Archive for the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Tourism’ Category

Kashmir is Organic, not manicured: Imtiaz Ali…/ Rashmi Talwar

Kashmir is Organic Not Manicured :Imtiaz Ali

Kashmir is Organic Not Manicured :Imtiaz Ali

Imtiaz Ali

Don’t go by the Bollywood director Imtiaz Ali’s golly-lock looks, neither by his humble demeanor, underneath lies a sharp mind and heart that not only explodes in cinematic best in such blockbusters like ‘Jab we met’, ‘Rockstar’ and recent ‘Highway’ but has brought Kashmir once again on the tourist circuit in more ways than one. Apart from highlighting virgin landscapes, the film Rockstar had Nargis Fakri attired in kurtas and shawls in exquisite Kashmiri embroidery. RASHMI TALWAR caught Imtiaz Ali in Srinagar (Kashmir), while he was shyly treading the celebrity tourism path chalked out by Jammu & Kashmir’s Tourism cell.

Q1. Don’t you think other countries with similar luxuriant landscapes could offer better locales than Kashmir?
Ans: There couldn’t be a single film maker who doesn’t want to shoot in Kashmir. In my movies, I have shown not even five percent of Kashmir. Nothing can match Kashmir and its endearing backdrops or its innocence. My top priority would be Kashmir compared to any other part of the world as beautiful as they may be. If I may put it in a few words which I know would not suffice the emotional bonding I have towards it, I could say –‘Kashmir is organic, it’s not manicured’ that is why it is so special.

Q2. Was it an effort to promote the place you fell in love with, even though you are not of it?

Ans: I didn’t do film shoots here with a conscious effort to promote Kashmir. It just happened and I am happy it did. Punjab has its own flavors and one can see a lot of Punjab in Yash Chopra’s films, plus Punjab is the current flavor too. I used Punjab in ‘Jab we met’ but in terms of visual beauty Kashmir is matchless.

Q3. Kashmir is indeed lucky to have you?
Ans: No, I consider myself the lucky one that I was able to shoot in Kashmir and not the other way around. I come here to fulfill my greed. I had no clue that showing Kashmir would develop as vast an expanse as it eventually did and I am indeed humbled by the response. There is immense talent in this place. I once did an impromptu short film ‘window seat’ of only five and a half minutes duration and a shikarawala sang a song in it. With a mere back score and sound of rippling water it caught the limelight on you tube. The film revolved along the varied touristy experiences of the shikarawala. The impromptu song by the shikarawala Habibullah Butt, of Dandi, became the highlight of the film. Even now Butt rows the shikara in the Dal Lake.

Q4. What level do you give to music in your films?
Ans: Music is very vital to my films as it is to the entire spectrum of Indian movies. I am very particular about the background scores, the soundtracks, the song and the lyrics. They should not only gel together to bring forth the story but in places I have chosen them for the sheer effect of the travails. I try not to insert a playback singer’s voice that does not match the character’s personality, even though I may be emotionally affected by it. I try to use it appropriately; rest is up to the Almighty.

Q5. You think you have something unique in you that other directors may not have?

Ans: Yes, I have an e-mail address ‘standingingalerybelow’ (smiles) and it has a unique story. A girl who once worked with me kept this name for our production house’s email, because in all my films there was always a character under the gallery. When she left, she gifted me the email and ever since it has become my prized personal email.

Q6. Can I safely address you as a hit director given the fact that you have had a string of blockbusters in a short span?
Ans: I never know if my work would be attractive to my audience or hit the dust. There are always layers and layers in creating a film. It is the script, the storyline, the conception, writing, presentation, direction and final outcome and no one knows whether it will click or turn into a flop. Yes, instinct is very much present but instinct and period, beyond that I don’t think. That is how I make it; the end result is not something that I or anyone can predict.

Q7. Which one of the actresses would you prefer Aaliya Bhatt or Kareena Kapoor? Do you like happy or prefer open endings where audience draw their own conclusions?

Ans: Aalia was amazing. In every new shot she surprised me during the making of ‘Highway’. Kareena is of course more experienced and is a very good actress. I haven’t experimented much with open endings I don’t feel there is a choice in a storyline. Whatever the story demands I meander it that way.‘Rockstar’ had a tragic ending, ‘Highway’ had a good one so did ‘Jab we met’.
Q8. What is lacking in Bollywood today? Is there anyone you would love to work with?

Ans: Bollywood is missing out on the strength of good writers. Strong storylines are missing. I would have loved to work with Dalip Kumar; he is one of the greatest actors India has seen. But I do not foresee my dream coming true.
Q9. Do you take time or make instant decisions? Which one would you consider for a re-make of an old or a regional hit?
Ans: I take snap decisions. I don’t linger around too much (running his fingers in his curly hair and giving it a gentle flick). I find no fun in remakes or rehashing old stuff be it songs or stories. There is a whole world of new stories.
I love to make movies on human interest stories where characters are vital and I choose them with care. I would however love to make a character movie someday like Farhan Akhtar’s–Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Also I would try a period film someday in the backdrop of Mughal period when Urdu was developing and poets were writing in mixed languages, the period of Hazrat Aamir Khusro, the emergence of Hindustani music.

Q10. Any love interest in your life? What are your views on marriage?
Ans: No, I wouldn’t like to talk about my love interest. Marriage is very difficult; people should go into it on their own risks.


Tourism Professional Writer’s Award Jammu and Kashmir-2013/ …Rashmi Talwar

Rashmi Talwar bagged the Tourism Professional Writer’s Award Jammu and Kashmir-2013.
Department of Tourism Kashmir honored Rising Kashmir newspaper with two awards for promoting tourism at global level.
Director Tourism Kashmir Talat Parvez gave away the Awards to Rising Kashmir. An Amritsar based journalist Rashmi Talwar who writes for Rising Kashmir on Tourism was given the first award for promoting Kashmir Tourism. She has been writing a series of pieces on tourism after she visited Kashmir this summere. Her write-ups have been published in Rising Kashmir regularly highlighting the potential of tourism in Kashmir . Rashmi Talwar also writes on Indo-Pak relations.

Rashmi Talwar, Journalist from Amritsar bags Kashmir Award -2013

Rashmi Talwar, Journalist from Amritsar bags Kashmir Tourism Award -2013

Here is letter from department of Tourism

Dear Rashmi Talwar,

Good Evening,

Congratulations! Your Series of articles in Rising Kashmir have been found to be qualifying for the number one position in the professional category of Tourism articles published in the newspaper. Consequently, you will be awarded with a cash prize as well as a memento. The ceremony is scheduled to be tomorrow at Pampore (31st October 2013) on the occasion of conclusion of Saffron Festival. The event will be covered in local press as usual. Simultaneously, we will upload the articles onto our Official Website.


