SRINAGAR, May 1: There’s more to Srinagar than its famous gardens, lakes and houseboats.
The summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir is dotted with heritage houses and ancient buildings and after years of instability prompted by the separatist movement, the focus is once again turning towards these structures.
‘Last year we invited a number of experts from England and took them on a tour of the old city. They were amazed to see its architecture, the ancient buildings, mosques and lanes. They said, ‘this is your real asset and it should be projected’,’ the state’s director of tourism, Farooq Ahmad Shah, said.
Finished structure: Work at Aali Masjid is completed
Tourists who visit Kashmir generally use Srinagar as a transit place to travel to destinations such as Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg.
‘This should change. There is much in Srinagar for tourists other than the Dal Lake,’ Shah said.
The tourism department is now putting more effort in renovating ancient structures. It has taken up the task to renovate the Lalla Ded museum (in the old city) named after the famous Kashmiri saint Lalla Ded, venerated by the Hindus and the Muslims.
‘The Lalla Ded museum was a primary school built by the Dogra rulers. The building is being renovated. It is being converted into a museum. It will house artworks involving Kashmiri shawls, Pashmina and paper mache among others. It will have literature about places of history and culture surrounding the old city,’ Shah said.
The museum is likely to be thrown open to tourists this summer. The department has already finished renovating the Aali Masjid in Eidgah, built in the year 1471 by Sultan Hassan Shah.
‘The history of the mosque traverses four distinct periods in history – the Sultanate, the Mughals, the Afghans and the Dogras. The last known renovation to the mosque was undertaken during the Dogra rule,’ Saleem Beg, a former director general of state tourism and the present head of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in Srinagar, said.
Abid Ahmad, the editor at the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Language, said Srinagar fits all the parameters of a heritage city.
‘It is a 5,000-year-old living city. It has historic landmarks, architecture and religious structures catering to Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam,’ Ahmad said.