Friday, 29 June 2012


''How did it feel when you were put to flames my beloved, Did it pain you not when you were being gutted down my beloved , Ah! With your death this heart has forgotten the art of love my beloved. Never shall that sanctity be restored to this damned city my beloved, Why you felt the need to abandon us unannounced my beloved, Your make me cry and yet how tragic it is you will never return my beloved.''

The destruction of the holy shrine of Dastageer Sahib in the Khanyar quarter of old city in Srinagar, Kashmir is a reality. Much of Kashmir's architectural heritage has met a somewhat similar fate during the last two decades of armed conflict that has engulfed the region.

The shrine of noted mystic saint Sheikh Noor ud din Noorani in the historic town of Chaar e Shareef, was burned down to ashes after a deadly armed confrontation between the Indian army and Kashmri militants including Major Mast Gul, engulfed the town for much of early 1995. The centuries old shrine was made of the most expensive and finest Deodar wood in the region while the ceilings in the interior of the shrine bore beautiful rare inscriptions in Persian calligraphy. Much of the historic town boasting some of the best wooden structures in the valley were gutted in the devastating fire along with the shrine complex itself.

Aishmuqam is a picturesque valley in the Pir Panjal mountain ranges of Kashmir. A centuries old Shrine among its hills houses the historically important prayer cave and tomb of Sheikh Zain ud din , from the 15th century A.D, who was one of the chief disciples of Sheikh Noor ud din. The historical shrine boasted of some of the most holy relics and centuries old rare manuscripts. The wooden complex with its amazing interiors became the target of a rare cordon and search operation by the army in 1993, which alleged that the shrine was being used to hide weapons and ammunition by the militants. After days of searches, a mysterious fire destroyed much of the ancient structure and many of the manuscripts housed in it were gutted alongside it.

The spiritual, intellectual and architectural heritage of Kashmir is dying a slow painful death as its shrines are falling prey to oppression, callousness and official apathy. The shrines at Chaar e Shareef and Aishmuqam have been rebuilt over the years but the spirit of the reverence is missing in both cases. For the patron saints of the valley, the rebuilt shrines aren't a befitting tribute as they lack both depth and detail. The rebuilt structures in both the cases bear alien traits and in no way represent an amalgam of Kashmiri Central Asian architecture, Style, sensibilities and the Islamic ethos. It is these things that made these shrines an emblem of Kashmiri identity.

The tragic destruction of the Dastageer Sahib shrine has put us in a similar situation like Aishmuqam and Char e Sharee where we are faced with a choice of rebuilding the structure for the sake of rebuilding or actually recreating the entire complex as it used to be. By recreating the decorative art and every minute detail of the shrine may pretty well help in restoring the spiritual and mystic charm of this shrine which in the case of both Chaar e Shareef and Aishmuqam failed because technically we were just rebuilding rather than recreating the structures.

In the shrine of Dastageer Sahab we have a chance of preserving the spritual and mystical heritage of Kashmir. What we need to recreate is something which will restore the inward intimate relationship between the structure and its spirit and spirituality. Only then can the mystique, mystic and mysterious feel of the shrine blend and indeed complement seamlessly with our reverence and this is pretty much what we need to recreate. Through labor of love, craftsmanship of faith and creativity of belief can we truly recreate this shrine which was a symbol of Kashmiri identity, culture and ethos.
                                                    SHOAIB MOHAMMAD
               From my rotting body flowers shall grow, I am in them and that is eternity