Husain Jt Director Tourism
Jammu and Kashmir

Hilarious kick-start to the first Football in Kashmir….. By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir

While buying roadside knick-knacks, if an old man is seen looking closely at a tall gate of Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson School in Sheikh Bagh locality of Srinagar, surely, that night’s bedtime story would be an inspiring and hilarious tale of the first football of Kashmir.

The first football- a mini humpty-dumpty- traveled with a newly-wedded English couple of Rev Cecil Tyndale Biscoe, his new bride Blanche Violet Burges in 1891 from London, England. It sailed the seven-seas and reached Karachi, bumped on to Rawalpindi and bounced over to a horse–carriage to Baramulla to finally set sail in a ‘doonga’ – an indigenous Kashmiri boat- and reached Srinagar in 1891.



Tyndale Biscoe and the first football in Kashmir

Tyndale Biscoe (TB) recalled with glee his tryst when he brought the first football to Kashmir in the autumn of 1891 – “When I brought my bride to Kashmir in November 1891, I brought, also a leather football. When I held it up before the assembled school they asked, what is that?
TB- It is a football.
Boys- What is the use of it?
TB- For playing a game.
Boys- Shall we receive any money if we play that game?
TB- No!
Boys- Then we will not play that game. What is it made of?
TB- Leather.
Boys-Take it away! Take it away!
TB-Why should I take it away?
Boys- Because it is jutha (unholy) we may not touch it, it is leather.
TB- I do not wish you to handle it. I want you to kick it and to-day you are going to learn how to kick it, boys.
Boys- We will not play that jutha game.

So instead of the usual English lesson with the senior class, where many boys had whiskers and beards and some were married and had children, Biscoe described the game and, drew a map of a football ground on a blackboard, showing the position of the players, etc.
Anticipating trouble, he called the teachers, who were all Brahmins, and ordered them to picket certain streets to prevent the boys from running away. When all was ready he gave the orders to proceed to the ground and-“shooed them on like sheep or cattle to the market” when the boys entered the gate. It was a great sight never to be forgotten- All boys shuffling along the street wearing wooden clogs-kharav, carrying their firepots-kangris under flowing phirans or cloaks, on their way to play football. Some were wearing huge gold earrings, some had nose rings and all of them wore their caste marks.

Soon goal posts were put up and teams lined up. A crowd of townsfolk grew every minute, all eager to see the new mischief this foolish young sahib (Tyndale Biscoe) was up to now. When everyone was set, Biscoe put the football in the centre and ordered to kick.

The black-bearded Brahmin looked at him, then at the crowd of fellow co-religionists around, and hung his head. Biscoe again ordered, “Kick!” – Nothing happened. He boomed: “I will give you five-minutes to think, and then something will happen, which you will not like.” What was going to happen, he had not the slightest idea, but fortunately he had armed his teachers with single sticks, in order to drive the boys to the common ground. He lined up the teachers at the goals and told them that when they heard him shout “kick”, should the order not be obeyed immediately, they were at once to rush from the goals at the teams waving their single sticks, and shouting blue murder.

The countdown began: “10 seconds left, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Kick !!!” and down came the teachers shouting and waving their single sticks. Off went that ball and in five seconds all was confusion, for the boys forgot their places on the field, or that they were holy Brahmins, and a rough and tumble began. As they tried to kick the ball, generally missed it, their clogs flew into the air and their pugaris (turbans) were knocked off while their gowns or cloaks (phirans) flapped in one another’s faces; a real grand mix-up of clothes and humanity, it was.

Then all of a sudden there were sounds of agony and horror. A boy was brought sobbing, this Brahmin boy had the unholy leather kicked bang into his face. A terrible predicament, what could the gods be thinking about it? Biscoe told them to take him to the canal and wash him. Away went the crowd with the defiled boy. Back came the washed boy and the rest of the players, all of whom to his surprise at once resumed the game and continued until Biscoe called time. Sightseers were wildly excited and went off to give accounts of this “first game of football played by Brahmins in Kashmir”.

When the so ‘defiled’ black-bearded boy reached his home, his wickedness had reached before his arrival. He was not allowed to enter his home for three months and stayed with a kind relative. Brahmin priests were sure that it was a naughty game. For twelve months, no football could be played unless Biscoe was present to play or referee. Many pricked and deflated the ball but were caught.

After ten years, football was taught to students of ‘State School’ as a game of higher caste gentlemen, later other schools followed. The Hindu or Mohammedan schools too bought footballs and before long inter-school matches were played.

At first, during matches witchcraft was used. Opponents would bring a Brahmin priest to exorcise the goal to prevent the ball to goal. After years, Kashmir succeeded in exorcising the demon from football and despite the valley’s unabated turmoil football’s fascination, is visible in phiran-clad youth holding kangris with one hand, being playful with a football in grounds all over villages of Kashmir, although, few may have had a chance to hear a bedtime story of the furore this little brat caused when it first stepped into Kashmir.

The author can be mailed at

A la ‘Veer Zara’ wedding of Amritsar’s grandson with a Pak girl…. Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir

A la ‘Veer Zara’ wedding of Amritsar’s grandson with a Pak girl

Rashmi Talwar SEPTEMBER 13, 2013—–
Rising Kashmir

It may be a little bewildering but it happened! Of course Yash Chopra’s hit film ‘Veer Zara’ set the track and tone for cross-border, cross-religion marriages but nothing could have prepared the Hoon family- of the Potadhar tribe of Hindus, Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus, when their son Kanav Partap Hoon, lost his heart to Muslim Samiya Siddiq of Lahore, Pakistan. More so as Kanav happens to be the grandson of (retd) Lt general Prem Nath Hoon, a former Indian army commander, settled in Chandigarh.
The innocent interaction by two youngsters Kanav, 27 and Samiya, 26 started over the internet. With strict visa policy and even harsher rival country situation, combined with the fact that it could turn out to be a mere infatuation, they decided to meet in Dubai as friends first. But after Dubai there was no turning back as each had fallen madly in love.

