(Mr. Mohammad Saleem Beg, 60, was born and raised in Srinagar. He was educated at the S.P. College and the Gandhi Memorial College, receiving his Bachelor's degree from the latter. He was awarded a EEC fellowship in 1998 which allowed him to attend study courses at Universities of Luven, Belgium, and Trinity College, Dublin. Mr. Beg entered the State government service in 1975 and retired in 2006 as the Director General of Tourism. In the 31 years of public service (which included two deputation assignments in New Delhi), Mr. Beg promoted local arts and crafts, and raised public awareness of Kashmir's rich heritage and architecture. He was a leading figure in getting Srinagar listed as one of the 100 most threatened heritage cities by the World Monument Fund in 2008. Mr. Beg has traveled extensively and has attended numerous conferences, including the 1997 UN Special Session on Environment in New York, and the 1997 Kyoto Convention on Climate Change in Japan. His articles and essays have been published in various publications. Since retirement, he has remained active as the Convener of the J&K Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage - INTACH.)
Tourism Department, INTACH Join Hands To Restore Historic Lal Ded Memorial School
Arif Wani (Greater Kashmir)
Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has started work on an ambitious project aimed at restoring a century old building in Srinagar to showcase rich heritage and lifestyle of this historic city.
Officials said the museum-cum-heritage centre is coming up in the erstwhile building of Lal Ded Memorial School at Ganpatyar in Habba Kadal area here. Built with classical Western European architecture, the century old building is said to be constructed during the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh in the late 19th century. The building had served as the office of the Srinagar Municipality before it was converted into a school by a renowned poet Pandit Deena Nath Nadim in 1947.
Named after the famous Kashmiri poetess, Lal Ded, the building was partially demolished in 2008 to pave way for construction of a shopping complex by a private person, officials said. However, after a legal battle, the state government through its Tourism Department finally succeeded to acquire it.
“We have started restoration of the building. After completion, it will emerge as one of the landmarks of the City and serve as a repository of our rich heritage and lifestyle,” Director Tourism (Kashmir) Farooq Ahmad Shah told Greater Kashmir.
Elaborating, Shah said the building named Lal Ded Memorial Heritage Centre, will house a photo and object gallery depicting different historical facets of Srinagar and a craft bazaar.
“We will also construct a Hamam to give the tourists first hand experience about how people live in winters here,” Shah said.
The Heritage Building will be the part of river Jhelum cruise for tourists, which will pass through many areas of the Old City. “Our aim is to give feel of the City to tourists. Under one roof, the tourists will get comprehensive information about history, culture, heritage and lifestyles of the City. Besides it will depict life of famed poetess Lal Ded,” Shah added.
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) which has prepared the restoration plan for the building, has declared it ‘Grade one historical property’.
Convener of INTACH (Kashmir Chapter) Muhammad Saleem Beg said the architectural features of this colonial structure include its intricate wood work, papier machie ceiling, ornate doors and windows.
“The main entry of the building was from the side of river ideal for a river side museum. The building’s façade was dominated by an impressive arcade of window openings surrounded by triangular and circular pediments and pilasters, reminiscent of the prevailing colonial influences of the 19th century. The overall building appearance showed deep traces of classical Western European architecture,” Beg said.
Beg said the building was one of the few remnants of the Western European Classical architecture in Srinagar.
“We have prepared restoration plan of the building. While design of the building will not imitate the original one, it will retain the proportions of the window openings and also profile of the building and roof,” he said.
He said some of the decorative features, like brick pilasters and decorative pediments of the main façade are also proposed to be retained and replicated. “The proposed building is a single storey structure with two main halls serving as display areas. The existing basement, will serve as an additional gallery space,” Beg said.
Noted Historian Fida Hasnain while welcoming restoration of the heritage building, stressed for preservation and protection of other such sites in the Valley. “Government should leave politics apart and on priority restore the heritage sites in Srinagar and in other areas of the Valley for our future generations,” Hasnain said.