(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 51, 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.)
Preserving Wooden Structures
One of the outstanding contributions to Kashmiri architectures of Muslims period was the introduction of wood that too in brilliant carving and lattice designs. Earlier it were rubble stones that had occupied a permanent and long place in Kashmir architecture but with the transfer of power from Hindu Rajas to Muslim Sultans in 14th century AD, Kashmiri art and architecture also got influenced. Sultans especially Sultan Zain-ul-Abadine invited Persian artists granted lands and other perks to them. These artists introduced Persian styles in domestic as well as in religious shrines and preferred wood over the massive stones that were already in vogue in Kashmir. The usage of massive rubble stones is clearly evident in the temple ruins of Martand, Avantipora, Pattan and other constructions built upto 14th century AD.
The new initiative of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidine got further promotion during the reign of his successors and gradually wood became an important and common material used in the constructions of Kashmir. Later Mughals, Durrani and even Sikh rulers preserved and promoted wooden architecture at Kashmir.
When Nicholas, visited Kashmir he was fascinated while seeing Kashmiri woodcarvings and lattice work. It was walnut wood that was found sound for making of carvings and lattice panels. The massive stone columns were replaced by brilliantly carved wooden colonnades. Ceilings came to be formed of Khatamband and consisting of small piece types and even doors, windows and arcades of the shrines got filled up with five types of latticework designs. Besides walnut Deodar, Kavior and other woods got used in later periods.
The handsome wooden works are not seen only in classical Muslim shrine but even in olden houses too. Although we could not preserve all such memories but still there are many Muslims monuments, which have preserved their wooden designs. However the modern tastes and new architectural trends have posed a threat to these structures, and at many places even in Muslim shrines wooden columns and lattice panels are being replaced by concrete cement pillars and glass panels. This new practice needs to be discouraged, otherwise we would lost many masterpieces of wooden art. At official level no concrete steps are being initiated to preserve the brilliant wooden designs. If the present state of affair continues, these things would be seen only in the cabins of museums.