Kanav Partap Hoon (chandiagarh) weds Samiya Siddiqi of Lahore

Kanav Partap Hoon (chandigarh) weds Samiya Siddiqi of Lahore

Kanav, took a strong stand with his family especially his father Ronnie and grandfather that Samiya was the only girl he wanted to marry. “It was not only about the girl being a Muslim but about her being from Pakistan,” commented a family friend.
Even though the situation caused heavy creases on the foreheads of both the father and grandfather of the boy, no amount of cajoling worked for the young boy or the Pakistani girl to give up their relationship. Finally the Indian family had to relent for the sake of the happiness of their only son.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR  Veer Zara- Indo Pak , Hindu Muslim Wedding

Veer Zara- Indo Pak , Hindu Muslim Wedding

Early this year, the pre-wedding, shagun ceremony was held in Lahore, whereby the family from Chandigarh had traveled to Lahore, but till then the father and grandfather had not given in to the desire of Kanav and so did not accompany them. Also, people in services are not given visas to each other’s countries by both neighbors. However, the boy’s mother Radhika @Radhu and maternal grandmother of Kanav, and a few more close relatives chose to do the right thing in the circumstances and the ceremony of consolidation of promise of marriage, was happily entered into at the maternal home of bride-to-be Samiya, in Lahore.
A marriage party of 55 persons came down from Lahore to Chandigarh for the wedding on this Friday in which there were more women than men including young girls. There were four functions for the wedding including a Mehandi raat and a cocktail.
As is the norm in Punjabi weddings these days, family members and friends prepare a cultural programme on bollywood numbers. From the bride Samiya’s side, Pakistani girls danced on latest saucy and raunchy hit Indian bollywood numbers like ‘meri photo ko chipka le saiyaan fevicol se’, ‘loongi dance’ ; ‘firebrigade mangva de tu’ etc. A guest from the Pakistani side later revealed that the Pak girls who danced were not all from the family but professional dancers, who had accompanied the marriage party from Lahore.
Samiya, is the daughter of Shazia Siddiq, as was claimed by her family, who had lost her father Mian Mohammed Siddiq early in life. But speculation ran riot during the wedding that bride Samiya was the daughter of Shahbaz Shrief the Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab, the brother of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Shrief .
The marriage was first registered in court without any formal religious vows and a grand reception was held in Taj Hotel, Chandigarh. The fact that Shahbaz Sharief’s divorced wife Aaliya Honey and her sister were present during the wedding celebrations, had triggered the rumors. The Tareek E Insaaf party of Imran Khan was quick to grab political mileage out of the situation, and known to have put the news links on their Twitter and Facebook posts, later however they removed it.
The bride’s family had brought a specially designed Doli (palanquin) in the shape of a blooming Lotus for the bride to be carried by four carriers. The trend of Dolis is often seen in big fat Punjabi weddings in India these days.
“The Doli was exquisite, I have never seen a more beautiful designed doli. Matching the doli were miniature lotus flower candle holders that were put in the entire pandal,” said one guest. The bride’s families were wearing Indo-western outfits instead of pure ethnic wear of Lehanga, Shararas, Sarees etc and the designs were out of the world, beamed one guest. The outfits had been designed in Karachi. Incidentally, the groom’s mother is the owner of a high class fashion boutique in Chandigarh and so both sides were going gag over each other’s outfits as Indians and Pakistanis Punjabis are considered to be too fashion conscious.
A guest at the wedding and close family friend told Rising Kashmir that tongues kept wagging about the bride being from Pakistan’s ruling family of Shariefs’. While the bride and groom kept mum over the issue it was grandfather (retd) Lt Gen Hoon who cleared the air and said this was false and angrily stated that people concoct stories out of nowhere. Being unwell, 85- year old Ambar Hoon, grandmother of the bridegroom couldn’t attend the wedding.
A Senior journalist who attended the wedding along with some top politicians of Punjab like Rana Gurjit Singh stated – “Cyber space has given a handle to religious fanaticism in groups but on a personal and singular level it has served to build bridges and reject snobbish ideas of religion. If any wedding has been the cynosure of all eyes after Ashwarya Rai and Abhishekh Bachchan and Sania Mirza and Shoaib, it is this of Pakistani girl marrying the grandson of the former Indian army commander who is known to openly air his views on Indo-Pak relations in the face of violations and provocations at the LoC that has caught the imagination of people as the way forward for better relations between the two warring countries. Even though the Hoons are known to be a martial tribe from central Asia says Autar Mota, a Kashmir who has worked on Huns, Mihirkula being once rulers of Kashmir. However, the Hoon family of Chandigarh traces its origins from Potodhar Plateau and natives of Abottabad- in Pakistan, the infamous hideout of the Osama Bin Laden- the 9/11 mastermind.”
The former commander of Indian army Lt Gen Hoon headed the 15 Corps that had recaptured Siachen glacier in April 13, 1984 in Op Meghdoot.
The author can be mailed at

More Orchestrated than the Orchestra? …. By Rashmi Talwar



More Orchestrated than the Orchestra?

Rashmi Talwar

The tallest of Chinars and the tiniest of Rose buds rejoiced and swung in divine unison to the enthralling tunes emanating from the grand orchestra; majestic snows felt captivated with a tingling sensation; lush gardens emitted a more sweeter fragrance; bluish waters got intoxicated and many a weeping willow smiled broadly and whistled a tune to match the musical notes of melodies as Zubin Mehta and Abhay Rustam Sopori waved their respective batons at the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Soz-o-saaz ensemble of the best of Kashmiri instrumentalists.

Alas, humans- Ashraf-ul-Makhlookaat- the loftiest species, endowed with the gift of creation, acumen as thinkers and protectors were seen standing in divided queues slotted into countless paranoiac segments during the grand display of melody at the sprawling Shalimar Garden of Srinagar, on September 7, 2013. About 90 musicians from Germany showcased magnificent musical creations face to face with 2000 invitees. Many invitees were short-listed months in advance from a list of music connoisseurs.

The curtains rolled up with a music piece by top Kashmiri instrumentalists who played music of 19th century famed poet Rusul Mir’s rustic, romantic hit “Rind Poshmal Gindanay Draay Lo Lo; Shoobi Shaabash Chyani Poth Tsaayi Lo Lo” (O the lover of beauty and wine, Poshmal has come out to frolic; Even the shadow of your shadow deserves praise).

As the East met the West in a matchless assemblage, more than 15 musicians from Soz-o-Saaz, brought folk and Sufi color to the majestic evening and played compositions of Kashmir’s proud son Abhay Rustam Sopori, Santoor maestro, master composer, son of legendary musician Pandit Bhajan Sopori.



Top Kashmiri Instrumentalists at Zubin Mehta concert Shalimar Gardens Srinagar

Top Kashmiri Instrumentalists at Zubin Mehta concert Shalimar Gardens Srinagar

But elsewhere a boy defying halt orders was injured in fire by security, in the heart of Srinagar. Four more were killed by security forces in sensitive Shopain of South Kashmir while 12 of the security were injured. “I feel so honored for my compositions to be played by master musicians of the Bavarian State Orchestra with Musical great Zubin Mehta” said Abhay Sopori in his humble style to this writer. At the concert, German ambassador Michael Steiner called out ‘Khushamdeed’ extending a Kashmiri welcome.

