary infrastructure guaranteed to such sites under the rule book. A few such heritage sites are already in ruins and, if steps are not taken to preserve them, would disappear from the scene along with dust.

The opening of the Mughal road also poses a challenge to the heritage sites as human intervention would certainly increase the risk of damage of these sites. It is also obvious that frequent traffic movement would definitely bring in more and more tourists on this historical route who would certainly like to see the heritage wealth around. But not everyone has the sensitivity to respect the historical monuments and there are many who would pollute the sites and may also damage them. For this reason, the state government must be mindful of conservation of these sites alongside opening the road for vehicular traffic.

Unfortunately the government agencies looking after the monumental heritage of this state, till date, have failed in taking up any such conservation project to safeguard and preserve these historical marvels spotted on Mughal road. Experts from state archaeology department, it has been learnt, had undertaken the archaeological survey of this route and prepared a detailed Photo documentation of the remains of Mughal structures here but to restore any of these monuments and preserve them we need more than that.

Since the commissioning of this road, besides travel facilities, would definitely add tourist destinations of the Pir Panchal range to the already existing tourist map of the state, restoration of the heritage sites of this historic highway need to be of fundamental concern to the authorities. The road is not an ordinary highway but a showcase of Mughal heritage in the state as on every destination along the road there are sites of historical importance.

If one chooses to travel and explore Mughal route from Srinager, the first spot would be the Khampur Sarai which is in Chadura area located at a distance of 15kms from the main city of Srinagar. The site still preserves the standing remains of a Mughal Sarai. It is square in plan and built by small baked bricks and red lime plaster. The ruins of this site are well preserved and archaeological survey of India has been mantaing these remains.

Another Sarai which is seen in utter neglect is located at Shadimarg in Pulwama area of Kashmir valley. The ruins of this inn suggest, and rightly so, that it has been the largest inn on this route. Mughal emperor Jahangir is learnt to have built this Sarai during his rule. It is also square in plan measuring about 130 square ft and has been built by using well finished small baked bricks and red lime plaster.

The name of the village ‘Shadimarg’ too has a little story which should not be missed here. It is said that the name of the village is motivated by a real life incident here. The word ‘Shadimarg’ is a combination of two Persian words - Shadi and Marg. Shadi means happiness and Marg in Persian means condolence. A tradition states that a prince was born here in the morning who later died in the evening and both the functions were observed here, the celebrations in the morning and condolences towards the evening. This is, the tradition says, the basis for the name of the village.

Although Shadimarg has the most glorious inn of Mughal period but the ruins of this inn are in utter neglect with its walls fallen under the heavy bushes and trees that have pierced through them in the absence of any sort of preservation. Besides, the entire site stands encroached from all sides with many families living within the premises of its standing ruins. People have made its cells as their cowsheds and heaps of cow dung is scattered all along the courtyard of this historic inn.

Ironically the site is missing in the records of department of Archeology, Archives and Museum. As the site does not figure in the list of protected monuments, one can understand the amount of negligence and disregard we have for our history and heritage.

From Shadimarg, the Mughal route leads to Shopian and the small town called Hurapur.
Hurapur is the last village from valley side where people have been permanently living since the period of Mughals. No such standing Mughal structure exists in this village except the ruins of some Mughal period Sarai scattered in the middle of this town. This is village where Mughal travelers would be received and welcomed in the valley. The Mughal route crosses the Sukha Nallah here and takes left bank of this stream crossing over to the Panchal Valley and to Dubijan. It leads to the zigzag paths across Panchal mountain range.

Another inn is situated at the bank of this Nallah called Sukha Sarai. This sari is in open meadow and presents a glorious look to the travelers. This Sarai has also followed the same plan material and style which the other Sarai’s of this route exhibit.

The next destination on this route is called Lal Gulam. It is a sort of mysterious place which is named after a Mughal slave called Lal. A curious legend says that, at this site, the way passed through a narrow passage causing high risk to the travelers who would usually slip down into the Nallah and die. The Mughal Caravans would suffer human loss at this spot and to avoid this they offered the sacrifice of Lal, the slave.