Western instruments harmonized seamlessly with distinct Kashmiri music flavors and created melting moments of classic symphony with ethnic instruments of Santoor, Rabab, Sarangi, Tumbaknari and Matka. As Fusion music receded, it was gently taken over by mellow and climactic strains of Beethoven, Haydn, Tchaikovsky and Strauss.While world over these concerts have a select audience, in Kashmir the select audience became an abrasive issue, a status symbol with snob value. Predictably then, some high profile invitees with little sense of music, walked around during a recital; yawned or drove their ears and eyes to the who’s who and fiddled with cell phones. Zubin promised that next time the concert would be for everyone instead of an elitist audience. He was clearly trying to clear the creases from the brows of many uninvited and hullabaloo caused by Kashmir over the event. The grand maestro quoted – Many nightingales entered the garden and flowers made way for the nightingales – taking a leaf out of poetry of famed poetess of Kashmir, Habba Khatoon.

“To audience across the world, Zubin Mehta brought a message of optimism and conviction about the shared destiny of humankind,” The Kashmiri-Bavarian blend music-piece a 7-minute recital created history in the music world. Abhay Rustam Sopori had painstakingly created the music score sheet for foreign musicians of the Bavarian Orchestra, to read and play while the Kashmiri Musicians played by rote – a symphony that found itself as the first in the legendary history of Kashmir. The tingling Santoor matched other musical beats of the valley taking on the Bavarian compositions to fall neatly into folds, in the back drop of historical Shalimar gardens. Kashmir’s robust floriculture department laid the grandeur famed terraced lawns of Mughal Emperor Jehangir in the 17th century with a thorough facelift, not seen in last 40 years. The gardens seemed to have turned all ears and eyes for the lilting musical aura, in decades.

“This is true”, says Kapal Bhrany, an ardent lover of Kashmir in Amritsar in his late 70s, “It leaves me in raptures to recall the musical nights during Shab-e-Shalimar. I saw it first in 1959 and in the 70s with my family. It was a Kashmiri music fare with a son-et-lumiere with Rauf and other dances”, he reminisced.
In 24 European nations, TV viewers watched mesmerized musicians in the grip of creative delirium, as the foothills of ZabarwanRange in the backdrop of Dewan-e-Khaas reverberated and ensconced them in the magnificence of one of the greatest music scores, for nearly 90 minutes.

Those miffed by the 77-year-old celebrated Zubin’s ‘Ehsaas-e-Kashmir’ (the feel of Kashmir); seem to have wished no joys or pride for their Kashmir. They concocted stories and assigned meanings and stepped up all opportunity to play politics. On the sidelines they yearned to be invited and refusal made them label it the ‘sour grapes’ .The event was a threat to their power to evoke wailings and tears for every misfortune that arrives in Kashmir. “Kashmir, should remain embedded in the throes of despair nothing should soothen the wrinkles of the past,” is their wish.

Insiders say, ‘If separatists really care, let them impose restrictions on big fat Kashmiri weddings and smoothen lives of Kashmiris.” That the concert will facilitate the Indian state to publicize normalcy in Kashmir, is their assault. But Mehta countered-‘Music uplifts forlorn lives!’ ‘Provocation is easy in Kashmir. Who in Kashmir has not watched the live telecast of the musical night in protest?’ The shutdown in protest, rather served civic administration keeping most mischief mongers indoors.

In the entire scenario, nature exudes the warmth of a welcoming, like a father of a bride, to this alien music, while human beings are playing the ultimate villain. The ear that has loved, slept, dreamt after countless musical lullabies by doting mothers ever since birth, how could those ears become believers of destructors, how could they threaten to draw blood over the innocent softness of the healing touch of music?

Published in Saanjh on Wednesday September 11, 2013

Will Kashmir Cheer for India or Boo Rasool ? … By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir

Will Kashmir Cheer for India or Boo Rasool ?

 By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir ——–Cricketer Parvez Rasool  

Cricketer Parvez Rasool

When Prakash Chand Mehra, a 22-year old Amritsari, hollered ‘India, India’ into the hooter that he had made a night before to cheer the Indian team while watching the finest dribbling the world had ever seen by the Indian hockey wizard Dhyan Chand at 1936 Berlin Olympics, he actually had watched sports history in the making, what more could he have asked for, than the mighty Germans conceding defeat to the powerful Indian Hockey team.
Under the leadership of Dhyan Chand, India’s star player, India drubbed the Germans badly to win the Hockey Gold at 8-0, not even conceding one goal to rival Germans, that too at a time when the so- called ‘Superior Race’ belief for Germans was being brazenly flaunted by none other than Hitler himself to give wind to the hate wave for persecution of Jews, the old, the infirm or the diseased. Olympics were specifically showcased to display the German’s superiority over all other races of the world. Hockey, however, proved to be a spoiler to that belief. It also gave India, still under colonial rule, a new hope and unified its numerous contradictory identities, at least till the time the jubilation of Victory lasted.

Indisputably, ‘sports’ and ‘calamities’ are the biggest unifiers of a community or humanity. The decision to include Parvez Rasool – a Kashmiri, in the Indian squad for the Zimbabwe tour may have nothing to do with politics but among his detractors speculation is rife that the decision has been taken to appease Kashmiris. Whatever be the truth, the fact remains that Rasool’s inclusion in the Indian squad has given a big, proud moment for Kashmiris to rejoice.
The 23-year old Rasool, of humble beginnings from Bijbehara in Anantnag district of Kashmir and the first from the state to bag an IPL contract, has finally made it as the blue-eyed boy of Kashmir. The achievement has its reverberations in quaint narrow lanes of the cities, townships and even in the village gullies, where  Kashmiris are hooked to Cricket as festively and traditionally  as they are to  their ‘Kangris’. After all Kashmir produces the best willow that goes into making of the finest bats in the world.
A familiar sight anywhere in Kashmir is that of a group of boys having innovated some wooden clefts and improvised balls to have a go at a game of cricket even in an undulating spot. Such is the craze for the game that they continue playing indoor cricket during snows and rains. Often, they have their mothers run after them mumbling incoherently and dragging them away to finish their homework. Yet, they soon reappear within minutes, declaring to have finished their home-work, owing to their raging love for cricket. Hence, every household is sure to have a bat, especially a family having a male member. And of course in Kashmir, ignorance about cricket can silently turn you into an outcast.
The only glaring contrast of Kashmir with the rest of the India is that Kashmiris would invariably cheer a team playing opposite India and if it was rivals Pakistan against India then it was seen that most Kashmiris, especially of the majority community of the region, would cheer for Pakistan. “This is tradition! (To cheer for Pakistan). Aap nahi samjhogey!” (You will not understand!)  A young Kashmiri Aijaz Rasool shook his head and told me. Aijaz works as a cameraman for a TV Channel.
A young Kashmiri driver who met me is a real contrast to his compatriots who disliked his own name ‘Ramiz Raja’ kept after the name of a Pakistani cricketer. When asked about his name, he said he hated his name and his first preference would be to be named Amitabh Bachchan or second, Salman Khan. Perhaps he felt free with those who were not of his own state to freely speak his mind and choices.
Kashmir and the rest of India are waiting with bated breath when off-spinner Rasool, the lad from Kashmir bowls his first ball or scores his first run for the national cricket team in the forthcoming tour against Zimbabwe. India would turn all ears for cheers from Kashmir for the Indian team. “Rasool is in a position to inspire a generation,” says hotelier Sajid Farooq. It is not certain how well Rasool will perform in the one –day series that begins by the end of the month, but he has crossed his first hurdle and become the new hero.
In recent years, some Kashmiris have taken leads in various fields. Only a few years ago Shah Faesal became India’s first IAS topper leaving a heavy burdensome past of sufferings far behind and inspiring many Kashmiris to look ahead. Not only this, Faesal as an inspiration became a reality when a record number of Kashmiris were able to crack the IAS after his success. Few allegedly separatist Kashmiris had called Faesal names for appearing for the ‘Indian’ Administrative Services, but most are relegating biased notions of their forefathers against India behind them and trying new ways to move ahead.
I also recently heard of a boy who created an indigenous simple hydro power generator and operated it in the Lidder River that flows through Pahalgam. Yet, above all these formidable achievers, a player comes tops. He is the one who has a matchless aura. And who better than a cricketer from one’s own state, at that.
No matter what some jealous or biased persons may point out about Rasool’s joining the Indian Team, it is true that the 33-wickets that Rasool took in seven matches in the 2012-2013 Ranji Trophy season is an impressive achievement. His 594 runs with two centuries too are no small feat. Harbhajan’s slackness means that India badly needed an off spinner and Rasool has made his mark and is a genuine replacement for him as an off-spinner.
With Rasool’s inclusion it remains to be seen-“Whether youth of Kashmir will also make indigenous hooters and holler -India! India! during the cricket tour or will they resort to using the same hooter to boo Rasool for playing for India?”

The author can be mailed at


Srinagar’s Heritage of Fallen Stars and Rising Suns!… By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir

Heritage & Tourism Series-III

Srinagar’s Heritage of Fallen Stars and Rising Suns!

By Rashmi Talwar



No patch of civilization stands as a ghost; behind it are always marvellous tales of strengths and weaknesses, sufferings and challenges, growth and falls, courage and betrayals. Every civilisation has a heritage bubbling with stories of fallen stars and risings suns.

As an ancient city, Srinagar ensconces the source of one of the richest tangible heritages emerging from the footprints of a cross section of the greatest influences of time including Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Hindu kingdoms, followed by Muslim rule, culminating with the Mughals and later Sikhs and Dogras, have left many stories in their wake. Stories of grit and grind, translating into fabulous visible heritage, are so varied and spectacular that they have to struggle hard to find a match.

There is urgent need to protect and preserve this tangible heritage. Tourism is the singular and the most potent factor that has the unique power to provide incentive for sustaining this rich but crumbling and decaying heritage.



As an audience is to a singer and spectators are to a game of cricket, heritage tourism is to heritage conservation. Attraction amongst tourists can be enhanced when heritage is put to attractive use, like the ‘Food Street in Lahore’ that has used beautiful heritage building facades, lighted up on both sides of a wide street, to showcase the savoury heritage of culinary delights, in an ambience that transforms them to ancient times. Not only do the residents in Lahore prefer to take guests and enchant tourists with a special dinner to this street, instead of fancy restaurants, they actually take great pride in it.


Delight in heritage can only be realized when its optimum strengths are recognized and used to advantage. Tourism can give a vital push to preservation when it becomes an income generating enterprise. If we consider only one city i.e. Srinagar – it is a veritable storehouse of rich heritage, including floating heritage, open air heritage, heritage in the entwining lanes of its downtown or heritage perched on picturesque hills and more.

Significantly, heritage buildings in developed countries solely bank on tourism for their upkeep with little or no help from government funds. Many private enterprises have taken over such heritage properties for the purpose of creating their private tourism circuit and generate income, thus conserving heritage buildings, artefacts and unique habitations.

Such examples like the Glow Worm Caves of New Zealand, the stalagmite-stalactite formations at famous Luray Caverns in Virginia near Washington DC, USA, are entirely managed by private concerns. Even some heritage churches like London’s St Paul’s Cathedral charges 16 pounds each from sightseers. These heritage properties are thus able to sustain maintenance and repair entirely by tourism along with generating jobs for unlimited tertiary or related units.

History of Srinagar

Srinagar has a rare combination of medieval charm and modernity. Its topography can indeed make anyone fall in love with it at first glance. One theory of the origin of the name Srinagar is that a Pandava King Ashoka (not to be confused with the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka) built the city of Srinagari (Srinagar). Another theory is that Mauryan Emperor Ashoka founded the original city of Srinagar, then situated on the site of the present village of Pandrethan, 5 km to the north of the existing capital. Some say that Srinagar has a history dating back at least to the 3rd century BC and before being known by the name Srinagar, its name was Pravarsenpur as it was founded by the King Pravarasena II.

Pre-historic Sites in Kashmir

Few people know that Srinagar’s habitation dates back to 3000 BC, referred to as the ‘new stone age’, traces of which were first discovered in ‘Burzahom’- the first Neolithic site in Kashmir. Burzahom, located in Srinagar between the banks of the Dal Lake and Zabarvan hills, is just about 5-kms from Shalimar- the world famous Mughal gardens, It is not the only one, more prehistoric sites have been discovered in nooks and corners of Kashmir.

‘Burzahom’- the name translates as ‘place’ (hom) of ‘birch’ (burza) in Kashmiri. Interestingly, it was found with burnt birch remnants during excavations that proved that an abundance of birch trees flourished in the New Stone Age in this area. The unique feature of Burzahom is the discovery of tools manufactured using animal bones and antlers besides which the strangest ritual prevalent at those times of ‘animal burials’ was found that has not been seen at any Neolithic site in any other parts of India.

Plenty of food from forests, abundant water supply and a raised location protected Burzahom plateau from seasonal flooding, thus remaining continuously settled from the New Stone Age onwards to the Early Historical period.

Lifestyle and Crafts

Remnants of the bygone era, through the ancient city’s maze of crisscrossing lanes, could give a glimpse into the dwellers unique lifestyle that carries on undeterred by changing times, not entirely due to stubbornness of people, disallowing change, but the turmoil and survival tactics that naturally came into play dealing with varied circumstances for inhabitants and their families. For many thus, time has stood still, as animal instinct took precedence and time or avenues for outward vision of the changing world were a faraway dream, if they were a dream at all! Many rituals continued for fear of divine wrath or reprisals. Superstitions and ritualistic beliefs gripped the populace and grew deeper roots due to the tumult and disturbances. Yet, many lifestyles continued on the same pattern, unaffected by the vagaries of time.