Lal Gulam is followed by another famous destination called Aliabad Sarai. Aliabad is not any village or town but simply a meadow in the internal stretch of Panchal. There are no permanent residents in the Aliabad stretch. Historical records suggest that there were about 15 Muslim Syed families permanently living at the site. The remains of an old graveyard are still found at the site which substantiates the historical fact that people have lived here permanently. For now one can see migratory people camping around here who settle here for a brief period in full blown summers.

Aliabad Sarai is situated on the left bank of Nallah Panchal. Historical records suggest that earlier the Sarai was built by Mughal emperor Jalal-ud-Din Mohammad Akbar. He had built it for the convenience of the travelers who used to arrive in Kashmir via Pirpanchal route. Records further suggest that the Sarai was later restored by Shahjahan as well who named it after his faithful governor Ali Mardan Khan. As such the Sarai came to be known as Aliabad sari.

The Sarai is build of rubble stone and small baked bricks which are raised in red lime mortar. It has several cells internally and also rooms which are believed to have been used by the travelers as their shelter. The roof is made of earthen layers approving the growth of green vegetation over it. It is raised on the bank of Nallah Panchal. It has a stone gate, the door of which is missing. The sari is believed to have been provided with the required water supply which was carried to it from the nearest Nallah. A team of local archeologists who had been assigned a survey of the Mughal route are reported to have found the remains of earthen pipes on the banks of this Nallah which according to them were directed towards the structure.

The travelers who have been to this site in the earlier times have recorded that the Sarai of Aliabad has been the most glorious site of this hilly track. It has provided comfort not only to royal Mughal caravans but also to everyone who happened to travel on this route.

Unfortunately this Sarai, like other ones, has lost all of its splendor and graceto the utter neglect of the concerned departments which never felt a need to preserve this glorious historical wealth.

From here onwards, the Mughal route passes through a vast slopped Meadow called DalDal leading the travelers on the top of Pir Panchal to Peergali. From here the travelers enjoy and see the Poonch area. Peergali serves as an entrance gate and also houses the shrine of Sheikh Karam (RA), the Sufi Buzurg. The shrine houses the grave of this Sufi saint who is said was a born Hindu and embraced Is¬lam at the hands of a Sayyied. The Urs at this Ziyarat (shrine) is cele¬brated every year in harvest season and devotees arrive from the far-flung areas of Poonch District.

From Peergali, the travelers come down through slopes and reach Panj Sarai area of Poonch. Panj Sarai, a Persian word meaning five Inns has been one among the favorite spots of the Mughals who, it is said, had build a number of Sarai’s and mud houses here.

Besides several tourist spots along the way, mention of Noori-Chamb is very important. It is basically a dazzling water-fall where Noor Jahan, the wife of emperor Jehangir is learnt had build a Sheesh-Mahal for herself. The impressions of Mirror on the rock near Since the queen liked the place so much, it was named after her.

After this the travelers on this route reach Chandi Murh, the centre of this zone. It rep-resents its own social and cultural life which is little different from valley people. The people of this area speak Pahari and symbolize the traditions of Pahari culture. They are brave men with heavy bodies.

Bafillyaz is the next spot on the route that crosses over to Dera Gali Pass and slopes down to Thanamandi. At Thanamandi, there is one more Inn which is quite intact. The remains of one more Inn are found at Fatepure near the historic town of Rajouri. From here the Mughal route reaches Changus Sarai. It is the place where Emperor Jahangir is learnt to have expired after a long journey back from Srinagar. Noor Jahan, the bold and brave queen is recorded have withheld the news till the royal Caravan reached Lahore after which the queen announced the death of the emperor. Changus Sarai is a state protected monument and is maintained by the state archaeology department.

The last Sarai of the Mughal route from Kashmir side is sit¬uated in Nowshara. This Sarai is also in utter ruins and lacks preservation. From here the Mughal route leads to Gujarat, Pakistan.

Well, the road is undoubtedly of utmost importance for the people of the state who will have an alternate link with the outside world. But the heritage sites all along this route need proper maintenance and preservation. It is the history associated with this route that makes it essential and fundamentally vital for us. It will be a crude joke and an irony of sorts if we develop the road but neglect the history!

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