Even though supplies have become plentiful all year around in recent times, people continue to store, as a way of life. Watch for many an open window, especially facing east, that would hold vegetable garlands in summer. No, this is not a decoration or ritual–it’s a way to dry vegetables for storage and use during the winter chill. Similarly, pickling and drying fruits like apricots, storing nuts and grain were meant to tide over the scarcity of food. Dr. Aneesa, a senior tourism official who accompanied me on a city tour recently, laughs and says –“Wish that, vice-versa, we could also store icicles that hang from the roofs after snow, to use for sherbets in summers, as temperatures in summers have risen steadily in Srinagar as compared to the olden times”.

In the by lanes of Srinagar, however, the beehive of close houses may not entirely dispel the winter chill or fear from hearts but they have surely insulated people from extreme weather conditions, time and again. The ‘dub’ or the frontal balcony, jutting out in Rajasthani ‘Jharokha’ style, of an old Kashmiri house, that is still inhabited, could have tiny little, shy, hazel eyes or shrouded faces of giggling women and children, peeping out on the street.

Art and Kashmiris

Arts and crafts have been an integral part of life in Kashmir since time immemorial. The ruins of Martand and Avantipora bear ample testimony to a great tradition of sculpture that flourished in these parts many centuries ago. Not many people are aware that it was the Kashmiri artists who painted all monasteries in the region of Tibet, Ladakh and Lahul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. Later the arts and crafts also entered Kashmir when Shah-i-Hamdan came to Kashmir from Persia (now Iran) during the 13th century. Among the seven hundred followers, who accompanied him to Kashmir, were men of arts and crafts who flourished here. They popularized shawl-making, carpet and cloth-weaving, pottery and calligraphy.
In the downtown area in Srinagar where many craftsmen live, if you find a Kashmiri hunched over something, it could either be a hookah or Kangri or better still he could be engaged in tracing a treasure trove of hand paintings of birds, fruits, flowers and tree branches on a Papier-mâché jingle bell, or sewing an intricate pattern of interlocking Chinar leaves with Tulips and Paisley using Sozni embroidery on world famous Pashmina shawls or even Pashmina Sarees that were once prized heirloom as dowry gifts amongst affluent Kashmiris, especially the Kashmiri Pandits. His sharp light eyes could be watching as his hands carve fabulous patterns of daffodils, Chinar leaves and Shikaras or Deers onto soft furniture wood. What do you know! It may be the Kani shawl or the finest silk carpet with Persian designs or his deft fingers could be leading a willow twig’s fascinating journey in a zigzag tumble to create a duck shaped bread-server or a ‘Sarposh’ of woven willow- the royal covering for bridal Shagun or offerings of dainties, or he could be intently filing a willow, to get that perfect angle for a Sachin Tendulkar look-alike bat.

If you are inquisitive about more such handicraft-making clusters then the J&K Government’s Arts Emporium exhibits 11 traditional handicraft demonstrations by Kashmiri artisans including the rare sapphire-ware, crewel embroidery on ‘Namdas’ or mats and tapestry etc. But if one is willing to dart to real time artisans then Kashmir’s fabled silver, copper and other metal-ware craftsmen creating such beauties and workable objects d’art as ‘Samawar’, or the traditional ‘Tashnaer’ are clustered in Zaina Kadal. Papier-mâché items are made in bulk mostly in Magam village near Gulmarg populated by Shia Muslims, the best mortar and pestle comes from Pandrethan near Srinagar close to stone quarries, while units making carpets or Kaleen are clustered near Hazratbal Shrine. The best willow work, as also ornate Kangris or wicker fire pots, can be found in Tsrar Sharif. Most handicrafts making work is carried out in downtown areas in close knit residential colonies. Similarly, Kokker Bazaar is for Kashmiri spices, Hari Singh High Street is hub of gold jewellery. Ghonikhan is a market for home décor and garments.

Best Ways to Explore Heritage

Walking is one of the best ways to catch a glimpse of awe-inspiring architectural marvels of Kashmir’s capital city -Srinagar’s interior or downtown area, which has many a gem veiled away in its crevices.



• Taking a shikara boat on River Jhelum is another novel way to see the heritage buildings. You may also observe some that seem to hold secret passages for a clandestine back-door entry!

• Given the nature of the labyrinthine lanes of the ancient city, it would not be amiss for the tourism department to introduce ‘Segways’—a two-wheeled electric upright transporter, for a single person that looks like an overgrown child’s scooter used extensively for tourism in developed countries. “Segway, could be a good option for Kashmir, especially as it is non-obtrusive, non- pollutant, taking minimal space and can afford even the Greying-but-Adventurous (GBA) population of the world an opportunity to visit without tiring themselves by walking”, says a global tourism expert.

Hiring a taxi, though expensive, is of course the most convenient as the driver remains always stationed behind the steering wheel and one needn’t park in touristy venues in narrow winding lanes. The driver can always move the vehicle in case of need. Otherwise, due to space constraints, parking could blow your ears out with Kashmiri shouts, spanking, blowing horns and screams and ‘if looks could kill’ stares –an eye-popping menacing gaze could hold you frozen.

• An audio-device guide used extensively abroad would be a wonderful way to guide the tourists during their visit to the old Srinagar city. It provides a recorded spoken commentary, normally through a handheld device, for an attraction such as a museum or a walk through an old township. These devices could facilitate self-guided tours of outdoor locations or as a part of an organised tour. The headphone audio device guide provides background, as well as information on the things being viewed. Audio guides are in multilingual versions and can be rented on the spot for a small fee and keeping the identity proof of tourist, as security. The vast and sprawling Louvre Museum in Paris has utilised this facility to great advantage and it can also work wonders in Srinagar.

• Another way is a ‘single’ pre-paid ticket that can be used for Shikaras, Taxis and Auto Rickshaws in Srinagar thus facilitating tourists in visiting the places of their choice in the mode of transport of their choosing. This can be purchased by the visitors in the form of a ticket book which can be given to the Shikara, taxi or Auto Rickshaw person in lieu of the services utilised, who in turn can redeem it from the vendor of the service. It will work in a manner similar to pre-paid taxies in rest of the country and the idea of having a single ticket for rail, road and water transport is already working very successfully in Switzerland, London etc.

• Mini coaches run from bus stops in 22 km. range. However wouldn’t a single ticket of 24 hours on ‘Hop-on, Hop-off’, Tourist coaches or open deck tourist coaches be a better idea for the state government? Why, even battery operated vehicles could be best formulated for interior areas.

Heritage Sites

If you have been through the first flush of love with the delightful frolics of Srinagar with Jhelum River, also known as Vitasta, majestically meandering between banks and connected by various kadals or bridges, you may visit the winsome sites that the city offers. The scenery of Zabarwan range of mountains, surrounding shimmering waters, the scene of house boats lining the Lakes, the loud fun-n-frolic of Dal with its colored water fountains is breathtaking. Its floating vegetable market, floating fields or gardens in which vegetables are grown, amidst a sight of lotus blooms or ‘Pamposh’, or savouring the pouch shaped lotus ovary or ‘Pambachch’ for its nut-seeds is a delight that can be enjoyed in a wading shikara ride. Your eyes may just pop out as you notice a ‘floating post office cum museum’ marked small houseboat, with a real time working office.



The Nigeen Lake is comparably serene with a Lotus garden for company or the Wullar Lake of changing moods, pregnant with fish and birds declared a protected wetland but known to retort ferociously when winds try their teasing tricks.

The Mughal gardens are charming daytime leisure as Shalimar –(garden of amusement) called Farrah Baksh or ‘the delightful’, built for Noor Jahan by her husband Emperor Jehangir, Nishat Garden- a 12-terraced ‘garden of gladness’ symbolizing 12 zodiac signs, Royal spring or Chashma Shahi, Harwan- outlined by majestic Chinars, through which a quaint rivulet gently flows. Dachigam National Park for wildlife lovers, The Sri Partap Singh museum- a visible treasure trove of stone sculptures and artefacts but a missing curio shop, to take back a memory piece or two of photographic and written history or some souvenir to faraway homes.

Also gardens like the Botanical, the Tulip, the Zabarwan or Government Arts Emporium gardens are worth many, many leisurely strolls. Pari Mahal too is a terraced garden built by Prince Dara Shikoh, the son of Emperor Shah Jahan, who named it after his wife Pari Begum. It is also an observatory from where the entire scenic beauty of Srinagar gets a bird’s eye view. The sunrise and sunsets are unsurpassed when watched from this palace of fairies.

Overlooking the Dal and similar panoramic view of Srinagar is the Shankracharya Mandir, built in the 9th century after Adi Shankracharya is said to have preached here in the 8th century atop a hill- an ancient beauty in Kashmiri stone architecture. Heavily fortified, due to security threats, the view from the topmost terrace is breathtaking. Alas no cameras, cell phones or electronics are allowed here. This oldest Shiv Temple in Kashmir, the Shankracharya mandir is also held sacred by Buddhists who call it ‘Pas-Pahar’ and Muslims among whom the place is known as Takht-e-Sulaiman. According to an inscription etched on the wall the ceiling of this temple was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1644.

The Hari Parbat Range

Hari Parbat or Koh-e-Maran- ‘the hill of snakes’ is perhaps the only mountain to host shrines or structures from four different religious influences in Kashmir– Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist. Legend has it that it is most revered as the pebble thrown by goddess Parvati- the consort of Lord Shiva, which grew into a mountain and named Hari Parbat, and is said to have become the home for all the gods of the Hindu pantheon.



sharika mandir buddhist enterance kashmirAlthough the Fort is currently off limits for tourists, it can be seen closest from Sharika Mata Temple occupying the middle part of the western slope of the Parbat or hill. The Hari Parbat hill is considered sacred by the Kashmiri Pandits due to the presence of goddess Sharika – having 18-arms and regarded, the presiding deity (`Isht`-Devi) of Srinagar city. The goddess is represented by a Swayambhu Shrichakra, also called Mahashriyantra, which consists of circular mystic impressions and triangular patterns with a dot or bindu at the center. Goddess Parvati is worshipped as Sharika Devi or Ma Shakti (an emblem of cosmic energy pervading the universe). Strangely, the entrance to the temple is in the Buddhist style of entrance gates found outside Stupas. The gate is inscribed with Sanskrit Shlokas.

• An imposing Kathi Darwaza – Main outer entrance to Fort is visible to tourists. It has Persian commemorative inscriptions on its walls and ceilings. The fort is surrounded by fragrant almond orchards and their blooming is a celebration at Badamwari.



Makhdoom Sahib is on the southern side of the Hari Parbat. Nestled in the hillside, this magnificent shrine of Sheikh Hamza Makhdum or Makhdoom Sahib is considered one of the most sacred shrines in Kashmir. Multi-storeyed and pillared, the monument not only exhibits a remarkable architectural style but is thronged by people from all faiths, throughout the year. Inside the shrine is a narrow water channel. The entrance has a dome inside the main structure, reminiscent of a mix of Mughal and Sikh architecture while the ‘ornate corbels’ are something to watch out for along with Khatamband decorated ceiling and marble trellis work.

Gurdwara Chhatti Padshahi is another shrine on this hill, worshipped as one of the most revered Sikh shrines in Kashmir. It is believed that the sixth guru of Sikhs, Guru Hargobind travelled through Kashmir. Situated near Kathi Darwaza, it is built entirely in the Sikh architectural style of Gurdwaras. The story goes that the 6th Guru paid a visit to an ardent blind disciple Bag Bhari who had prepared a garment-Khadar Chola-in wait for the Guru, who granted her wish for a vision of himself with a water fountain, struck from the ground.

The Charming Downtown

In the delightful old bazaars of downtown Srinagar lie the original flavours, sounds and the real pulse of the city, whether you reach them by road or from the water channel of the Jhelum River. Interestingly in a mere two kilometre radius in downtown Srinagar, just a little distance from each other, stand four-varied structural wonders, distinct from each other. Each of them, a diverse architectural marvel and embellished uniquely, is seen to be influenced by varied rulers or are a mix-match of some well known architectural designs that in some ways symbolize Kashmiriyat or a spirit of harmony that Kashmir stands for. The Patthar Masjid, Shah-i-Hamdan Mosque, Jamia Masjid and Budshah’s tomb all are magnificently varied.

Although Buddhist, Persian, Mughal, Sikh influences are discernible but few heritage experts feel that Kashmir has its own style of architecture and has contributed a distinct stream of indigenous wooden architecture. The use of wood and its conversion, stylization in combination with rocks, stones and tiles into elements of building technology as well as craft forms is typical of this style. The ‘shooting flute spires’ on most shrines in Kashmir seem to be similar to Buddhist and other architectural styles in shrines the world over. Although the division of roofs as different from a steady circumambulation flow of the roof around the central structure, as seen in most pagoda style of layering and the exquisite style and use of woodcraft besides Papier-mâché and absence of any inlay work is indeed unique.



Pathar Masjid – The Pathar Masjid, a conventional stone mosque built by Mughal empress Noor Jahan in 1623, is unique in Kashmir where other structures use indigenous wood. Its distinctive designs and structural patterns make it as one of the age old Mughal structures known for its nine horizontal arches and 24 pillars with ornate stone carved roof. It is situated on the opposite bank of the River Jhelum in Nowhatta area. According to tourism records, “The Masjid is regarded as desecrated building by high priests of Islam”, presumably owing to its structural style or because of the fact that its building is attributed to a woman.

Jamia Masjid– is one of the most important shrines composed of 370 pillars of pure deodar wood, symbolizing one of the best architectural specimens that have survived the ravages of time and severe weather conditions. This spacious mosque holds a capacity to accommodate more than 33,333 people offering prayer at the same time. Four gateways of this mosque represent the four directions of the Universe.

Shah-i-Hamdan—is like a Kohinoor Diamond in Kashmir, perfection in aesthetics and artistry, truly Kashmiri. If you haven’t seen Shah-i-Hamdan you have missed the real and authentic spirit of beauty of Kashmir. Built for Syed Ali Hamdani- a true sufi by Sultan Qutab-ud-din and Sultan Sikandar in 1395, it was gutted in a fire and rebuilt by Abul Barkat Khan in 1732. After Timur’s rise in Iran, Hamdani was forced to leave and he came to Kashmir with 700 Sayyids or followers. The Hamdani Urs festival is celebrated in Kashmir with much reverence. These Sayyids were skilled craftsmen of the Shia sect of Islam and most of Kashmir’s introduction to current exquisite artistry is attributed to them.

It is then no wonder that Shah-i-Hamdan’s beauty is breathless. The combination of papier mache work and wood carving, the cornices and corbels are matchless. As one circumambulates the entire structure the backside that rests on the shores of Jhelum too is not left untouched either by the artist’s nimble fingers or by the hues of his palette or his mind that conceived the magnificent architecture of this lone structure woven with ornamental cornices, cresting and crockets. Apart from this is a Dome under the layered pagoda style structure. An artful woodwork with fine Papier-mâché workmanship on its walls and ceilings, it is one of the oldest shrines, with five facets, each of which has five arches, symbolizing the offering of five daily prayers.

Budshah’s Tomb – An octagonal dome constructed in 1465 AD over the grave of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother. Many greats are buried here as Sultan Sikander, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (Budshah) and his mother and reputed nobles of the time. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin was reputed for being enlightened and for restructuring Kashmir, inviting artists, architects, craftsmen and artisans from Iran, Turan, Hindustan and Turkmenistan to prosper through their skills and settle in Kashmir. He was aptly surnamed –Budshah- The Great King! The tomb has unique blue tiles embedded in the brick masonry that give this domed structure a distinctive look.

Most Prominent

While there are very few surviving Buddhist Viharas, numerous examples of wood work of later periods exist in Srinagar even today. The mosque of Madin Sahib, Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother’s tomb and the shrine of Naqshband Sahib, are all examples of this composite architectural style.

Pir Dastageer shrine—built in 1767, this more than 200 years old ancient shrine was gutted in a devastating fire on June 24, 2012. This place is close to the hearts of Kashmiris of all faiths, so much so, that whenever in distress even a boatman would mumble ‘Ya Pir Dastageer! ‘Pir’ or spiritual Guide, and ‘Dastageer’ or one who holds your hand in distress.



The shrine is being rebuilt at a feverish pace. People staying in Khanyar area still remember its green color and large windows, ceiling made of Khatamband woodwork and stained glass windows, Chandeliers, magnificent ‘Dubs’ or Jharokas, the trellis work or Pinjarkaari in wood on the windows. To Kashmiris it epitomized Kashmiriyat or composite culture, which is an assimilation of ancient Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Central Asian, particularly Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen and local traditions.


A water dispenser with Persian verses, still in use, and an iron vault were some of the remnants from the 2012 fire. Others salvaged artefacts and sacred testaments are stored in the safe vaults.

• Hazratbal Shrine — On the banks of Dal Lake, the Hazratbal Shrine is as popular as the Ajmer Sharief shrine in Rajasthan. Tourists can hardly give it a miss as its twinkling lights in the evening are bound to attract. Famous for the holy relic – Moi-e-Muqqadas – The most Holy Hair, displayed to the public only on special occasions. Incidentally, barbers make a lot of money from the ritual of Zar Kasai or Mundan — the first hair cut of the new born child, as performing this ritual in this shrine is considered most sacred.

Pandrethan Temple— Founded by Emperor Ashoka, Pandrethan is about 6 Kms from Srinagar and is the former capital of Kashmir. Devastated in a fire, it is survived only by a Shiva temple that stands in a water tank. Known for its unique symmetrical and geometrical design, it was considered by the British as one of the most perfect pieces of ancient architecture that exists in Kashmir.

Aali Masjid — This shrine, like a jinxed beauty, lies in the famous Idgah built by Ali Shah, son of Sultan Sikander in 1415 AD and rebuilt in Aurangzeb’s reign by his governor in 1664-65 . Strangely, this most beautiful structure, almost entirely made of wood and stone, showered with shade from four majestic ancient Chinar trees, was abandoned and no namaz was offered here till 2012, when Namaz has restarted. Its rich interiors made entirely of deodar wood with Pinjarkaari windows is cool inside during the summer heat and mere fastening of thick crewel embroidered curtains to windows in winters ensures warmth in the wood floored Masjid. It lay abandoned in post independence period, notes a former director of Tourism Farooq Ahmed Shah.

On the Water Front

It’s an altogether different experience to wade in the luxury of a shikara and enjoy a puff of hookah while watching the fascinating old cityscape from River front of Jhelum, the rear-view of the Hospital named after famed Kashmiri poetess -Lal Ded.



Fascinating but crumbling houses, many of them belonging to Kashmiri Pandit families and also to the royalty of the time on either side, sit humbly on the shores.

• A number of Temples, mostly devoted to Shiva, Hanuman and Ganpati, on the ghats of the river on either side dot the shoreline with many bells dangling from the rooftop or on the entry doors that have grown more silent over the years.

• The most fascinating are the private staircases of houses of nobility or royalty leading to the river which obviously would have been constructed either for work or travel purposes, but were known to be used as getaways for romantic rendezvous too.

• An ancient wall runs along one side of the banks presumably built by Maharaja Partap Singh along his Mahal or palace in Colonial style with the Maharani’s residence next door. It has been renamed as Legislative Assembly (old) and Governor’s House (old) respectively.

• On the backside of Shahi-i-Hamdan mosque, down the steps, one is greeted with a padlocked door beyond which is Kali Mata Temple touching the waterfront of Jhelum.

• A tourist may also notice that all important entries from the waterfront to sensitive shrines are blocked with concertina wires and sandbagged as a preventive measure, to avoid any untoward incident.